Sitting in a college town cafe on a snowy Saturday afternoon, I sipped my latte while moving Detective Michael Stone through the town of Pineview in Frostwood Interactive’s Swept away by the rain. The music was playing beyond the world of my headphones and the cafe was teeming with students and locals. Yet at a critical moment it began to evolve from a simple mystery. The curtains began to close around me, blocking out everything except the game. A series of moments began to explore the dark past of the victims at the heart of the story, as well as the main character Michael Stone.
Swept away by the rain starts with a warning about the more sensitive topics in the game. Usually I ignore these things, not because I think they are unimportant, but because I tend to be insensitive to a lot of things or that I have not had the experience that the subject triggers for me.
I found one of the rare exceptions.
Even in a stylized two-dimensional game, I found that my own emotions skyrocketed, forcing me to pause and focus on something else for a few minutes. It reminded me of states of mind that luckily I hadn’t been in for a very long time, and of my own demons that led me there long ago.
Trauma also plays a role in the story. It is discovered regarding a character’s past and the player is forced to choose from the dialogue options for how to respond to it. While the choices don’t impact the game’s end events, there is something about playing an active role that makes things resonate. For some players, this may be the first time they’ve listened to someone who has suffered trauma. Understanding its effects in a virtual environment may be the first step in knowing more about how to deal with it in the future, although the range of options in this case is limited.
In Swept away by the rain, the players can not blame the victim. It’s impossible to do, forcing those who think about doing it to rethink their thinking. Gaming is a showcase for how video games as a whole can be a great way to start a conversation or continue an existing one. Once people take an active role, even as spectators, issues that suddenly seemed distant become real.
Games like Swept away by the rain can serve as a vessel for the exploration of sensitive subjects in a very intimate interactive space. Although he does play a role, the player is always somewhat removed from the events themselves by the simple way of “playing”. In this way, video games can be a safe space to explore trauma, or perhaps even help heal from it, and discuss important issues.
Getting lost in an environment that is not your own can be incredibly therapeutic. In a 2017 study of Borders, it has been discovered that handheld games can help relieve anxiety more than medication for children before surgery. Puzzle games, such as Tetris, can even help relieve people of trauma. Whether serving as a distraction or raising important issues, it’s clear that video games can be a tool for us to deal with the weight that so often feels heavy on our minds. For every article that is quickly published on how games induce violent behavior in young people, consider these studies and the positive impacts video games have had on your own life and on the lives of those around you.
Personally, I play largely for the escape they offer. While I never lose sight of reality, games offer a chance to immerse me in a world free from my own stress. My favorite genre across multiple mediums is horror, which itself is unique in that it offers consumers a way to deal with fear in an environment of no real consequence. I might be scared the whole way, but I’m learning that I can defeat the next monstrosity lurking in both real and virtual corners.
I would also like to point out how titles like last year’s Neofeud prove how games can provide social commentary, as they offer a lot about class systems, income inequality, capitalism, and the possibility of a dark turn that our technological future can very easily take. In these cases, the ship takes on a different function and allows us to look at the current state of affairs through modified lenses; since we’re playing in a world quite different from our own, we can uncover its secrets and later take a step back to see the parallels with our own.
It is important to have games like Swept away by the rain and Neofeud, and these are just two of the many important and challenging titles. Art is often used to make us think more about the world we live in, and games provide an interactive way to do so. Whether it’s a visual novel, point-and-click mystery, or survival horror game with plenty of underlying themes beyond scares to life. silent Hill series, video games can offer people a chance to fight through whatever may be happening in their life. Their service as a ship allows difficult subjects to be explored in a more intimate way than movies or shows, and in this way, their importance cannot be underestimated. While many exist for sheer entertainment value – which, let’s not forget, is quite good – others strive to make us think of the world we live in. They offer scenarios that are not too different, but familiar enough that, like The twilight zone, we can recognize and experience enough to learn from them. It is essential that we do not lose sight of their importance, especially in a global climate that requires serious reflection on our roles in it.