Communication Breakdown: Gamer Mom

By Adam Smith on May 24th, 2012 at 7:00 pm.

World of Apathy

Gamer Mom is a rather lovely browser game about games, although not in some sort of complex metagaming metasense. Instead, Gamer Mom is a conversation between a mother and her family, at a dinner table, and the topic of discussion, skirted around, flanked and finally approached, is World of Warcraft. She loves it, it’s her social life and her escape, but her family don’t really understand. It’s about people really and the great divides between them. As player, you guide the conversation and, unnervingly, perhaps the family’s future. It’s sad, sweet and short, with plenty of branches to discover. Click here to see.

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93 Comments »

  1. aliksy says:

    That was… kind of depressing. I should probably call my mom and apologize later.

    • mechtroid says:

      Man, I found the entire thing depressing for entirely different reasons. Curious about how the creator coded this game and wondering if there really was a good ending, I looked into the source code, and found out the guy had written a deep and involved memoir/autobiography about his own life in the comments for various functions. (Look for the blocks of text) It describes all the ways he attempted to connect with people growing up (even up to a failed date 3 months ago). The snippets run together to make quite the engaging tale.

  2. Koozer says:

    Her husband is an arse. Also, she’s rubbish at WoW if she and a party have to retreat from quests. She has a depressing life. :(

    • LionsPhil says:

      I find it interesting that you say “husband” rather than “overwraught teenager stereotype”, since mostly he seemed overworked. Is there a particularly bastardly line lurking in there?

      • sinister agent says:

        Some people make themselves overworked. It’s not really possible to tell in this case with such limited information, obviously, but I … well. It was hard to get literally anything out of him except “I MUST WORK”.

        Nothing like a Boxer.

  3. Maldomel says:

    Depressing. That reminds me of when I talk to people about stuff they don’t give a damn about. Or when I don’t listen to what people say because I don’t give a damn about it.

  4. imdwalrus says:

    Jesus christ. I just got the “worst ending”, I’d imagine.

    According to the game: “In case you were wondering: this is not a trick puzzle. There is a way to get them to play.” I DON’T BELIEVE YOU.

    • Mordechai Buckman says:

      No, you can get them to play. But don’t beat yourself up trying to find it; I didn’t design the game with the expectation that people would beat it.

  5. JarinArenos says:

    This is horribly depressing.

  6. LionsPhil says:

    “This isn’t how it’s supposed to work. We’re supposed to live together, and I want to do that in World of Warcraft.”
    “Why can’t we live in the real world?”

    It needs a “good point, let me cancel my subscription” button. MMOs destroy lives.

    • Defiant Badger says:

      Oh come on, it’s not the game that really destroys people’s lives, it’s the conditions they live in; like her’s for example. Where she’s a housewife with an unloving and uncaring family whom she can’t connect with at all .

      If anything MMO’s and their addiction are a symptom of depression or isolation, not the cause.

    • CorruptBadger says:

      An mmo destroys your life if you can’t actually manage your time properly, if you spend all your free time on it ofcourse it will ruin you social, work and family life. But if you play maybe 10-20 hours a week, why does it make any difference to your life.

      • Eddy9000 says:

        10-20 hours playing computer games a week? You obviously aren’t a parent! I barely get to have a sex life, let alone play games.

        • ashereize says:

          My dad is a parent (obviously) and whilst being a good dad to me and my brother, he found time for games, and an affair. Clearly it can be done. LOL

    • Hendar23 says:

      Bear with me, this gets a bit ranty but I’m kind of passionate about this…

      All addiction stems from pain. Many people enjoy alcohol, only a few become alcoholics. MMOs may not be the most healthy genre, they are designed to drag out a subscription as long as possible, but I’d bet none of these people who destroy themselves playing a game were happy people before they started.

