Awful Summer Jam 2018: Stay Home

“Stay Home” by Bleak Grey.

“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 is] a nice sunny day outside and [you are] running late for your classes. What will it take you to try again today? Content warning: [This] game revolves around [agoraphobia].”

As I write this article, I have been suffering from agoraphobia for more than a year and a half now. Agoraphobia is, in short, the fear of public places. Most agoraphobics do not leave their homes for days, sometimes even weeks or months. Since “Stay Home” treats agoraphobia as its main narrative theme, this jam game is one of the most important for me personally.

It does not only show the symptoms such as panic or anxiety attacks, but also the associated changes in the social environment. As an agoraphobic you can get a lot of support from good friends and family, but at the same time it often seems like you do not exist for others anymore. You feel like shit, because you cannot do the simplest things like going for a walk, doing grocery shopping or visiting a friend. For some people, the stomach becomes tense when they try to go outside, others pass out, while others again 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 cannot be done. It is 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 press the key, then you can interact with it, it is simple, anyone can do it.” – and then comes the cutscene that literally wipes out your character.

The game is divided into five days, during each 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 will have to clean up your flat, write an essay, find your pills and you will have to try to break out of a nightmare. While doing so you will always be confronted with the agoraphobia of your character without drifting too much into any cliché. And the ending… The ending is so beautiful. For that alone you should give this game a try. “Stay Home” shows that digital games are a perfect medium for making mental disorders tangible even for those who are not suffering from it. Only rarely have I ever felt so understood by a game.

Thanks for this experience, Bleak Grey, whoever and wherever you are. You have created a masterpiece that touched me a lot. >>PLAY