Saturday, January 9, 2010

Midnight Snack: Every Day The Same Dream

Driving to work Get up.  Get dressed.  Go to work.  Go home.  Repeat.

This post-industrial hamster wheel of a routine has been endlessly explored in pop culture – from Mike Judge’s hilarious Office Space to Sam Mendes’ quite-less-hilarious American Beauty to the somewhere-in-the-middle The Office.  Few games, however, have delved into issues of middle-class ennui.  That’s probably because most gamers would rather be a space marine then act out their boring lives in something that’s supposed to be a “game.”

If I’ve just described you, you may want to steer away from Every Day the Same Dream.  But if you don’t mind the occasional game that makes you think, give this piece on the workplace grind a try.

Set to a haunting, Moby-like loop, Every Day the Same Dream tasks the player with mundane activities like getting dressed, driving to work in heavy traffic, and weathering a tongue-lashing from the boss before settling into your desk beside the other drones.  The only clue that something else is out there is a mysterious elevator lady who promises that in “five steps you will be a new person.”  My first time through, I treated her like a crazy, sidewalk-inhabiting hobo: I pretended not to hear her and continued on.

But progress hinges on heeding her advice.  Changing up your routine – not getting dressed, walking from right to left instead of the conventional left to right – will impact the world around you.  The game starts to feel like a Charlie Kaufman movie.  Reality bends to the will of the individual, but perhaps not always to his liking.

Molleindustria, the game’s developer, describes it as “a short existential game about alienation and refusal of labor.  Or, if you prefer, a playable music video.”  I can verify that it functions as both, though you’d do well to treat it as the former.