This Valentine's Day / Friends' Day, regardless of whether you celebrate it, I would like to talk about a tender little game, called Dawngrown, that releases today.
(Full disclosure: I did voice acting and edited the dialogues in this game -- but before I sat down to editing, I was given a copy of the game to play-test by the game's developer, Hugimugi.)
You see, I write from the perspective of a creative, and many of us indie creatives work in environments where we sit alone, at our own desks, toiling away at our craft because of the love we have for it. But in that lonely position, our minds introspect. They are capable of writing wonderful things -- tales of great heroism, or short tales that tell of our need to look out for each other and empathise with each other.
Dawngrown falls in the latter category. It is a short adventure that, to me, hits close to home.
You are a frog called Azure, in a world of characters who are talking animals and plants. Some of them are visibly taken ill, and you are a healer. You have various tools in your arsenal: a water gun, a sword, a brush, some water bombs. Your task is to heal their inner space, clear the darkness away (what this game terms "corruption"). And, in some cases, that corruption spreads really, really quickly.
My mental health has been better these last few years, but in past years I went through periods of great trauma. I have since done my best to provide a listening ear for friends who undergo similar struggles. Dawngrown hit home to me, because sometimes, dealing with our own mental health is like putting out fires that constantly light up and never seem to want to be put out despite our best efforts.
In public discourses by people who are open about their mental health struggles, I have noticed one common thread running through many of their struggles: they are given no empathy by the people who are supposed to give them empathy and be with them. It is unknown how some of the characters in Dawngrown arrive at their sick state, but they are well met by the presence of Azure, who actively empathises with them, who never gives up in clearing the darkness away.
We can't all be like Azure. Sometimes, the darkness may get too much for us. But the least we can do is try, and be there for each other, even if we are watching from afar. If we have the words, or the energy, or the music or the craft or whatever it is that can help someone, then let us put it to good use.
This game also takes delight in the simple pleasures of good food, good company, beautiful views in nature... for many of us, it is difficult to delight in these simple pleasures. Many of us are struggling to even get the basics. But I feel that sometimes, even the simplest discussions of the simplest things can be the first step in clearing the darkness away. Sometimes, we can just discuss about having a coffee or a tea, or a hug. We need warmth, we need that friendship, we need that simplicity, in the now, because it can help us not be in our own heads.
I didn't take long to play this game. I struggled with the controls at first -- I played a version of this game that didn't have a more thorough tutorial -- but all in all, the game took me about two hours. More skilled players might take a much shorter time. But I feel that the message of this short game is important, today on a day where many of us are expected to be social, as well as everyday.