Some thoughts on... Among the Sleep

Today, some thoughts on Among the Sleep (Krillbite Studio, 2014).

The horrors of the quotidian
Among the Sleep (Krillbite Studio, 2014) is based on an interesting premise: we play the role of a toddler, which essentially determines our skills and point of view in the game. Not only is it about a matter of perspective (looking the world from below) or abilities (as toddlers, we will face difficulties opening doors, reaching high areas, lifting objects), but also about how to interpret the world and its stimuli (sounds, shadows, lights, spaces). The reading the infant does of reality, between magical and terrifying, is what principally feeds Krillobite Studio's title.

Wearing a footed pyjamas with a print of stars and crescent moons, we incarnate a nameless toddler who will have to unblock memories in order to unveil the true monster that haunts him in the darkness of a series of quotidian - but distorted by the child's imagination - landscapes. We will do it while crawling, climbing furniture and gliding down impossible slides. We won't we alone, though. We will be accompanied by a teddy bear called, hold your breath, Teddy. The bear works as an external narrator and a guide during the game. The developers use this narrative workaround to elude the unavoidable silence of the toddler. Teddy also plays a role in terms of mechanics: if we hug him, he will light up and help us see in the darkness.

The truth is that the title causes uneasiness and discomfort rather than fear, especially as the plot progresses and we start to be aware of certain elements: the disturbing drawings presumably done by the toddler, the multitude empty alcohol bottles, the intimidating presence of specific objects and quotidian events such as cloth hanged in a wardrobe, the noise of a slammed door, the crash of objects hitting the floor, and a woman sobbing in the distance. The more recognisable and mundane the environment is, far from other imaginative representations, the more it produces uneasiness (in this sense, the video game works better at the beginning and the end than in its middle development).

After all, the horrors of the quotidian are the worst of all. They are not supernatural and that's why they frighten us; these horrors can be real, anyone can experience them, and they happen in the heart of our private spaces, where we are supposed to feel safe: at home, with our loved ones. The quotidian horrors pollute and threaten our personal safe havens.

I won't unveil here how the misfortunes of the blue pyjamas toddler and his friend Teddy end, but the ending - although foreseeable to a certain extent - is disheartening. Interpreting the whole game experience in a tone of quotidian horrors reminds me that, as it was theorised by Hannah Arendt, evil can be banal and anyone, even the most normal and unexpected individuals, could be the monsters.


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