Courtesy of Sunil Rao.

Inner Vision touched me personally as a game that puts the player in a precarious, almost otherworldly situation. It’s impossible to know how you’d act, and impossible to realize the ramifications. That’s what makes it so engaging.

Big-budget games these days are rarely relatable–it’s about living out someone else’s fantastical situation, wherein the player feels immersed and untouchable. And that’s always been in the mantra of video games: focus on the journey instead of how the journey affects individual characters and ultimately the player. The game I’m addressing has already received the spotlight on Kotaku; however I feel it’s important to discuss because, well, I can relate. That game is Inner Vision.

Over the haunting chirping of a cello, Yama sits in a dark room with a single light. And, mysteriously, puffing on a cigarette. He dares the player to talk down three people from their emotional lows–a woman with relationship troubles, a man with collegiate sights set too high, and another man who drowns his sorrows in heroine that has nothing. In between conversations, Yama peppers in evil comments about how he thinks the player takes pleasure in this, how this person’s life hinges on the quotes chosen.

Even though dealing with a suicidal person is complicated, the player only has two strikes before the conversation ends and they carry out their plans. It’s disturbingly correct: someone with suicidal thoughts is invariably on the brink, and that sense of urgency takes hold of the player without a second thought. And as someone who has been on both ends of this very scenario, it doesn’t get easier.

What Inner Vision does though is lay out the situation beforehand. Going in, the player knows these people is on the precipice of ending it all. It doesn’t work so easily like that in real life, and that’s partly why depression and suicide are taboo topics, especially for video games to cover. Not many games feature intentional suicide, unless it’s selfless and to help the protagonist advance. But that’s another debate entirely. 

In that Kotaku article, Patricia shares a sentiment I agree with: “It seems strange (if not uncomfortable) to have such a touchy subject be posed to you as a puzzle to solve…” Of course, communicating with someone in such unfamiliar territory isn’t a test. It’s one of the most, if not the most, profoundly difficult places to find oneself in.

Creator Sunil Rao almost sounded remorseful on his blog: “Inner Vision wasn’t supposed to become popular. I created it for myself to express some dying thoughts I’ve had for the past several months. I had a message I was trying to portray with the game.” Upon posting his game on Reddit’s game developer subreddit, it shot up the rankings and was embraced openly by his developing colleagues.

The games of today are too legendary, too unfamiliar. Inner Vision reminds us that mental health is still a serious issue and it’s great an upcoming developer did this. Maybe the triple-A industry will catch on soon.

You can play Inner Vision here. As well, the game’s haunting music can be found here.

To the readers: How did you guys do? Did you say the right things to save these people? And did you feel the urgency that would be felt in a real-life scenario?

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