#438: “Luna”: A Deep Game, Narrative Puzzler about Recovering From Grief & Trauma

robin-hunickeOne of the best VR experiences I did at PAX West this year was Funomena’s Luna, which is a unique blend of tactile puzzles, creative world building, musical improvisation within the context of an emotionally-charged narrative. Luna is designed by Journey’s Robin Hunicke and Martin Middleton, and is a part of the emerging “deep games” movement that Fast Company describes as games “where players ‘win’ by becoming more enlightened, empathetic people.” It uses the unique affordances of VR with the Oculus Touch controllers to create an experience of imaginative play that is difficult to pin down into an existing genre, but provides an experience that is bound to introduce VR to a new audience.


The story of Luna is about a lost bird who is trying to find it’s way home. Solving tactile puzzles reveals a totem from the bird’s past that you then use to decorate a near-field mini-world and rebuild the path to getting back home. You’re then transported into this world that you helped to reimagine, and a chapter of the bird’s story unfolds through interactions with different animals. Robin says that each chapter represents a stage of grief, and that the overall experience is about learning to recover from mistakes and heal from trauma.

I had a chance to talk to Robin at PAX West about the design process of creating Luna and how their delightful papercraft aesthetic had a variety of different inspirations from many different mediums ranging from Bertolt Brecht from theater, animator Yuriy Norshteyn, print artist Umetaro Azechi, photographer Georgia O’Keeffe, filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, and sculptors Lee Bontecou, Gabriel Orozco, and Anish Kapoor. We talked about using creative expression to more deeply connect people to the story, and the challenges of exploring deep emotional themes using the most cutting edge immersive technologies. And we talked about Journey and some of the lessons learned from creating a profound cooperative and connecting multiplayer experience within the context of a gaming console.

Here’s the teaser trailer from Luna that gives some sense of the story and art style, but without any of the actual VR gameplay.

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Music: Fatality & Summer Trip