Hotel management sims get a vampire twist with ‘Bloody Hell Hotel’ [Trailer]
I remember celebrating New Year’s Eve on December 31, 2019 with high hopes and ambitions. A new decade! A new slate – a new start. Then the shit show of 2020 followed and you know the rest. However, before the horror of COVID-19 hit, I was served an appetizer of trauma that solidified 2020 as the toughest year of my life. And despite what you may hear in the horror news about video games – how they rot people’s brains and poison young people – horror games in particular have been pivotal in my journey to overcome trauma. In particular, choice-based narrative games like Supermassive games’ UNTIL DAWN and witness of THE WALKING DEAD.
It was January 26, 2020, the day Kobe Bryant died. I was driving home from my part-time job that Sunday afternoon reading an article on my phone about Kobe’s tragic and brutal death. It was the same path I walked home every day, and I was so engrossed in the article that I didn’t notice the group of three teenagers walking towards me until they got closer. me and pushed me against the fence of the Catholic grade. the school I had attended growing up. Next thing I knew I felt the cold sensation of circular metal pressed to the back of my head before instincts took over and I lost my phone in what I hoped was a exchange for my life.
It was quick. I emerged physically unscathed and arrived at a nearby friend’s house, but something curious came out of my friends, family and me – I hadn’t cried the whole ordeal. I was taken to a police station, made a report, went home and went to bed. That was it. I lay in bed, bewildered by the fact that I had had a gun to my head hours before – that I was moments away from ending up as a news story instead of being safe in my home that night, but I felt completely listless. It was disturbing.
Weeks passed and I ended up testifying against one of the teenagers who robbed me. A week later, while in the saleroom of my work, I received a call from the DA, warning me that “retaliation is a sad reality” and that I should call them if I had saw someone who looked suspicious. Paranoia started to set in that anyone in the store could be a friend of the group that robbed me, ready to fight back. But still, I didn’t cry when I came home that day.
A thought struck me: I didn’t know anyone who could understand my situation at that time. I didn’t know anyone personally who had been robbed at gunpoint recently. I didn’t know anyone who had also had a near death experience that I could talk to. Months passed and I found myself physically and mentally isolated as I struggled to process what I had been through. And to add salt to the wound, the pandemic crisis has also unfolded, plunging me into one of the loneliest times of my life. I retired to the virtual realm of video games.
I started Until dawn one day, and I found myself reacting to the game in a particular way that I hadn’t before. It was like an adrenaline rush – I was almost giddy when I called the shots of who saw the light of day. In particular, I was fascinated by the element of who lived and who died in the end. I was captivated by the bonus scenes you witnessed if one of the teenagers narrowly escaped the Wendigo’s grip. This prompted me to reach out to my friends, imploring them to play it too, but I noticed that they didn’t seem to share the particular enthusiasm I felt.
The catharsis I felt while playing Until dawn pushed me to play similar games in the genre–Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope and The Walking Dead were two other standouts. Looking back, my obsession at the time is so obvious. Immerse myself in video games that coincide so deeply with death as Until dawn became a facet that I used to deal with the trauma of my own near death experience. It was the exploration of the speed and arbitrariness of crossing the boundary between life and death that I desperately needed.
At the beginning of Until dawn, the first character in the group that can be killed is Jessica. As Mike attempts to woo her in a cabin, she is abruptly pulled out a window and into the woods by a Wendigo. Whether or not she lives depends on how quickly you can reach her as Mike. If you take the slow and safe path, or if you take the risky path and stumble along the way, you come across his lifeless body. However, if you make the right choices, you can keep her alive to reappear much later in the game. But when you’re in the moment, there’s no way of knowing which is the right one or the wrong choice. You just act and hope for the best.
It took me back to that fateful Sunday. I didn’t have a cheat sheet or guide that told me how to escape this situation. I just acted, and it turned out that I made the right choices. It is a terrifying reality to recognize how differently it could have turned out. It’s a reality that I had no tangible way of acknowledging until I put myself in the shoes of a fictional character and saw that sometimes death can just as well be a result.
If you manage to reach Jessica in time and keep her alive, she will reappear much later in the game in a cutscene that most players usually miss. You still have to make a handful of tricky choices to keep her alive, and she’s one of the hardest characters to keep alive on your first playthrough. But that makes its epilogue cutscene all the more satisfying when you get there – knowing you’ve overcome some of the game’s most difficult and arbitrary choices and seen bonus cutscenes you’d have otherwise missed. The epilogue almost served someone in my life listening to my story and saying, “I understand what you’ve been through.”
I started looking at my life as these bonus cutscenes. The experience I had that day could have taken me to a deep, dark place – and it went on for a while. But games like Until dawn reminded me that life will push, drag and tear you into all kinds of situations when you least expect it. If you trust your instincts (and sometimes with a stroke of luck), you’ll live to tell the tale the next day. That day was my own horror game based on personal choices, and I learned to accept it.