Hello! My name is Jacqueline Haggerty, and I am a rising senior majoring in Digital Narrative and Interactive Design with minors in Computer Science and Studio Art. In my free time, I like going to EDM concerts and thrifting for clothes.
Shopping malls used to be a destination for people of all different ages and economic classes. People would go to the mall for the department store, arcade, cinema, food court, and many other shops and kiosks. It was a place where spending money was encouraged, but people also gathered for entertainment and social functions. Real estate developers built malls everywhere, with little regard to location or the community. In the Times article “Why the Death of Malls is About More than Shopping,” Josh Sanburn writes “1,500 malls were built in the U.S. between 1956 and 2005, and their rate of growth often outpaced that of the population… There is an estimated 26 sq. ft. of retail for every person in the U.S., compared with about 2.5 sq. ft. per capita in Europe.” Yet, this once-thriving part of American culture has slowly been fading out of existence since the late 1980’s. In the 21st century, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, people spend more time at home buying products online and working remote jobs, while malls are being boarded up and forgotten.
As a result of these changes in American culture and economic well-being, malls have become reminiscent of the settings of Gothic Horror stories. Gothic fiction is known for featuring a bleak, inescapable setting with reminders of a once thriving past. These stories were usually set in a castle or monastery that was in a state of decay and disconnected from the outside world, like the crumbling castle in Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto. But unlike the Gothic Horror trope of a setting based in private space, I am going to explore the once public space of abandoned malls as a modern gothic space, allowing me to write a horror story. For the Brackenridge Fellowship, I plan to research and connect ideas from urban development and spatial theory, 3D game development, and the aesthetics & motifs of Gothic Horror stories to explore how abandoned malls haunt communities with my research mentor Dr. FitzPatrick.
Malls make the perfect backdrop to a story about the decay of American society and the increase in the wealth gap, loneliness, and job loss. My project will focus on the Century III Mall, a now defunct shopping mall located in West Mifflin, PA. The player, a solo urban explorer whose original goal is to graffiti, has to escape the mall after getting lost, while running away from the ghosts of capitalism. The game I will make will investigate this trend by focusing on the development of the Century III Mall and its inevitable closure.
To learn more about my project, check out my project website https://dreamslost.space/.
After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, I am planning on going to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon for a Master of Entertainment Technology degree. I hope to continue working with interactive media and storytelling through graduate school and working in the video game industry. The Brackenridge Fellowship will help me accomplish my professional goals because it is enabling me to create a well researched 3D game demo and website this summer.