Every year around Christmas, I think about getting a particular pre-lit fake tree. It’s tall, narrow, white, and looks like it is made from a whole bunch of giant sparkling pipe cleaners.
I never buy it.
We never really decorate for Christmas, and have very little storage space, so I can’t justify buying a tree I will have to shove in a closet for most of the year. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Halloween is my favorite holiday. I adore it. Recently, I happened to be scrolling through my Facebook feed when a very targeted ad popped up for a Halloween tree: around four feet tall, black, and lit with orange lights. It even came in its own black planter.
Once I got it out of the box and readjusted the lights, I quite liked it. I liked it so much, it inspired me to pull the boxes of Halloween decorations out even earlier than I expected. This made me think about fall, cooler temperatures (in theory), fog, Knott’s Scary Farm, and Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. It got me in the mood to watch my regular autumn horror movies. It got me in the mood to create fall-colored things. I even hauled my ass to Michael’s to buy a few things to create some art.
All this got me thinking about something I’ve pondered for years: I wonder if I could learn to make games. Believe it or not, I’ve had a series of ideas rattling around my head that I’d love to play, and if I knew how to make games, I’d try to bring them into reality.
I love a sense of occasion, I love atmosphere, and I love exploration. I love environmental storytelling. I love horror that holds back. I’m not into jump scares or gore; I’d far rather the tension was conveyed via alternate routes.
My idea/s would be a series of relatively compact (between 2-4 hours) first person exploration games, heavy on the atmosphere, and tinged with horror. Each entry would be related to a certain time of year or a particular holiday (e.g.: Halloween). I know the idea isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but they would ideally be immersive and compelling experiences.
I’ve thought through several outlines. I’ve always wanted to play (and, perhaps, make) a game about haunts.
What sparked the idea for these non-existent games was actually my chronic illness. I mean, sure, I’d want to play these games anyway, but it was my health that was the catalyst.
I have a chronic illness. It makes my life a bit unpredictable. Some days I can do little more than lay in bed or on the couch feeling miserable; sometimes I can still read, sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I can play games, sometimes I can’t. I have to take medication to deal with the worst of the pain, but it makes me all but useless. Sometimes I’d love to go out and have “real world” experiences, however my health has other ideas. I’ve missed out on so much because of it.
I love haunts. I love the idea of them, and I love the actuality of them. I just can’t always rely on having the energy and good health to get to them.
Years ago I started imagining a Halloween haunt game where the player is moving between mazes, each of which would be a themed and even more compact experience. The areas between the mazes would be rich with atmosphere and environmental storytelling. Imagine being able to go to a haunt with no one else around? How amazing and terrifying would that be? Imagine if it were a co-op game where you could explore those areas with a friend? Imagine the fog, the lights, the sounds, and a strong use of scale and space.
I feel dreamy just thinking about it.
Alas, I don’t know how to create games, and I have no idea if I ever will. Sometimes I consider my options and if I’d really want to hunker down and make the games I dream of. I have no idea if I’d be any good at it, I just know what I’d like to play.
So, for now, I will keep dreaming. I don’t often feel my ideas are all that great, but this series of games seems like it could be a good time.
Do you ever think about actually making games? What game would you make if you could?
P.S. Here’s a picture of me from 2009 with a small pumpkin on my head. It felt like the thing to do.
P.P.S. The picture at the top of the piece is by someone named Curious Doodle. I wanted to make sure I gave proper credit.