      I’ve known plenty of people who use drugs, and few of those people have used hard drugs, and used them self-destructively. These people can be annoying, and pathetic and untrustworthy. You want to strangle them sometimes, but I always pity them. Every time I get to know one of these people well enough for them to open up, I’ve discovered they have had some really, really, horrible things happen to them when they were kids, usually done by people who were supposed to care for them. This was just my personal observation for a long time, but then I started hearing more and more research coming to the same conclusion. I think a lot of addiction treatment is well meaning but misguided, and trying to fight just the drug, be it MMOs or crack, is just treating the symptom, not the disease.

      Ok I’m done now.

      That feels better :)

    • Consumatopia says:

      There’s a “How?” button.

      But nobody can think of any real world stuff to do together.

  7. Dushanan says:

    And then they start playing, she gets angry at them because they don’t spend enough time with her. In the game or on the real world. Yep.

  8. fiddlesticks says:

    After trying out a few different approaches I finally managed to make the husband sit down and play. Unfortunately the cell phone ruined our promising session. I don’t even play WoW but that made me feel really bad. I blame the art style. It’s hard not to sympathize with mom when she looks so disappointed.

  9. Andrigaar says:

    Holy fuck that was brutal. Only spent like 60 seconds at it… but those were a painful 60 seconds.

    Some kudos to the writing, which is a bit heavy handed with delivering shame.

  10. SiHy_ says:

    Her husband’s a complete tool. Just when I was thinking she should give him a slap she did. This game is great, if a little bit sad. I just wish I didn’t have to grind through the beginning part to try out an alternative decision later.

    • Dizzard says:

      How do you make her slap the husband? If I can’t get the good ending I’ll settle for her giving him a smack.

      • SiHy_ says:

        There’s a few ways of getting there. Here’s one: Go through the rigmarole of talking to them about everything, then ‘Go all in’. Go with the Husband’s ‘It’ll be like work’ or whatever option. Then follow it through until you get the option to ‘Lash out’ and ‘Don’t hold back’.
        It’s quite cathartic but still sad.

        • Consumatopia says:

          Oh man, no wonder I could never do it. Once I get to “Lash out”, how could I resist the “slap” button?

          EDIT: dang it, she slapped him anyway! This is hard.

  11. Lucifalle says:

    No matter how hard I tried, I could never get a “good” ending (they never agreed to play the game with me). I even had my girlfriend give it a try, thinking that as a non-gamer, she might have a different tactic in mind. No luck (although her ending was less depressing than mine).

    This sadly reminds me of too many conversations I’ve had with friends and family where I’ve been really excited about something geeky, only to be completely shot down at the height of my excitement. Yet they can talk for hours about hipster music and artists. Oh well.

    This also reminds me of the time I tried to get my friends to play D&D… that didn’t end well.

    • SiHy_ says:

      I’ve just played this for over half an hour and I still can’t get the ‘good’ ending. I’ve tried getting her to cry, I’ve tried slapping her husband, I even tried bribing her daughter with an accordian, all to no avail. That’s it, I give up. If anyone actually does manage to finish it please write a walkthrough, I’d love to know how it ends.

    • JackShandy says:

      I feel sorry the DnD thing didn’t work out for you. I’m doing a course in Game Design and I’d actually have a hard time convincing many people from there to play it.

      If you’re having trouble playing DnD in real life though all of the coolest RPG people are currently in google plus, playing RPG’s online at all hours of the day: http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/7th-week-of-constantcon.html

  12. sirdavies says:

    I’ve just been an hour and a half playing this with no success whatsoever. Freaking depressing.

  13. Synesthesia says:

    this is sad and great, and i cant for the life of me get either of them to play.

  14. BooleanBob says:

    The branch that leads to ‘we ought to have more kids’ got a big laugh from me.

    Very little else did, however :(

    Great game.

  15. RetroVortex says:

    This hit me pretty hard.

    I’m kind of like this all the time at home. :(

    No-one actually cares to listen to what I say most of the time, and I can never get anyone to play with me.

