Video games have struggled with the ability and desire to imitate real life. But it’s a tough parallel to draw when you can restart your game at any point or redo any stage if you’re unsatisfied with your performance. Life is sometimes more bleak than any game can portray.
Always Sometimes Monsters is a game in which every choice matters. While it may echo some of the mundaneness of real life, players have complete freedom in their gameplay choices, though each choice comes with consequences down the line.
The game is structured as a 16-bit point-and-click adventure game. The vertical slice shown at PAX introduces you to a character (you choose the name, look and gender) one year after the character has snagged a huge book publishing deal. The money is gone, you’re a month behind on rent and lack any inspiration. Not to mention the love of your life left you for someone else because you couldn’t get your act together. The gameplay starts on the brink of you character’s downward spiral, and you must try to bring him out of it.
This probably sounds closer to depressing drama movie than video game plot, but Always Sometimes Monsters strives for the daunting realism of life. Much of the gameplay revolves dialog decisions: Do you stop a fight between an uncle and his son? Do you grab a bag of drugs left on the ground before your recovering addict friend spots it? Each choice changes the gameplay in real ways, and most of the choices just make you feel crappy about the situation you’re in.
The game offers a variety of possible scenarios, so choose one closes off others. It mimics real life in that you can’t do everything on a given Friday night — you just need to have faith in your choice. Amirkhani said games often want to give players choices but can’t because of design limitations.
“My game still has limitations, choke points, and common events everyone closes, but I’m trying my hardest to make everything branch in ways that make that illusion of choice stronger,” Amirkhani said. “I want people to never feel a limit on their control. I will fail for some, but if we make this tree lush enough, you may never know which branch you’re on or how many others you could have reached.”
Smaller moments in Always Sometimes Monsters remind us it’s still a video game. Players must complete small challenges, often to earn money. In order to earn money, you must set up a band’s stage correctly or get a high score on a video game (a game within the game).
Always Sometimes Monsters is still in development and should be available for PC next year.
Images: Vagabond Games
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