Indie Psychological Horror What Happened Is 13 Reasons Why For The Silent Hill Crowd

It can be difficult to tackle serious issues through the lens of a video game. There’s a reason why most AAA games feature cartoonist evil villains why can only be stopped by a diverse cast of plucky underdogs led by a white dude with socially acceptable politics. While I believe in the power of games as a medium to explore powerful issues, you also don’t want to make someone’s tragedy into entertainment. It’s an ominous way to start a news piece on What Happened. But for a game that describes itself as, “help Stiles confront his inner demons on a journey through anxiety, depression, and suicide,” it’s worth starting off with a trigger warning.

With topics this heavy, it’s best not to misrepresent the content of the game. So I’m going to let What Happened‘s Official Press Release do most of the talking:

Indie publisher Katnappe and developer Genius Slackers have announced that their upcoming first-person psychological horror experience, What Happened, will launch on PC via Steam this July, followed by consoles at a later date. Horror fans will guide high school student Stiles through the dark corridors of his own mind as he struggles with his demons, real and imagined. Based in Warsaw, Poland, Katnappe and Genius Slackers created What Happened as a reflection of a world in which cruelty often dominates at the expense of empathy, but where not all hope is lost.

In What Happened, players must save Stiles from the dark forces that lure him towards self-destruction. The mental realm that Stiles inhabits is unforgiving, with twisted memories lining the hallways of his mind. As players help Stiles solve puzzles and escape the clutches of his demons, the game will subtly respond to the empathy they show him. Players will pull the invisible strings that decide Stiles’ fate, as they attempt to lead him to the light at the end of the tunnel.

In development for three years, What Happened is a labor of love for the small independent Warsaw-based team, headed by founder Hassan Mehdiasl. The studio has overcome many challenges to deliver an experience it hopes will remind players everywhere of the power of unity, empathy and a damn good story. 

It’s unclear if the horrors in What Happened are just representations of real-life trauma, or if the demons themselves also happen to be real and just take the form of the protagonist’s pain. Hopefully the latter. I’m not a huge fan of, “it’s all in your head,” narratives. But the unique visuals and hard topics of What Happened have me interested. If you’re also curious what’s in store, you can check out the game’s Steam store page here. What Happened releases this July for the PC, with a console version coming at some point in the future.

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