Suspicious app sheds light on ‘A Dark Room’

A pitch-black background with a thin blue line appears with the words “light fire” imprinted over it.  Slowly, the words “Awake. Head throbbing. Vision blurry. The room is cold. The fire is dead” scroll from the empty abyss. There are no directions. There are no guides. There is no background music. Just silence. The only choice left is to press the line and wait to see what happens next.

This is the beginning of “A Dark Room.” In less than a year, ADR quickly became one of the highest grossing apps in the Apple Store, reshaping the layout format of interactive mobile games. The game launched on November 2013 as an RPG adventure game with its own spin on how the game player should be able to progress through the game.

After choosing to touch the blue line, the screen brightens up but its own little gaming world is still desolate. The player is introduced into a world of chaos where everything is in ruins. The options remain few during the beginning. Buttons fade in, giving the player the option to buy necessities and to gather wood. The objective is to survive.

As the game progresses more buttons and more options appear slowly creating the black screen into a home base for every action needed. There are no physical characters or any visual representations for the objects collected. They remain as text.  

ADR is a fictional and simplistic genealogy of what mankind was, is and could be. For better or worse the game manages to condense down the negative yet powerful aspects of societal power.  The game moves beyond the objective of survival after a level of comfort from the ever-expanding village that is created. Without spoiling too much of the progression, ADR entertains the idea of what happens when power meets opportunity.  ADR lets the player explore beyond the village and see what the world has for the taking.

Perhaps this is why the game grew as popular as it did. Its button layout on a plain screen skews the focus of the game to a psychological one. Going through a few hours of the game in complete silence creates an existential atmosphere to the game. “Why am I still pressing these buttons? Why am I searching for more and more during the game? Why do I care so much?”

As of this week, the game is ranked in 14th place in the Apple Store top charts under the paid category.  The Ensign, a prequel to the game, was introduced to the App store on August 17.  The game takes the player through the story of why society collapsed within the game in the first place.

Overall, the game is worth a play. The simplicity to the game is both its greatest strength and its greatest fault. It gives very few incentives to replay the game especially when the start of the game seems slow at times but it is enticing enough.