[english translation of: Night In The Woods, Stress und das Laufen in Videospielen]
A few days ago I read an article in a newspaper: Students are too stressed. Probably due to the omnipresent weight of expectations. Since the canteen food is meanwhile designed for academic success and a compulsory attendance in the lecture halls not in noticeable proximity. If you need a break, you can miss a lecture here and there. As a working student, I do it all the time. It is probably the unanswered questions that fuel student-psychological counseling at universities. What do I do later with my field of expertise? When will my parents stop to rage about the sense of studying? Et cetera. Two or three phantom gastric ulcers sprout spontaneously during these negative vibrations. Gaming usually helps me to cool down mentally. But yesterday it was different.
21th of August, 2018, in the evening
I´m entering the apartment, gasping softly. Physical activity has not been an issue lately. My hands are starting to tingle and I´m collapsing on the couch. I´m trying to breathe deeply into the stomach and the rhythmic relaxation attempt creates a remedy. It is lecture-free time. A blessing after the exam phase combined with a move to a nearby city. Now I´m taking a seat at the kitchen table next to the open window. I´m opening the laptop and a few tabs on the internet. It is getting dark. All the ambitions of the day are behind me. Giving Steam the command to pop up is absolutely legitimate. So, I´m pressing the left mouse button and I´m starting a game.
It’s Night In The Woods about character Mae Borowski, a college dropout who has a passion for procrastination. All of this is acting on me like a real life simulator. I start by unraveling a weird dream and getting out of bed. I have the choice to practice bass guitar, to take a look at the internet chat history on the computer or to venture to walk down the stairs. I opt for the latter and meet Mom in the kitchen. Often she sits there in the morning reading a book. She asks me what I intend to do today and I tell her that I will meet old friends. Unlike me, they stayed in Possum Springs back then, took jobs after graduation and lead an indipendent and down to earth lifestyle. In contrast, I just returned after two years of futile studying to live with Mom and Dad again.
In the moments when I am distracted from the game, it shivers inside me for a brief moment. I’m starting to ask myslef these questions, like, why are you sitting here wasting time when you actually have to work on an essay? Why are you still single? You could be happy by now, if you´d be more interested in anything at all. My stomach starts to shake like the cave of a rumbling yeti. All of this is nonsense, I still have enough time to write three essays and make things right and get this bachelor´s degree.
But instead, I get my head into the game again. The world of Night In The Woods is colorful and lovingly designed, yet the themes are mature and sometimes difficult to digest. It is about deaths in the family, the problems of adulthood, a lost youth and the question of what comes next. While I’m strolling through the town as Mae Borowski, I’m talking to teens who think that I´m beyond old at the age of 20, meet acquaintances I confess to that I hang out all day long, best friends who tell me about their goals in life, and I feel farther and farther away – so far away from everything,
I’m starting to run. The game leaves me the choice, but I can not help it. My mind merges with the digital world. Only recently I had a playable nightmare in which I walked around in the middle of the night and hit neon lights and random cars with a baseball bat.
I can´t think straight anymore. I am awake and do not know where to go. There is no turning back. I´m climbing on roofs and keep dancing over the power lines of the city. Running away has become a race against time. Suddenly it is not the abandoned study or the teenage dramas that is worrying me, but the emotional turmoil inside and a search for meaning, which is unleashing an unbridled anxiety inside. Like a time traveler whose transport apparatus is no longer working, I am wandering around trying to find things or faces that I know.
In the underground tunnel I meet those lethargic kids again. They are looking for someone who buys alcohol, but I’m slightly too young for that. What am I actually supposed to be or do, right now?. My finger slips off the left stick and my whole world decelerates.
I take a few steps, then stop. What am I doing wrong? Why do I feel buried alive? I have been looking for the right path for two years and didn´t find any answers. Fuck conformity is what I tell myself, because I do not know what the alternative could be. I´m imagining how Mae must feel right now and I´m heading home to her parents‘ house. Dad is sitting in front of the TV and does not notice how I´m entering through the front door and I´m sneaking to my room.
I´m entering the room, gasping softly. Electric bass or the internet chat? I´m deciding to collapse on the bed. Maybe it’s time to calm down. Mall Days are over. I have not finished Night In The Woods yet, but have already learned a lesson. It’s okay to be in the here and now, not rushing through life and appreciating the small things. After all, NITW is figuratively just like real life adventure and sometimes you have to stop and take a look around to see where you are actually going. My real studies may be in danger of failing, but I will try to start every day without a negative attitude and try to make a change. I´m holding down the yellow Y button on the controller, which causes the game to be saved and the start menu to appear on the screen.
Like Mae, I´m going to bed. Tomorrow evening, I will start a new session and I´m setting myself a goal – do not rush.
© featured image: Secret Lab