Dreams are perplexing, looping and unpredictable. They invite interpretation yet resist understanding.
Awkward Dimensions Redux is a game about dreams. Insofar as dreams are odd and highly personal, the game succeeds. It's a scattering of ideas that defy logic and comprehension.
It's a walking simulation lasting an hour or so, featuring 18 short sections. Interaction is limited to walking, jumping. Inspecting and picking things up. There are some basic puzzles. There are also sections in which the player has almost no control at all.
Created by Denver-based high school student Steven Harmon, the game is part surreal exploration and part angst teenage art project. It explores the disorientation of being as well as the dreadful machinations of youthful relationships.
Like That Dragon, Cancer, it often relies on metaphor to make its point, though its production is much simpler than the Green family's landmark game about a child living through terminal cancer.
Due for release on Steam on Oct. 21, it aspires to the wit of games like The Beginner's Guide and Thirty Flights of Loving, while occasionally deploying cinematic techniques, as seen in the recent Virginia.
"Originally, the game was a collection of dreams I recorded on my bedside journal whenever I woke up," explains Harmon. "Once I created the assets and recreated the dream, I'd be able to experience it again. I'd be able to experience it for myself with some lucidity and even to some extent psychoanalyze myself through my own interpretations of my subconscious mind."
As a student, Harmon is studying theater and psychology, both of which have a major influence on his work.
"The game became a venue for taking on the meaning of dreams as my aspirations in life and the fears that come with them, rather than literal dreams. It's a painting of a moment in my life where anyone can get in my head-space, learn everything about me during that time, if they look hard enough, then leave."
Games allow us to conquer dream-like anxieties
Awkward Dimensions Redux's portrayal of dreams sometimes have a video game-like quality about them. One involves crossing a busy road. Another is about navigating a maze. But these common game settings are often featured in dreams, manifestations of anxiety. Games allow us to conquer the anxiety of puzzles and challenges, which dreams usually do not.
"There's a sort of beauty in dreams. It isn't in the surreal nature of them, but rather the fact that they are all perfect systems in and of themselves," says Harmon. "Dreams don't play by your rules because they have their own set. While the average player may not understand the game nor see the common thread that connects these dreams ... it's fine because it is a conversation."
He says that completing the game became something of an obsession, even as he continued with his studies
"All I want in life is to be understood, and better understand myself. I feel video games are the only medium capable of doing this."