Indie | Every Day The Same Dream
Fraser McMillan escapes the monotony of everyday life with this curious indie browser game…
Last week, I watched Falling Down, a 1993 Joel Schumacher film starring Michael Douglas as William Foster – or, as the role is credited based on his personalised numberplate, “D-Fens”. It follows a day in the life of an ostensibly ordinary man who appears to have cracked under the pressures of everyday life. Up to a point, viewers are likely to sympathise with his rants on the ills of needless exclusivity, privilege, restriction of freedom and, at times, capitalism itself. Marching onto a golf course, shotgun in hand, he cries to a pair of aged patrons, “You should have children playing here! You should have families having picnics! You should have a god-damned petting zoo!”
We cheer him on. Secretly, we’ve all got a bit of D-Fens in us, sick of the bullshit and hypocrisy and lies. The film goes on to wrap its observations in a fascinating character study and we realise that maybe he’s not quite as stable as the rest of society. However, the right-on soliloquies of the first two thirds don’t fade from memory easily.
A recent indie game also reflected the impact a high-intensity and low-stimulation modern existence can have on our already tragically short lives. Every Day The Same Dream pursues similar ends, but in a slightly different manner, bearing elements of Groundhog Day. It’s a rather splendid little title from the Italian developer Molleindustria (real name Paolo Pedercini), who has always sought to make games that mess with expected formulas in a bid to convey political messages. Though always intriguing, they’ve often been the victim of mixed results, using mechanics that weren’t quite immediate enough or containing themes too clumsily or boorishly implemented.
This, his latest, was entered into December’s Experimental Gameplay Project for the “Art Game” theme. Talking to Resolution at the time, Pedercini admitted he had originally been sceptical of the idea. Fortunately, what emerged was his most nuanced and subtle work yet, allowing players to come to their own conclusions rather than forcing a viewpoint down their throat.
Its message appears to broadly parallel that of Falling Down. But by couching it in a set of flexible rules, it’s imbued with an extra interpretative layer that doesn’t need to be neatly tied into a tangible, cohesive plot or character progression of the kind Schumacher was forced to implement. Not that either of those approaches is more valid than the other, but it’s rare to see a videogame brave enough not to squeeze itself into the traditional narrative mould, instead allowing the experience to exist on its own merits.
In this sense, Every Day The Same Dream is open to varying levels of engagement. I went through the motions a couple of times before they reached soul-crushing levels. The game opened up to me organically as I prodded further, exploiting the rough point-and-click outline where I could. Patting a cow, however, was about as far as I got before deciding to end it all.
And then it reset me to the start again, standing half-naked beside my bed, alarm flashing in the background. Sitting in stunned silence for a second or two, I inferred from that what I could and closed the tab. Excellent. The best part was that I could walk away allow the experience to marinate up in the old noggin’. A few hours later I thought about the consequences some more; maybe we never truly can escape the grind. Even suicide is less an act of rebellion and more one of defeatism.
As it turns out, it is possible to finish the game, and a self-inflicted death is the way to “be free”. By triggering each event or interaction, it’s possible to complete Every Day the Same Dream in a traditional way. But it doesn’t propel the player to the conclusion like others do. Only a few hints are dropped that it’s even possible, and it’s only by exploring every inch of its world that one can achieve this.
I’m not sure how I feel about the existence of an ending per se. I almost liked it better when I thought it was Groundhog Day in Falling Down’s clothes. That, though, is possibly something of a moot point. When I “finished” it in my own way, I didn’t know it had a defined end point. I drew those conclusions about the monotonous toil that each of us will inevitably suffer under the assumption that it meant we were screwed forever, and that gave me a lot to chew over.
Every Day The Same Dream is smartly presented, intriguing to explore and bloody weighty. It’s also as short and shallow as you require it to be, and that’s something utterly unique to the medium. As we have to observe D-Fens’ spiral into virtual insanity, we are allowed to experience it for ourselves here. If Molleindustria’s work seems fatalistic, that’s only because you are. If it’s perplexing, perhaps it’s time to think about the world around you a little more and return to it sometime later. If it’s infuriating and seems exaggerated, then good, it inspired a reaction and showed you a different perspective. It’s by far Molleindustria’s best, but don’t be surprised if that’s true of the year as well.