I hated Passage for a pretty specific, personal reason. There was actually a lot about it I did enjoy: I liked the minimalist style, and I appreciated the player’s bleak lack of control over life and death. As a game where action equals metaphor, it works perfectly. But I had a problem with the meaning of the metaphor.
There’s a brief line in this article about every day the same dream that captures my feelings about Passage: Passage is trite, simplistic, and false. It’s too-perfect love. If that’s how Jason Rohrer thinks he’s living his life, hand in hand down a long hallway of colors, together all the time, great for him. That isn’t how most people live.
His assumption that this is life is what comes across as pretentiousness: anyone who doesn’t agree with the premise of the metaphor is going to perceive him as making art out of falsehood. During the time when I first played Passage, I was pretty lonely and was generally mildly upset with the universe; the game made me want to hunt Rohrer down and kick him in the face for being so blandly happy.Yeah, my reactions to everything he makes are totally personal and subjective– but I’d like to think that’s how he wants people to react to his games. On a personal level. On that personal level, I just wanted to kick him in the face for being happy in his stupid hallway, and for assuming that his own minor navigational problems, so to speak, were profound.
But Sleep is Death doesn’t look like anything trite at all. Where Passage was about what I see as a kind of fake idealism, Sleep is Death is going to be about actual interaction, about the problematic, fast-paced negotiation of a shared gamespace. The slideshow trailer he put up shows the kind of ambiguous, troublesome play that I appreciate in my game-metaphors about life.
Also: Storybook Weaver crossed with being a Dungeon Master. BEST. GAME. CONCEPT. EVER. I grew up on Storybook Weaver!
Good job, Mr. Rohrer: here are my dollars. I promise I won’t try to write class papers about how much I hate you anymore (something I actually tried to do last summer). I have formally erased you from my official List of Dicks. Be free, Mr. Rohrer. Show the world you know what the hell you’re doing. Again.