Great Games: Player 2

Developer: Lydia Neon
Platform: PC
Release Year: 2013

Created in Twine, game making software which due to ease of access and use has become synonymous with intensely personal stories from those often marginalised (see Videogames For Humans), Player 2 is merely black text on a grey screen. At the outset it appears impersonal, almost robotic, as you are removed from the scene-setting sounds and images that could help set an atmosphere and placed in a situation in which you are alone with your thoughts.

The Player 2 in the title refers to anyone in your head: anyone you have had conflict with in the past. The game never asks you to choose a certain type of conflict, it could be something as small as an argument with a co-worker or something as large as decades of anger and resentment towards a parent who broke your childhood home. The conflict itself is irrelevant; what is relevant is the process. The object is not to win, lose or even end, but to understand and make what was overwhelming comprehensible again.

It's able to be both vast or specific depending on who's playing. It eschews any sense of narrative metaphor for direct and open communication with the player, leading them by the hand to a catharsis, rather than invoking it through a more traditional win state or storytelling climax.

Yet, whilst it may be called Player 2, what makes the game truly special to me is that it's more accurately a three player game. It's not just a spreadsheet of human psychology to help you process your thoughts and feelings, it's an intimate expression of a worldview: the worldview that we can all get better, that none of us are beyond help. The game is acutely aware that the both artist and audience are living, breathing, loving beings in a moment of connection. The presentation may be bare, but the words themselves are so full of humanity that to play Player 2 is to feel less alone.

It's so easy to forget, especially in games, that there exists humanity on both sides of the screen, and our relationship to a game can always be a conversation. But Player 2 removes all extraneous elements and strips itself to its very core, laying bare the necessity and power of art in the difficult act of simply getting by. Because we deserve to not be alone. Because we deserve to be loved. Because we deserve to be free.