    Fortunately I have a best friend I can go to for everything gaming! :D

    (Shame he lives quite far away and works all the time… :/)

    I definately can relate! XD
    (But I don’t like her tast in games though… :X)

  16. Felixader says:

    One Problem is that she starts with World of Warcraft, that is like trying to get some into the history of pottery and then hitting them over the head with a NASA (from the year 3000) developed Plasmacooker.

    The REAL problem is that this mother needs to realize that she needs a change of people, mostly one where she ends up with a better realtionship.
    You see, she gets ignored by her husband this teaches her daugther to do the same, espacially if she usually is all nice and friendly despite his ignorance to her….

    I should really stop using my workstuff on fictional story gamey thing…. stuff. :-P

    Nice albeit depressing game.

    • Reapy says:

      Had the same reaction. First off really nice writing, it felt real. Really interesting way to branch the dialogs around and make the conversation sort of like building a deck of cards correctly.

      Stepping back though this is just the results of years down the line what happens when a family is checked out from themselves. Nobody is really listening to one another.

      First off if the husband is working at night, maybe you should shut the F up and leave him alone so he can pay for your computer and wow subscription and your mortgage for you to sit around and waste your time playing wow, also cybering random dudes.

      On the other hand, maybe the mom would kill to not have the dad checked out every night for work and he should consider perhaps taking a job that leaves him some time to actually acknowledge his child and wife which have probably been crying desperately for his attention, but they’ll never be as important as the latest TPS report.

      Daughter needs to be smacked and someone to take her cell phone away so she will actually listen for a second, though teenage girls are teenage girls. Give it another 5 or 6 years and she’ll be playing wow with you mom.

      Really your partner/children are not going to be 100% into everything you are, but there should be an ounce of respect passed around. Mom should respect dad is working right now and tell him about WOW sometime later when hes done and chilled out a second. Dad should maybe peep up from his work once in a blue moon and pay attention to his family.

      Also, this is depressing to so many of us because it has an uncomfortable ring of truth to it.

  17. nasKo says:

    I hate this family. Get over here, gamer-mom. I’ll treat you right.

  18. Vinraith says:

    Even playing a character that speaks positively about WoW makes me feel dirty and depressed. I didn’t make it very far.

    • sinister agent says:

      I felt a little of that too. It was tricky, because I was sympathetic to the woman’s situation, but I wouldn’t want to play WoW with someone I liked now, let alone my mum when I was a teenager.

      • Vinraith says:

        Yeah, it’s depressing on a host of levels. On the one hand, like you say, I feel bad for this poor woman. She has a terrible family, and apparently her only joy in life (and her only positive social contact) is through that horrible game.

        On the other hand, it’s a horrible game (that actively seems to attract poor creatures like this woman) so I feel bad remotely suggesting that anyone else play it, even by proxy in a fictional context.

        • sinister agent says:

          Oh wow, I just played through again, and yeah. I was going to say the daughter’s not so bad – just a teenager really, you kind of expect them to be indifferent and not want to engage with their parents’ blathering. But she really is an awful bastard, isn’t she? I’d like to see a “break a chair over her head” option.

    • Sarkhan Lol says:

      I haven’t felt this soiled since I was forced to play a voyeuraddictive creep in Don’t Take It Personally Babe.

  19. Grygus says:

    I wanted to punch them both and show her how to solo.

    • ashereize says:

      I wanted to explain to her that you wouldn’t expect to do everything you like with one single person, you could for example have: your gym buddy, your work colleagues for going out n getting drunk, your friend whos always poor and so hangs out watching tv with you a few nights a week. The friend who loves talking to you about philosophy and religion.

      Moral of the story: Ask if he/she is interested in giving it a go with you, if they seem uninterested. No big deal. Theyre just not one of your WoW friends. It’s much easier to make friends who share an interest while you are doing that interest.

