I think this could be one of the most important games I’ve ever played and it took me completely by surprise. Developed by Paolo Pedercini in six days for the Experimental Gameplay Project, Every Day the Same Dream demonstrates beautifully how interactivity can communicate certain concepts every bit as effectively as linear media, perhaps even more so. I noticed it a few weeks ago but haven’t really had a chance to post about it. So before reading any further go and play it now. It shouldn’t take too long. Quick! Before your boss comes back.
My typical working day involves reluctantly waking up sometime after my alarm sounds and catching a snatch glimpse of the morning news over breakfast. I then commute to work across the countryside usually arriving later than expected. I go to my desk, sit down and don’t move for the rest of the day; slumping into my daily routine knowing it all starts again the following morning. Like some washing machine cycle jumbling up my waking hours, the days blur into one and I loose track of the weeks through sheer monotony. But I’ll find a way out, somehow.
Every Day the Same Dream is an existential riff on our metronomic working lives and if you’ve just played it, you’ll realise the premise is not too dissimilar to my own situation above. Leigh Alexander wrote a brilliant analysis about it over at Gamasutra and one particular commenter said “…the narrative of the piece seems incredibly dated. Do real people still have lives like this? Where they wake up in the morning and go to work in a cubicle and all that?”. Well, yes. Yes they do, but not as literally as that. The game isn’t specifically about corporate suits and homogeneous rows of working cubicles; it represents the grind that many of us endure every day and our desire to break free of it. It’s this aspect of the experience that Every Day the Same Dream handles so elegantly and on which its greatest strength lies.
By walking the straight and narrow, doing exactly as you’re told, you will continue to relive the same dream. The ceaseless and looping monotony of our protagonist’s life is there not only to form a basis for the game’s message but there to compel the player (and the character) to rebel against it. Gamers are sly dogs. We don’t always do what we’re told. We explore the limits of our virtual spaces and wonder what if? What if I don’t go that way? What if I go to work in my pants? What if I just get out of my car? What if I walk past my cubicle? The wandering curiosity, anarchic and transgressive habits of the typical gamer is part of the experience and echoes the jaded mentality of our suited protagonist; it’s a masterclass in design.
The icing on this melancholic cake is that it looks and sounds fantastic. The letterbox format makes for some nicely composed dramatic shots and works well with the simple left-right nature of the game. The retro modern aesthetic also compliments the experience perfectly with its stark, monotone greys and crisp, ironed lines. Incidentally, the thunderous pulsing of the soundtrack, provided by Jesse Stiles, really ties the whole feeling of the game together wonderfully.
I love this game.
Now get back to work.