How often in a day do you think ‘I hate people’? I’ve thought it more than once. Hell is other people and after a day of particularly frustrating interactions, it can feel like everyone else is nothing but a problem in your life and you have no outlet for your anger. Everyday Misanthrope, created by Liz England for the recent “You Are the Monster” Ludum Dare game jam is a game which claims to offer you catharsis.
Your aim in Everyday Misanthrope is to make other people miserable and generally spread suffering in order to end your day feeling satisfied that you have ruined as many lives as you were able to. My initial impression of the game was delighted amusement, giggling at the status updates at the side which said things like “there is no joy only pain” and “you are spite incarnate.” I have a habit of revelling in my own grumpiness. You are given 50 Misery Tokens to spend and given the choice of 3 actions, which cost increasing amounts of tokens, but will in turn cause increasing amounts of misery. For example, on the bus you’re able to stare at people uncomfortably for free, but by spending two misery tokens you can spread yourself across two seats and ruin 3 lives with your action. What a sound investment.
At the end of the game, it tallies up how many lives you’ve ruined (76 in case you’re wondering) and goes on to tell you the personal story of each individual you’ve inconvenienced or harmed in a long list. Everyday Misanthrope isn’t a game you win, it’s just a game you play again and again, but it gets less amusing each time. And I wonder if this is the point. After the initial cathartic relief of listening to my music without headphones or a care in the world had worn off, and the game came to a close after its 10 short minutes, I found myself deep in thought.
Each time the game moves you are provided with 3 actions that will make someone miserable, guaranteed, and although two of them are quite clearly the deliberate actions of an asshole, like cutting the line in Starbucks, or filling a trolley in the supermarket with stuff and then leaving it in the aisle for someone else to deal with, at least one action is always something you could end up doing simply through a lack of thought; things like putting something back in the wrong place at the shop or dropping litter. The game manages to call your attention to the consequences of your smallest mindless actions by having you choose them deliberately and see how many people they affect. It’s a lesson in mindfulness and choice and by the end of the game you might be more aware of how not everything is about you and that your actions affect other people.
It actually reminded me of David Foster Wallace’s speech ‘This is Water’, which you can watch below.
It seems ridiculous that such a short game prompted such a strong response from me, but it was actually what I needed and it says a lot about the effects of gaming’s interactive storytelling. If you’re having a bad day, this game is short enough to play on your lunch break and it might remind you that you’re a good person but that you’re not the only person, that your choices have an effect on other people, and that it’s actually not that satisfying being the reason someone else says “I hate people”.
Or you can enjoy being an asshole for 10 minutes and not overthink it.
If you’re interested in ruining some lives, you can download Everyday Misanthrope here for free.
Main Image: © Liz England