      Want friends to play tennis with? See if your family/friends are interested. If not, go join the club and make some new friends. (note, I don’t mean replace your friends haha)

      • NathanH says:

        In this particularly story it’s more that neither the husband nor daughter can think of anything for the family to do together. They’re not even prepared to put any effort into trying to find something to do together. For the daughter it’s not really a problem, many teenagers want to ignore their parents as much as possible. The husband it just being a cock though.

  20. Dizzard says:

    It’s sad I try to take the calm diplomatic approaches and it just ends up ending the game and the mom is all lonely and depressed.

    I think I need to get tough.

  21. Stephen Roberts says:

    There’s something so remarkably human and empathy-generating about this game that I wonder what it is doing that other games don’t. It’s like other games are escapism and this is the very opposite, an examination of a fractured human interaction where incomplete control and identifiable characters plaster sympathy and empathy on the participant in heavy, oily blobs. The recognisability here is almost unsettling.

    I don’t know if the ‘good’ ending is really a solution to what appear to be much deeper problems. And that makes it a very compelling little narrative.

    • ashereize says:

      This. I thought it was brilliantly done. Perhaps a few strange reactions – but that may be just my perception transferring my own family traits onto the characters and expecting them to react similarly.

  22. pupsikaso says:

    Has ANYONE been able to “win” this yet? I’ve been trying for half an hour with no success.

    On a side note, I haven’t had much success in similar situations in real life, either, and that I’ve been playing for years…

  23. ashereize says:

    I managed to get someone to play WoW once – someone who would never ever play a facebook game let alone a never-ending time-consuming game like an mmorpg. I then realised I was a manipulative bitch and vowed never to use my powers for evil ever again. :D I’m kidding… mostly ;)

  24. ipshdg says:

    Has ANYONE been able to “win” this yet? I’ve been trying for half an hour with no success.

    http://store.steampowered.com/app/33900/

  25. yurusei says:

    Well shit. I feel sorry for my mum now.

  26. percentcer says:

    Found this comment in the source code:

    Is there anything more banal than the family photo? Everyone stands around giving an identical pose, devoid of personality or context. What are the relationships between these people? How are they feeling on that day, and in that period of their lives? What is the experience of being these people like? These are just a few of the questions which a family portrait may never touch. During a photo, I am not to look at my family members with resentment. I am not to stand apart from them, playing on a handheld game system, to give an indication of how I actually see the relationship between us. And I am not to look at my watch, to indicate that I have better things to be doing than standing around with a goofy smile. Heck, they don’t even want irony. To take a family portrait, you first give plenty of notice so that everyone can prepare. Everyone stops their activities and the normal patterns of their lives. Without those patterns and behaviors, the people in the picture are not people at all during those seconds, but merely mindless mannequins mimicking stereotypes of The Happy Family. The state of any family in any given moment in time is an entire world to be explored, and we have barely been skimming the surface. The reality tends to be messier, uglier, and -I think- more interesting.

    EDIT: also this one

    function bActHurt(){
    /* I suspect some people will ask whether this character is realistic. Certainly her actions and thoughts are extreme, especially when you take a
    step back and consider that what she is pushing for so obstinately is what most people would call a silly time-waster. Is it plausible that a woman
    who by all social standards should know better would get so wound up over World of Warcraft? My answer is that she can definitely exist in the real
    world, because I exist and this is how I think. That I am a 24-year-old man living in his parents’ house, rather than a married woman, does not
    matter – the details may be slightly different, but the experience I am expressing here is real. Whenever I reached a node where I was unsure of
    what the player should be allowed to do next, I sat down at our dining room table, pictured the husband and daughter sitting across from me, said
    whatever my last line was, and asked myself what I was thinking. The reason I emphasize my identification with the title character is to make a
    point: If I were not her, this game would be a meaningless gimmick. But because I am her, there is an emotional truth. This is the promise of the
    character adventure game – to let you inhabit the head of someone else, someone very different from yourself. If I had not put an emotional truth
    into the lines and choices and situations, they would all mean nothing. There would be some novelty in the oddness, and charm in the drawings, but
    no real point. The point is that she is a person of the real world, in spirit if not in fact. That gives her life value. */
    hide(“ReactionOffensive”);
    show(“ReactionDefensive”);
    document.getElementById(“bActHurt”).className=”pressedbutton”;
    document.getElementById(“bLashOut”).className=”";
    }

  27. Voon says:

    Holy fuck, I got the husband to play on my third try! Not the daughter, though.

