Accident Tries to Capture the Horrifying Worst Day of Someone’s Life
I can’t remember the exact date it happened anymore, but I almost died in a car accident. Back in the early 2010’s I’d go to classes at college, then work a full shift at Target. Sometimes I’d then have to wake up early and go to Target again. This was one of those days. As I was driving home from work, I fell asleep at the wheel. Thankfully, upon hitting the curve, I woke up and managed to swerve out of the way of a pole, then out of the wrong lane before I hit another car. In the end, the only damage to my car was shredding one of my tires. I still rank it as the scariest thing that happened to me. In Accident, you get to see what happens if you don’t swerve.
I’ll fully admit that when going into Accident I had no plan to take it seriously. The game puts you in the role of a journalist who gets assigned to the job of writing stories about heroes during car accidents. Thankfully, the year is 2035 or so, and you have a super cool VR headset that lets you Assassin’s Creed yourself into the bodies of the heroes and live out the events. Does that make sense? Not really. I ended up naming my reporter “Asscrash” and spent more time goofing around than taking the accidents seriously. If you believed I shook every victim as much as possible, you would be correct. I gotta make sure they’re okay.
Even by the end of the game I still wasn’t convinced that Accident was meant to be taken super seriously. I’d come across a guy with a severed finger that I need to save, and kept making pigs in a blanket jokes. One level starts with your character walking down a dark alleyway while listening to what I’m 90% positive is the theme song to Grand Theft Auto IV, or at least a royalty-free version of it anyway. Each level ends with a cutscene showing the crash happening, and the amount of times I said “that would make an excellent inappropriate reaction .gif” is pretty high. Also, the game gives you points based on how well you do CPR, which seems kind of inappropriate, especially considering it’s the only thing you get points for.
Yet there’s always something there. Somewhere behind this goofy nonsense I couldn’t help but feel at least a little bad. Coming upon each accident invokes at least a little bit of dread. The first non-tutorial accident you see in the game looks like a scene from a Final Destination movie. A logging truck has lost some logs, crushing one car and killing both drivers on impact, causing a second car to rear-end them, and a third to smash into a nearby tree, the driver getting impaled on a branch. I won’t lie: I have never once driven near a truck with things strapped into it without picturing that exact event happening to me. Seeing it in Accident triggered some primal fear that I didn’t really need to be exploited like that.
Even if the game doesn’t always pull it off, I really have to give credit to Accident for trying. Most horror games, your Silent Hills and Resident Evils, are all about supernatural horrors. Some terrifying creature, shambling in the dark and looking to tear you apart. Some secret organization, unleashing a plague that turns your loved ones into something else. Even if it’s just an extremely unlikely situation, such as being stalked by a serial killer, normal horror games don’t really go for the mundane.
Let’s be totally fair here, Accident isn’t a horror game. While publisher PlayWay has been behind a few horror games (such as the rather horny Lust From Beyond), Accident is in their line of “simulator” titles. The kind that includes games such as Train Station Renovation, House Flipper, Cooking Simulator, and the recently released Gas Station Simulator. While it’s not going to be the last time they’re combining horror elements into this genre (they’re also the publishers behind the upcoming Chernobyl Liquidators Simulator), it’s probably the first time they’ve done it accidentally.
Of course, I get pulled out of the moment when the levels end and there’s a text description of what happened to everyone after the accident. Some of these are so intense they almost read like supervillain, or hero, origin stories. People lose their entire families, are crippled, go into debt because of the insurance costs, or spend the rest of their lives so afraid of cars they refuse to drive ever again. The reality is that, despite the dramatic writing in these segments, this is something that actually happens to real people all the time, and I would know because I was almost one of these stories. Not many games seek to capture this sort of mundane horror, and I really hope someone looks at Accident and takes some notes. I’d love to see more try.