What the hell did I just play?
It is called ‘A Mother’s Inferno’. Presumably a reference to Dante’s Inferno, it is a first-person perspective passage through a personal hell by a mother who has lost her boy. It is visually and audibly painful, highly shocking and disturbing and packed with symbology it doesn’t waste time explaining. At all of 15 minutes long, it is terror and loss condensed. I cannot say anymore, just go play it. If you have Unity installed you can play it online, or download it for PC or Mac with the links on the right of the page (it is about 300MB zipped).
Right, played it?
The controls are unclear, as are the immediate objects, but I’ll be damned if it is not a powerful and dread-filled experience. The situation and environment, coupled with the driving soundtrack, are odd and unpredictable without being random. The creatures , like the monsters of Amnesia, are wrong in an instinctual way. You do not know what they are capable of, so they could be capable of anything. All you know for certain is you do not want to go near them though, inevitably, you must. Actually combating these embodiments of primal emotions is itself an intimidating task not because you might die – you may notice it is impossible to do so – but because being near them is simply uncomfortable. It is a pity that learning how to dispatch them is a matter of trial and error, though I found the flashes of insight to be a smart hint system that does not break flow.
Does it convey well the experience of being a mother – for it is a specifically womanly protagonist – suffering the guilt, fear and thousand other emotions of having lost a child? I could not truly say, never having been a mother myself, but I feel I understand a little better something of the chaos within such a woman’s mind and subconscious. Nothing will seem right without them and there are true monsters, within oneself or without, that must be fought. And then there is the chance you can never get them back. All that pain, guilt, blame, anguish, effort… knowing nothing can be done. How could it not send some mad?
Most of all, A Mother’s Inferno reminds me of thechineseroom‘s controversial mod Korsakovia. In that mod, you explored a nightmare world based around a – literally – twisted hospital, warehouse and apartment block. All the while you hear the conversation between and thoughts of a schizophrenic patient (yourself) and his doctor. In some areas you are chased by shapeless black clouds and jolted by stabs of shrieking electrical whines or static. It is, again, an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience through a person’s highly subjective experience of trauma.
AMI was made by a team of 17 students from Copenhagen across November/December 2011. It was produced by the Danish National Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment (DADIU), a collaboration of universities and art schools. They provide support and workshops to research and produce novel games within the framework of appropriate degree courses. Which all sounds helpful and positive. Like DigiPen, DADIU games seem to be a group to watch.
I have just noticed that A Mother’s Inferno was one of two DAIDE-produced games which were presented at E3. It is impossible to get away from that show!
A Mother’s Inferno was discovered via Polygon at TheVerge.com.