Neither of my roommates play games, but they’re both fans of Halloween. To help get us in the spirit I introduced them to Until Dawn, a horror game with lots of branching narrative paths depending on what you choose.
One of my roommates isn’t that into spooky stuff but is definitely down to watch scary movies for Halloween, and also loved watching Heather and I play A Way Out. The other roommate wears so much black that the main laundry detergent she uses is Woolite Darks. She also once texted me to say that “everything about Rami Malek’s face is correct.” Malek plays one of the characters in Until Dawn, by the way. Given all of that, it’s no surprise that my roommates liked this game. What I didn’t expect is how differently they’d see the game than other people I know who’ve played it.
While they both found the character animations a little uncanny valley, the way they dug into the story was not just a delight for me, but a way to look at this game with new eyes. I’ve played before, and I’m pretty set in a lot of my opinions about these characters. Both my roommates came to different conclusions very quickly. They both found Jess to be pretty annoying, and didn’t like Mike much either. Every time they canoodled, one of my roommates would mutter “gross.” In terms of Mike and Emily’s break up, they were pretty much on Emily’s side, even after another character spotted Mike and Em having an impassioned, and ambiguously romantic, conversation in the snow. They didn’t want any characters to die, they told me, but consider Jess and Mike “acceptable losses.” I can pretty much take or leave Jess and Mike, so how strongly my roommates felt about these characters surprised me.
They both agreed with my opinion on Chris, the jokester who can’t help from quipping at any and every opportunity. I hate the kid, and so do they. But instead of letting him self-own in dialogue options, my roommates asked me to give him the more subdued dialogue prompts, to “give him some dignity.” When a character asks Chris if he plans to hook up with his longtime crush Ashley, instead of bragging about wanting to hit that, they asked me to have Chris be more discreet about it. I hadn’t actually seen how Chris acts if you choose these dialogue options, as I always played him as a jerk. When he’s not playing pranks on his friends, turns out Chris can be pretty decent.
I polled the roommate who is awake right now—the goth one—to ask who was her favorite character. She replied, after some thought, that it was Emily. “She’s been through a lot,” she said. “She’s just trying to live.” Between the game’s prologue and the main story, Emily and her ex-boyfriend Mike have broken up, and he’d gotten together with her former friend Jess. My roommates read this situation as unfair to Emily, and a stressful way to spend a weekend in the mountains.
A lot of players I’ve casually talked to or observed online take a while to warm up to Emily, if they do at all. I personally love her, though mostly due to how hardcore she gets if she survives to the later parts of the game. I hadn’t actually considered what she might be going through at the start of the story, and how that would affect her temperament. Sometimes, you gotta just be a bitch to enforce your boundaries when your ex brings his new girlfriend to your weekend getaway.
I’m curious about how their opinions will change as things unfold, and also their choices will affect the story as shit hits the fan. I can’t wait for more scares, and eventually some character deaths, but mostly I’m happy to be playing this game again with new people, and to possibly see a whole new version of this story. It’s not just the choices you make that affect the course of the story in this game, but who you play it with.