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A terrifying psychological horror game inspired by the developer's battle with mental illness. Explore nightmares! Branching narrative!
A terrifying psychological horror game inspired by the developer's battle with mental illness. Explore nightmares! Branching narrative!
3,608 backers pledged $106,722 to help bring this project to life.

Difficulty and defining what a “game” is

Posted by Matt Gilgenbach (Creator)

Difficulty in horror games is something pretty contentious. Here is a video where I talk about what I think for Neverending Nightmares:

I’ve talked about some of these things before, but I wanted to go into more detail about why I feel the way I do about the difficulty in Neverending Nightmares. Also, I like to discuss Candyland as much as possible. :-D I actually discussed it when I did a guest lecture at Sid Meier’s Game Design Boot Camp. To some extent, Candyland (and Dear Esther) are interesting counterpoints to Sid Meier’s philosophy that games are a series of interesting choices.

Sid Meier is an absolute genius, and his philosophy is a great way to look at games, but I think to some extent, "video games" are outgrowing the usage of the term "game". They are interactive entertainment and support a wide variety of different experiences. You can have a game with beautiful and amazing systems like Civilization and "games" like Dear Esther that lets you explore an emotional journey without choosing anything other than where to go. This is one of the things that is so exciting about being an indie developer. We don’t have to play by the rules! We can invent new genres – but even more so, we can come up with new definitions for what a "game" is.

Many kickstarter projects are revisiting much loved and forgotten genres or styles of play, but I feel like I have an opportunity to do much more than rehash the past with Neverending Nightmares. I want to present new and interesting ways to tell a story. I want to express feelings and moods that haven’t been explored in games. Actually, I don’t even think of myself as making a game. I am trying to make an experience! I am trying to capture the feelings of a nightmare and combining them with my struggles with mental illness.

I think of every project as an opportunity – an opportunity to expand the definition of what "a game" is, and that’s what I want to do with Neverending Nightmares. I’m sure this sounds ambitious. It definitely is! Perhaps I am giving myself too much credit, but the one really amazing thing from hearing people’s reactions to the game both at PAX and on the kickstarter is that I feel like I’ve captured something really special already with the prototype. The prototype is just the tip of the iceberg, so I can’t wait to get the funding to finish the game and show you everything I have planned! :-D

I’m actually leaving very shortly to fly to China, but fear not! I’ve lined up guest updates from Joe Grabowski, our lead artist. They should be quite interesting!

As always, thank you very much for your support! I really appreciate it. Together we can create a really special game!

-Matt Gilgenbach

PS. If you are interested in learning more about crafting horror in games, I enjoyed reading this post on gamasutra about horror games. The ideas about horror games at the beginning and the conclusion are more interesting to me than the actual research study. In the article, it says, “Actual combat is not as scary as the implied threat of combat.” I feel similarly as well, which is why you have to avoid combat in Neverending Nightmares. 

PPS. We got some press coverage of A Mobius Proposal from Polygon and Eurogamer. So cool! Everyone can download the game for free on the kickstarter page, so please check it out if you haven't already. I'd love to hear what you think! :-)


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    1. Paul Thacker on

      Haha, that could be it. The inflection in your voice when you said "...I think we can have some of those be more challenging" made me think you were going to add something else. But now that I think about it, the actual content of the video is pretty much complete, and I probably would have thought nothing of it if I were merely reading a transcript.

    2. Matt Gilgenbach 2-time creator on

      I'm really glad to hear that you guys are pleased with our decisions about difficulty! It's great to know you are on the right track.

    3. Matt Gilgenbach 2-time creator on

      Hi Paul,

      I actually can't watch the video again because YouTube is blocked in China, but I usually do chop the videos off sometimes mid-sentence because I try to keep them short and sweet. However, when I am talking, I tend to sort of ramble on and do terrible summaries of the videos that sound kind of dumb, so I suspect that it is cut off, but it's cut off where I want it to be. I will double check when I get back in the states.

    4. Sir Jordi

      totally agree
      go on indie men!

    5. Paul Thacker on

      I think the end of the video was cut off.

      I generally like games to challenge me, either with quick reflexes or tricky (but sensible) puzzles. I can, however, see the appeal of something that's an interactive story, but not a game in the traditional sense--something like Dear Esther. Limbo is a good example of a game that does have action sequences and puzzles, but still evokes a powerful atmosphere. While you die a lot in that game, you never get sent back very far. So I was free to experiment with various solutions even if I knew most of them would probably kill me.

    6. NaNaJackJack on

      I LOVE IT!

      There's nothing I hate more in games than tricky patterns where you know exactly what to do, but it takes doing it over and over and over before you get it quite right-- and the longer the sequence and the fewer the save points, the worse it is.

      I've been asking for years why game developers so rarely make more non-linear interactive worlds one can just explore and enjoy, without having to worry about specific skills or without being limited to restrictive combat situations.

      Thanks Matt-- keep up the good work!

    7. Mr Pendent on

      “Actual combat is not as scary as the implied threat of combat.” -- Absolutely true. Note that you never, ever see Rosemary's baby.

      Good luck in China!