“Stay Home” by Bleak Grey.
“So I suppose you want to ask me what happened to you. If you could change one thing, it certainly would be just opening the front door. Patience is known for being tired, but someday it has to happen. It’s a nice sunny day outside and you’re running late for your classes. What will it take you to try again today? Content warning: this game revolves around a mental disorder.”
As some of you know, I have been suffering from agoraphobia for more than a year and a half. Agoraphobia is, in short, the fear of public places. Most agoraphobics do not leave their homes for days, sometimes weeks or even months. Since this jam game treats agoraphobia as its main narrative theme, it’s one of the most important for me personally for a long time.
It does not only show the symptoms (such as panic or anxiety attacks) of agoraphobia, but also the associated changes in the social environment. As an agoraphobist you can get a lot of support from good friends, but at the same time it often seems like you do not exist for other people anymore. You feel like shit, because you can not do the simplest things, like going for a walk, shopping, or even just visiting a friend. For some people, the stomach becomes tense when they try to go outside, other people faint, others feel as if they can not breathe. Suddenly, the world outside your own home becomes a restricted area, and your own home becomes a prison. It is particularly bitter when one feels good one day in the morning and thinks that they will make it on this day, and then they move their hand to the door handle and realize that it can not be done. It’s fucking depressing.
“Stay Home” is fantastic because it shows all these aspects, involving not only those affected alone, but also the social environment. The game mechanics are given a special value because they serve as well-functioning metaphors for the mental disorder. “You want to open the door? Sure, just hit the ‘E’ key, then you can interact with it, it’s simple, anyone can do it, right?” And then comes the cutscene that literally wipes out your character.
The game is divided into five days, during which you must try to overcome everyday problems. You are always in contact with your best friend Sam, who supports you as much as possible. You’ll have to clean up your flat, write an essay, find your pills and you’ll have to try to break out of a nightmare. In doing so you will always be confronted with the agoraphobia of your character without drifting too much into any cliché. And damn… The ending is so beautiful. For that alone you should give “Stay Home” a try, really.
Although I’m not sure, but I feel that the developer of this game knows very well about agoraphobia. Either the person is agoraphobic or they have an affected person in their immediate environment, I would guess.
“Stay Home” is very important to me, because it shows that digital games are a perfect medium for making mental disorders empathic even for the unaffected. Only rarely have I felt so well understood about a jam game as of this one. Thanks for that, Bleak Gray, whoever and wherever you are. You have created a masterpiece that touched me a lot. >>PLAY