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This Indie Horror Game Made Me Confront My Fear of Death

A dark corridor leading to a closed door

The House Between
expertly performs with connections between intimacy and the human physique. 

I am fearful of my physique. The fats buildup on my stomach. My tiny arms. I’ve at all times hated having to give attention to it and particularly hated interrogating its inner features. Medical doctors scare me because of this. I assume my physique is attempting to kill me; wanting inside looks like extreme punishment. I’ve lengthy searched for tactics to enhance my relationship with my physique. A few of them have even labored. However that is nonetheless my default, once I take a look at my pores and skin, once I take into consideration my organs, my blood. Terror.

In The House Between, Martin, the participant character, is an architect. He imagines his buildings as our bodies he can stay inside. The sport, a brief horror title by Christoph Frey that was lately nominated for the celebrated Nuovo Award on the Unbiased Video games Competition, is rife with unease in regards to the our bodies Martin builds, and the one he lives inside. In an early scene, repeated usually within the sport as a form of motif, Martin and his pal Daniel play as youngsters. Martin is in a blanket fort. He reaches out to the touch the blanket and urges Daniel, who’s outdoors the fort, to do the identical factor. “What do you are feeling?” asks Martin. Him, or the blanket? Daniel says each. It is this odd, disembodied form of intimacy—touching with out touching. Within the scene, although you play as Martin, you by no means see his arm or his hand. As far as the sport’s code is anxious, he does not have a physique in any respect.

Being terrified of 1’s physique actually means being fearful of demise. I used to get into spirals once I was a child, normally when attempting to fall asleep. I’d think about demise and turning into nothing, and I’d really feel this creeping terror grasp me. I’d run to my mother, however she’d do not know how one can consolation me. I would curl up in her arms and ask her what got here after demise, and why we needed to die, and he or she’d haven’t any reply. There is no escaping it. If I focus, I can really feel that terror coming again. I do not wish to die. I do not need the void. I largely strive not to consider it.

Martin’s afraid of intimacy, which is quite a bit like being fearful of dying, too. Fearing closeness is sort of at all times about fearing loss. He has one other pal within the story, Clara. They meet one another after a mutual spherical of individuals watching. Martin brings her to a theater he is constructing—his newest creation, an unlimited deformed piece minimize out of concrete and metallic. He reveals her his room beneath the stage, the place he has apparently been residing whereas the construction is being constructed. He factors out that individuals typically name the house beneath the stage “hell.” There, Clara and Martin virtually contact, virtually share intimacy. However they by no means fairly get there. After which the sport’s actuality falls aside.

I am writing about The House Between not directly as a result of it is an oblique sport. It is gradual and unsteady. A lot of it’s taken up with elliptical, closely thematic dialog about partitions, and limits, our bodies and performances. However all of the dialog is doled out as extremely slow-moving textual content, with no actual indication of who’s speaking. It tries the participant’s endurance, creates a relentless sense of unease. The remainder of the sport is spent transferring by environments Frey has created with distorted PlayStation 1–fashion artwork, which supplies the entire thing a sense of transferring by a fuzzy VHS surveillance tape. The whole lot on this sport is distant and uncomfortable. The entire creation is suffused with the dread and ache of a physique you do not perceive, and a hand you’ll be able to’t contact.

In one of many sport’s discomfiting vignettes, Martin visits Daniel’s grave as he’s cremated. Martin’s pal is lifeless. Martin reaches out to the touch the casket. Nobody is left to succeed in again. The horror of The House Between is that they by no means touched within the first place.

I do not wish to spoil the expertise of enjoying the again half of The House Between, a sport that to play in its entirety solely takes about 45 minutes. However I’ll say that it feels purgatorial. The hell beneath the theater’s stage feels more and more damned, and there is a sense {that a} line has been crossed, as if Martin’s need for intimacy has pushed in opposition to his terror, and the ensuing discord has thrown him, and the participant, totally throughout the strains separating life and demise. It is all a fragmented, unsettling mess with no clear collection of occasions. Solely unsettledness and worry. The shadows within the sport’s world, which its graphical fashion renders uniquely impenetrable, all of the sudden appear to be carrying monsters.

My preferrred type of intimacy most likely would not embrace my physique. If my physique wasn’t concerned—if I may simply commune with individuals by psychological contact or some form of non secular communion—I would not need to be afraid. I may neglect demise and the hazard that lurks inside my very own pores and skin. Martin desires that, too, and his creations are constructed round articulating that need. Inside his theater’s hell, he is buried beneath that need. As a result of it is not a wholesome one, is it? The House Between suggests we ought to be afraid of wishes like that. I believe it is perhaps proper.

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