“You find a dusty VHS tape, on the side is written: “Capture the Flag Project, footage 03/20/86″ You decide to put it into the player.”
“No Players Online” does an excellent job in evoking a sense of paranoia in me. While it starts as the recreation of a experience of an oldschool first-person shooter on a completely deserted server, things will take an eerie turn very quickly. While the game states that you simply have to capture the flag and to return it to your base, odd things appear to happen as you do so.
Obscure music will be played by a gramophone. A human-like silhouette will suddenly appear on the horizon and fade away in the next breath. Red lights without any perceptible source will shine down on you and shut down just as quickly. And then, someone joins you; or maybe they were with you the whole time?
The horror of “No Players Online” has its origin not in jumpscares or something like that, but in the dramatic building up of an uncomfortable tension. That relates to one of the two meta aspects of the game: It’s in a sense a playable essay about the feelings that abandoned game servers and projects can still prompt in us. There is a sense of nostalgia in there that’s hard to describe, but at least the game has one obvious message about multiplayer games to make – they won’t feel half as good without the players themselves. It feels boring or even sad to follow their scheme on your own. And the other meta aspect? Well… I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s say it’ll be quite an unique experience. >>PLAY