Title: Every Day The Same Dream
Platform: Adobe Flash Game (can be played on PC, Mac, or Linux)
What is it?
Described by its creators as “a little art game about alienation and the refusal of labor,” Every Day The Same Dream is a short game in which the player controls a man living the daily grind. Each day, this man gets dressed, passes his wife on the way out the door, takes the elevator down to the parking complex, drives to work, and works at his cubicle. That is, unless the player decides to make decisions that break his routine – decisions that a mysterious woman in the elevator calls “steps to becoming a new person.”
What’s The Appeal?
While this game may not be considered a source of amusement, it is certainly engaging and thought provoking. Despite its simplicity in graphics, the ways of breaking routine deliver a more complex message. The five deviations are going to work with no clothes on, leading him to get fired; talking to a homeless man who takes him to a graveyard, saying it’s a peaceful place; getting out of his car on his way to work to pet a cow; catching and observing a leaf that falls from a tree outside the workplace; and committing suicide by jumping off of the work building. By setting these actions apart from the standard, the actions are held to higher significance. It subtly asks the player about the social and cultural norms that lead to the routine the game is based upon.
Different people gather different messages from this game. Some I have talked to claim that it has an environmental message because the actions that connect with nature (petting the cow and examining the falling leaf) are considered unusual. One of my friends felt it had a Marxist message, as it the player must break the routines forced by modern capitalism, the absence of the man’s coworkers at the end signified an uprising in the ranks of the working man, and the man jumping off the building at the end was a metaphorical death of the oppressed worker. When I played this game, I thought that the focus was on the man’s mortality, and that by looking at the graveyard, seeing the falling leaf, committing suicide, and watching himself committing suicide, he was trying to come to terms with his eventual death while still working in the confines of his environment.
Like a good short story or art piece, this game drives the player to think and interpret the work for themself. It drives analytical thought and discussion in its players, as well as makes them question just how the man has been made into a “new person.” And also like a good short story or art piece, it can have multiple interpretations that are all equally valid.
Yes, But Is It A Game?
This game lacks many elements that games typically have. For example, there is no overt feedback system; if the player never decides to talk to the woman in the elevator, they could repeat the same motions each time they are brought back to waking up in their bedroom with no indication they are doing anything other than what the programmer intended. The goal of finding the multiple ways of disturbing the repetitive order is also not overtly stated – merely hinted at by, again, the woman in the elevator. The lack of these elements and the bleak undertones cause many to claim this is not a game.
However, the feedback and goals need not be overt to exist. One of the thought provoking decisions this game made was to allow the player the option of repeating a mundane existence, knowing they will not enjoy it. The goal of finding breaks in the routine comes naturally to all but the most easily satisfied player, and does not have to be revealed. The animations that result from breaks from that tiresome cycle serve as a form of feedback – the player derives pleasure from disrupting the system, even in small ways.
For those that need clearer incentive to accomplish these goals than simple rebellion, the woman in the elevator can serve as a counter. Her only function is to respond with the number of variations the player has yet to do. With her, the player’s goal is given a quantitative basis; find all five variations to access the mysterious end of the game. Between this numerical value and personal involvement, the game is challenging, provides goals, requires the player to complete certain actions to continue, and provides feedback for accomplishing each objective.
So yes, it is a game. It may not be a fun game or a clear one, but in terms of what it offers the player and what the player can do, it is a game.
Every Day The Same Dream is free to play on Molleindustria’s Website (link).