Feature: AMONG THE SLEEP is a fascinating proposition: a horror game played through the eyes of a two-year-old. Mixing the mechanics of Amnesia with a dreamy cartoon colour scheme, it’s looking awesome. Here’s why.
It might seem a little premature to start uttering Amnesia and Among The Sleep – a new horror game in development at Norwegian studio Krillbite – in the same breath, but early signals point to something very much along the same lines. It’s a first-person adventure game with a focus on environmental puzzle-solving in a horrifying game world, and its physics-based interaction mechanics clearly owe a lot to Frictional’s games. There are enemies, but you can’t kill them; like in Amnesia, you can only run and hide. So far, so familiar.
The difference here is who you play as: a two-year-old child. It’s quite a bold move for a horror game, but it makes sense. “There are at least two times in everyone’s lives when we have been authentically scared – and that’s while we are dreaming and when we were children,” says Krillbite’s Adrian Tingstad Husby. “Among the Sleep combines the two, which we think is interesting.”
So how do you make a game like Among The Sleep a success? First-person games work by drawing us into the character we’re inhabiting, but it’s difficult to immerse yourself in the mind of a toddler. As adults we have completely different world views, and our responses to situations such as the ones Among The Sleep’s young whippersnapper might encounter would be very different. How could you possibly ensure that the player feels what their character feels – surely a crucial component in a horror game?
“This is definitely one of our major challenges,” says Adrian. “We do want the player to feel like they are the child, and not that they are merely observing some other child. But at the same time, we realise that we are making a game for adults, and not a baby-simulator, so we are not aiming for hyper-realism in the way we depict a child’s world view at all.”
No crybabies allowed
But it’s been easier than the team imagined to create that sense of connection. “By making it as easy as possible to relate to the child – by, for instance, using first-person perspective and removing some of the expected baby crying – combined with our innate empathic drive to immerse ourselves in stories and atmospheres, we don’t think this will be a problem.”
The fact that you play as a two-year old is integral to the whole experience. “It’s central to almost every aspect of the game,” says Adrian, “from the plot, to the actions you do, and the setting. When you see your own small body and hands crawling quickly under the sofa to hide, we hope that people will find it is not only an FPS with the camera closer to the ground, but that this perspective really affects the experience as well.”