    I don’t remember how but I was being subtle and kept asking him about work, what he felt about it then asking him about playing it and suddenly, he’s interested! Warms my heart to see her giving him a kiss in the cheek afterwards.

  28. Haborym says:

    If I was her I’d say to them that I was going to buy a gun and then kill them with it, and then kill myself.

  29. Haborym says:

    Huh. I seem to have blocked myself, and I can’t seem to figure out how to fix it…

  30. Apples says:

    I actually thought the husband was a pretty sympathetic character. He’s busy, he has a distant teenage daughter who he can’t identify with and a wife who seems to only be interested in something that, compared to his work, looks incredibly trivial. He offers some compliments about food and responds to her talking about her day, so he’s not some evil monster. When she started crying he seemed genuinely concerned and worried, but I ballsed up it by bringing it back to WoW, and instantly realised what a complete berk she must look to him. Crying over a videogame while he’s trying to actually financially support the family.

    Of course the videogame wasn’t the problem, it was the lack of cohesion as a family, but she wasn’t helping by completely failing to express that, and trying to force everyone into doing things HER way.

    Are the source code comments part of the ‘act’ of the game or completely unironic? They paint a portrait of an absolutely horrible person.

    edit: the daughter seemed like kind of a cock but we all were at that age, surely. I can’t blame her for thinking her mom is cripplingly lame, and actually I was on her side when she called her mom out on embarrassing herself by literally leaping up from the table in enthusiasm about WoW.

    • Mordechai Buckman says:

      Are the source code comments part of the ‘act’ of the game or completely unironic? They paint a portrait of an absolutely horrible person.

      No, sorry, that’s really me. I don’t expect everyone to like me (and it doesn’t bother me much that you don’t), I just wanted to show that this game is something personal, rather than some formula or business plan like so much that’s out there.

      • percentcer says:

        Mordechai, for my own sanity, can you confirm that there is an actual ending that involves both the daughter and father playing the game? I must have invested at least three hours into this, including one hour of browsing your source code and image folders (from which I was able to trace backwards from the “heart” ending). I think you’ve created an amazing experience here, the dialog and expressions evoke a fantastic empathy in me. It’s quite a compelling portrait of the modern, connected family.

        • Mordechai Buckman says:

          There is, but after three hours I think you’d be better off giving up. The game is about the frustration of failing to connect with people. I think you’ve gotten that; no need to actually go crazy for it. :)

      • Apples says:

        Fair enough then. For what it’s worth, even though I found the content of the source code comments alienating and sometimes condescending or insulting, it was a fascinating read. That is, even though I don’t think I’d want to hang out with you, you are an interesting person and the things you create are interesting and discussion-worthy. I’m sure that’s probably not a whole lot of comfort after what I said in the last comment, sorry, but seriously I wish you well in the future despite thinking you came across in the source as kind of a dick.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        Having read through all the source code comments, mate, don’t take it in any bad way, but I think you need to speak to a psychologist. I don’t mean it in a “you have a problem” way, it’s just that I really do think it will do you good. Since I’ve had a very… rough life behind me and I can somewhat understand your world-view, I can definitely tell you your whole perception of human interaction and socialization is terribly wrong. Talk to someone about it, preferably a psychologist.

        • butthole says:

          If you had really “read through all the source code comments, mate,” you would’ve seen he has Asperger’s. It’s probably a safe bet, then, that’s he “talk[ed] to someone about it, preferably a psychologist,” dummy.

