Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Discover My Body Is Body Horror Ascended
Discover My Body is a game created by indie horror developer Yames. It takes place in the year 2040, where humanity, socially atomized and isolated, turns to ever stranger ways to rebuild that connection. The game focuses on one of these methods, a horrific procedure called a “flowering.” This involves the patient becoming, um, connected to some kind of fungus, which allows them to be psychically connected to all of the other “flowered.”
You take up the role of a medical student, where your task is to closely watch the process of the flowering. And the one being flowered is some kind of researcher on the organism and its effects. Despite the truly grotesque changes happening to his mind and body, he’s all but giddy about his changing form. Discover My Body has you simply observing this doctor turned patient; their body, their skeleton, and their nervous system; while the patient themself is describing the horrific metamorphosis taking place.
It’s generally taken for granted that body horror is not all too pleasant. The best you can hope for is the Gregor Samsa Metamorphosis, which all occurred while he slept. Be it Tetsuo’s big flesh baby from Akira or Tetsuo’s big metal penis from Tetsuo: The Iron Man, the loss of one’s physical form is not something to be enjoyed. Much less, something to be sought out. To do so would go against all kinds of survival instincts baked into one’s consciousness.
But our guide in Discover My Body is thrilled. They’re having a grand old time, even as the body breaks down, the bones soften, the flesh dissolve. The agony of the physical changes and the ecstasy of the mental. Stuff that would make Mr. Brundlefly gag. All while our friend the doctor is describing the destruction of his being as though he were describing to a youth the birds and the bees.
Non-Wanky Game Recap:
Discover My Body is a fairly simple game. You’re introduced to the subject, and you use the mouse to reveal his body, hidden in darkness like the fog of war in Age of Empires. Once the body is fully revealed, you may click to scan a little doppler radar in order to find specific points. You may observe his body in three ways; the exterior, the skeleton, and the nervous system, to find the points of interest. These points, when clicked, have a bit of dialogue that he gives about the process occurring. It’s quite graphic. Like I said, fairly simple. But simplicity doesn’t equal bad. Indeed, sometimes less is more.
I can’t even pinpoint why exactly this is so unsettling. Certainly Discover My Body is not the first to follow this obscure trope; mental ascension at the cost of extreme physical pain. One thing is that it’s a wild subversion of our expectations, the main expectation being that melting your body into a fungus is weird and wrong. Discover My Body is a different form of grotesque than something like The Thing. The flowering is not something the characters actively avoid. It’s body horror that you are able to take a good long look at.
Another thing I especially liked about Discover My Body was the minimalist graphics. The imagery of the body is a little vague under the cover of the pixelation. This not only gives a more authentic medical look (still unsure as to why all medical devices use 2004 Linux), but also leaves more to the imagination. As much as you may not like it, your brain automatically fills in the gaps to try and make sense of what you are seeing.
What Doesn’t Work:
What doesn’t work is that Discover My Body is quite short. Understandable, of course, since it was made for the Decade Jam on itch.io (albeit quite early, with over nine years remaining til the submission period ends). Since there are only two six or so places on the body which you can examine, a playthrough takes less than 10 minutes. There are also only three different stages of the flowering, which is enough to make me want to know more (but also not want to know more).
How To Fix It:
As I understand it, the fix is already in process. Yames has a development page on itch for Discover Our Bodies, a more “fleshed out” (lmao) version of the game. More people to watch undergoing the flowering treatment, and of them, more information to be gained. The fungus of the flowering is stated to have some kind psychic ability, creating a collective consciousness of all who enter. It would be interesting to see how different people react, and all the more disturbing if they begin to show regret.
But there is something more that I’d like to see in the Discover My Body universe. What kind of society would drive people, apparently en masse, to undergo such a terrible change? How fucked up is the current existence that the horrific process of the flowering is not only socially accepted, but also desirable? Certainly comparisons can be made between our screen-centric culture and the collective consciousness of the internet. Discover My Body takes place in 2040, just two decades from now. I’d like to know how things go from here to there.
Shouldn’ta been eating while I played. Anyways, I’m not too familiar with Yames’ portfolio, but a preliminary look at his works shows them to be a body horror expert. From what I’ve seen in Discover My Body, he’s got a deep understanding of our instinctual drive for our, I don’t know what to call it, physical homeostasis. Certainly Discover Our Body is something to keep track of, if you’re the kind of person who likes to feel deeply uncomfortable.
You can play Discover My Body for free on itch.io by clicking here.