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Digital Media & Design

Lexy Vecchio

PTSDemo is the story of young woman, Sam, who lives with the repercussions of a traumatic spelunking accident in her teen years. The game, intended to be played in VR, does not show the original accident but uses the liminal setting of caves to have the player go through Sam’s experience when having a dissociative PTSD episode.

When a thunderstorm triggers Sam’s PTSD she explores the labyrinth of her mind through an out of body experience that brings her back into the cave system that caused her trauma ten years ago. Guided by a phantom voice from her phone, Austin, she explores looping actions, events, and spaces, all the while trying to keep from confronting the ghosts of the past.

Through the narrative, the player will experience what it is like, to stay in a cyclical event while uncovering the past that Sam has tried hard to put behind her.


Sam: Player character. Gender F. Current Age 27. When she was 17 Sam was in a serious spelunking accident which trapped her in a limestone cavern for two days. The cave in, which also killed her friend, Austin, left her with Simple Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and survivor’s guilt. When she becomes alone or isolated she can experience post traumatic stress episodes which result in looping behaviors, time dilation, and fixation. While she does not hallucinate, she does occasionally experience dissociative episodes where she turns interior and gets stuck in looping thoughts about her time in a cave system and all the ways she could have gotten out or died. In reality, she did not travel very far from the original cave-in, and was found after two days when a passing hiker heard her cries for help through a ventilation shaft. She is aware of everything that happened but pushes the darker aspects to the back of her head. When surrounded by other people she will talk openly about her experience because, except under rare circumstances, she must be alone to be triggered.

Austin: Guide and voice on the phone. Gender - Written M, but could be any. Deceased. In-game, he acts as both an internal guide and the person Sam talks with throughout the episode. He died when he was 17. He was among the three friends with Sam when they went spelunking in a cave system in Eastern Pennsylvania. He texted Sam the message which caused her to drop her phone. He was the only one of Sam’s friends who heard her phone fall so he went back to check on her. When the area he and Sam were standing on caved in, he was trapped beneath a boulder, the rest of him crushed beneath it. He and Sam were both aware that he was not going to make it, but he was her companion for the time they spent in the cave. Throughout the VR experience he will talk with the player.


PTSDemo will finish up the preproduction phase through the summer and next fall. While not a game intended to help those who suffer from PTSD as a therapy option, the goal is to humanize the experience of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for those who do not suffer from it, and to validate the experience of those who do.

I intend for the game to have both extensive trigger warnings throughout as well as resources for those who may need them. Additionally, I want to look into making a pre-care and after-care element for those who want to play the game, if necessary.

All suggestions are welcome!

For a more in depth look at the Story Outline and concept art, please follow the link at the top of the page!

See all work here »

Artist Biography

Lexy Vecchio is a game developer, filmmaker and artistic director. After earning her BA in Film from Muhlenberg College in 2015, Lexy worked in a variety of roles in the entertainment and technology industry. Through her work she fell in love with world-building through the process of conceptualizing and fabrication. Lexy sought to find a way to combine her passions of digital media with world building and design, and landed on games as the perfect interactive media for her work. Lexy made her film directorial debut with the short film, Curbside Waltz (2017), which examines two children's perspectives on their parent's drug abuse.

Lexy started as a Master of Fine Arts Candidate in the Fall of 2020 and plans to complete a 3 year program. She is just finishing up as a research assistant position with the Krenicki Institute’s Materials Library, and will continue working as a TA in the Digital Media & Design department next fall, where she will be teaching as an instructor of record in the film concentration as well.

Artist Statement

After finalizing my Thesis project concept at the end of last fall, I have taken a deep dive into the ways people use iteration and repetition as strategies for life. This ritualistic phenomenon has become a part of most people’s daily lives under the conditions of the pandemic. Wake up, get breakfast, turn on the computer, hold a zoom meeting, then three more - always taking a bathroom break or a stretch or a walk between each one. The way we repeat actions is a way of organizing our lives is exacerbated by conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Through that lens, looping becomes a coping mechanism. In order to prepare for my project, I have been researching the ways in which looping actions manifest themselves in people with Post Traumatic Stress.

The game I am making, working-title PTSDemo, intends to visualize these looping actions and dive headfirst into how looping, liminality and the mind relate with each other. Through the fictional Narrative of a twenty something named Sam, we will explore her single-event based trauma from a Spelunking accident that occured in her teens. The real world will transform fluidly into a series of caves as Sam struggles to work through a dissociative episode. The player will see interact both with Sam’s mental landscape and with a mysterious voice on her phone, pushing against facts that she may need to grapple with despite an unwillingness to do so.

Finally, this project should leave us with the question: When we know where all actions inevitably lead, why do we restart the loop? Hope? To delay the inevitable? Maybe we subconsciously believe doing so will rewrite our stories to be different than where they wound up.