You are not made to envy You will stay (not)the depressed protagonist. Trapped alone in their apartment complex as a supernatural horror pervades the city outside, there is no contentment to be found in their greatly shrunken and claustrophobic world. Still, I felt a twinge of jealousy as I moved them through their monotonous cycle from bed to kitchen, to balcony, to bed.
At least, I thought, no one expects anything from them.
Created in 48 hours for the Women Game Jam 2021, Bedtime Phobias’ You will stay (not) is a 2D indie game that examines mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and isolation. The 30-minute role-playing game has no puzzles to solve, answers to find or days to save. There are simply days to exist, repeating the same patterns over and over again without anticipating that they might one day change.
It’s an experience that’s sadly familiar in our pandemic-altered world, at least to those of us fortunate enough not to work on the frontlines. As You will stay (not)‘S unspeakable abomination keeps its protagonist confined to his apartment building, the COVID-19 pandemic has also kept us inside while extracting a similar psychological toll. Even the game’s ominous PSAs are familiar, warning citizens to stay inside and not to let anyone in.
Rote rituals performed in the shadow of inevitable terror and overwhelming depression are easily recognizable. Oh, is there a consuming terror that engulfs my city and devours everything that was once joyful or heartwarming? I guess I’ll be watering my plant, because at least it’s something to do.
Credit: You Won’t Stay / Bedtime Phobias
“After facing another lockdown after almost two years, we decided to create a game that explored our collective experiences with isolation from each other and from the world,” You will stay (not)narrative designer of Gabriella Lowgren Mashable said. Based in Melbourne, Australia, her team were excited to collaborate in person, but were forced to do so virtually after the city was locked down.
“I felt that writing a story just about lockdown would be too raw for us and our audience, so I decided that the game needed an external reason that could be a surrogate for the pandemic,” Lowgren said. “Personally, I like the horror eldritch (like the rest of the team) and our artist [T-Dog eXtreme] knew it would be a strong visual motif. Thematically, it ended up working, and strong visuals are a key part of that. “
After COVID-19, we’ll need more than therapy
While You will stay (not)The emphasis is clearly on storytelling, the insanely straightforward gameplay is effective in reinforcing its dark themes. Walk to the factory, interact with it. Walk to the cup of coffee, interact with it. Walk to the strange dog-monster, interact with him. Running out of things to interact with, go to bed because you have nothing else to do. Although a ubiquitous Lovecraftian being rises above his head, he’s just ready to dress in the horror of an austere existence. Is that all there is? Is that all there will be?
You will stay (not) is a relevant and timely snapshot of many of our mental states after countless protracted pandemic lockdowns. Yet despite the relevance and effectiveness of its marriage of themes and gameplay, that excludes one element that made the experience of the pandemic so painfully unbearable: the expectation that we are still functioning. The protagonist may be hungry for human interaction, but he also didn’t panic about his productivity after staring blankly at a cup of coffee for an hour.
The world seems to be falling apart before our eyes, but the food has to be cooked, the work has to be done, the show has to go on. We continue because that’s what’s done, because that’s what’s left. In some ways, these tasks give us purpose and structure, a way to mark time in the midst of a seamless flow of it. But in others, they reduce our existence to a routine job and weigh on our already crushed souls until we forget we were once more than that.
We are dust and to dust we will return. I just thought I would be dead when it happened.
Credit: You Won’t Stay / Bedtime Phobias
Lowgren had not considered doing You will stay (not)The protagonist works from home, but believes it would have hurt the sense of loneliness they wanted to convey.
“I think if they worked from home there would be a clear sign that there was still life in the world, and I wanted them to be completely isolated,” Lowgren said.
As such, there is a strange, almost desirable comfort in the certain uncertainty of You will stay (not)the collapse of society. The protagonist of the game has no sense of purpose, trapped in hopeless apathy. But at the same time, no demands are placed on them, no thought that they should improve their skills, push each other or continue as usual in abnormal times. We let them break down with few consequences, a luxury few afford. It is both suffocating and liberating.
They don’t have a name, but there is no one who could call him if they had any. It has probably been months since the last time they smiled, for no reason to, even as a facade. Everything is falling apart and there is no respite on the horizon. Yet all they have to do is quietly water their plant, feed their monster dog, take care of themselves, and wait for a change. It is far from a good situation. Yet in some ways it is enviable.
You will stay (not) is currently free to play on Steam.
If you want to talk to someone or if you have suicidal thoughts, Crisis text line provides free, confidential 24/7 support. Text CRISIS to 741741 to be put in touch with a crisis counselor. Contact the NAMI Hotline at 1-800-950-NAMI, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, or by email [email protected] You can also call the National lifeline for suicide prevention at 1-800-273-8255. here is a list of international resources.