          • Xardas Kane says:

            And it’s an even safer bet that he hasn’t. Since if he had, he would have mentioned it at some point, seeing as he went at a great length to describe his life up till now. My point stands.

          • World One Two says:

            Maybe making such a touching and personal game is his way of “talking to someone about it”.

          • Tom Davidson says:

            Mordecai, in your comments you complain about the characterization of Asperger’s as “autistic psychopathy,” and then describe your loathing for “Normals” who care more about what other people think and feel than advancing their own interests. You express a desire for more family interaction, but only appear happy when your family is expanding their horizons by trying out the things you enjoy — and are never satisfied, as they never seem to enjoy them quite as much as you do. You do not even once comment on any attempt you’ve made to enjoy the things other people like; your interactions with them are, according to your descriptions, entirely self-interested.

            So isn’t the term “autistic psychopathy” actually pretty accurate?

          • butthole says:

            I GUESS HE DOESNT SHIT EITHER BECAUSE I DID NOT SEE EVEN ONE MENTION OF DEFECATION IN THE COMMENTS, GOOD EYE XARDAS KANE

          • World One Two says:

            Yo, Tom Davidson — PCL-R test for psychopathy, Item #7: Shallow Effect; Item #8: Lack of Empathy. I see the game as a touching and heartfelt representation of the difficulties in communicating with others, sharing niche interests, being appreciated for who you are. I’m not sure Mordechai claims he’s right or wrong to be the way he is, just that it /is/ the way he is. The game lets us see things from his perspective, and it’s wonderful for it. If you can’t put yourself in his shoes, if the affecting moments don’t affect you, I don’t think it’s Mordechai you should be targeting with the label of psychopath…

          • Mordechai Buckman says:

            Tom Davidson: Two points. First, you may be right. I may be a psychopath. Something for me to think about, certainly. Second, I love your site. Very neat.

        • Mordechai Buckman says:

          I have spoken to psychologists in the past, and my impression was that they were cheating my parents out of money by showing me how to be “normal”, which I had no interest in. Truth be told, I don’t really resent my family so much as I resent myself for trying to connect with them in my own way. (I’ve had a few arguments with my roommate, a very caring person, on the subject in the past few days.) This is how I relate to people, and it’s as foreign a language to them as their interests are foreign to me. I feel like I should have decided much earlier to not try to pull them into my little worlds; I think that would have been less frustrating for both sides.

          Still, like World One Two said, the idea wasn’t so much to justify my behavior (though I do enjoy arguing about its merits and failings), but to show what it’s like to be in these very specific situations I’ve gotten myself into. It doesn’t bother me that a lot of people think I’m wrong to relate to people in these ways (and they’re likely right), because it shows people are taking the feelings of the game seriously and forming their own opinions about them. Really, as an artist, that’s what I hope for.

      • z310 says:

        Dude. I know I’m just a silly “Normal”, but my suggestion:

        Watch a season of amazing race with your dad. Yes, like all reality shows, its not a hugely artistic or serious form of entertainment.

        But there will come a day when your dad won’t be around anymore, and you’ll really wish you had taken the time to just sit with him and experience and talk about something he is interested in!

        I realize that this is exactly the experience that you’d like to have reciprocated in the form of your family playing Zelda or games with you, but don’t let that stop you from having a relaxing night hanging out with your dad doing something he enjoys. Maybe it’ll help build your relationship up to a point where you can actually communicate and get through to him about stuff like that in a more real way.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m glad someone else sympathises with his position.

  31. Haborym says:

    Is there a good ending to this? At all?

    • percentcer says:

      The heart ending is kinda cute. Ends with a hug and an “I love you”, though (as the comments point out) it’s still fairly demented.

  32. Dammokles says:

    I only got him to try the game (go for it, then suggest Thursday). Bastard then gets a call and walks out. Anyone have any better luck?

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