So far in solo RPGs we have delved into dungeons, travelled through time and battled through Normandy but now we come across perhaps the most deadly landscape of all, the human mind. This isn’t exaggeration either and I feel like I should say now that this game deals with depression, perversion, madness and suicide. Now it isn’t a heavy game in terms of rules and regulations and there is only as much depth to these fields as you yourself puts in but it’s there all the same. You won’t die from a dragons flame breath only to respawn at the start of a dungeon here. No you can find your character face down in a bath tub with no friends or family so if you feel this might be a problem then go back for another round of Dice of Arkham just not Way of the Warrior though, that wasn’t that good.
Okay now it’s possible you don’t know what a Hikimori is before you start the game and that’s okay. The game gives you some fluff before you can begin. A Hikikomori is basically someone who for one reason or another has retreated from society altogether, a wide spread problem in Japan and spreading over a lot of the Asian countries it is typically fairly young or early twenties males who are the ones hiding in their bedrooms until it all goes away, the world not their problems. They don’t tend to just go away. This isn’t exclusive to them however and the game isn’t so strict as to try and enforce them if they were so feel free to roll up a green skinned alien hermaphrodite. As I am familiar with the concept pretty much only through ‘Welcome to the N.H.K‘ I can say this game is entirely accurate to the various reasons behind the condition and treats it entirely fairly.
At the start of the game you roll up a character, by which I mean a name and some kind of back story and three traits. These can be imaginary friends or suicidal thoughts, perversions or obsessive hobbies among others. Once done you must survive the next seven days with each day given over to a number of actions. First your traits will try to act upon you, imaginary friends putting you down, or obsessive hobbies eating up your day. Once done and if you have any time left for “life” you can try and do stuff. Try here being the key word. You can indulge one of your traits even warping them for good or communication with the outside world or you can try something drastic like going outside.
This might not sound like much but you will still fail, a lot, as the game tries to get across what living with this condition is like.
The other key thing to get across is that you get out of this game what you put in. You see there is no combat or health, meaning that it is a fairly easy game to pick up but a fairly empty game if you don’t put some effort in. You are encouraged to keep a mock diary of your seven days elaborating on what you roll.
For instance if you try and commit suicide how do you do it? Chlorine gas in the bath tub. If you have an imaginary friend, who or what are they? Mould growing next to the sink. If you have a “rescuer” who are they? A girl who passes my apartment everyday at 10:15. You then have to shape this into a story, doing your actions every day and then putting them into some kind of order. For instance I could take this and make a hit indie film.
Every action comes down to rolling your hope dice, you start with three, and reading your result off a chart. Even when you are seeing how your traits act upon you, you roll your hope dice to see if you can pull through. This gives you a very easy to use set of mechanics requiring the under utilised ten sided die.
Every time you do something your hope can go up or down or stay the same as can each of your traits meaning a lot of the game is up to the whims of fate. This means that any “gamers” may not appreciate the game as much but as I have said before this is put forth more as an interactive story than any real game. With the dice for each stat fluctuating you count them up at the end of day seven to see what happens next for your character. Ten dice or more and they come out of their shell, and house, to live a normal life. One or less and they won’t live to see another day. Otherwise once again you are rolling and reading off a chart to see.
At the end of the game you are assigned to sit down for a few minutes and think about what has just happened and how it may relate to your own life which I thought was a nice touch seen as how you are playing an RPG by yourself.
In fact the notion of making this a solo RPG helps to get the theme across all the more.
The game, created by Gwen Cluney, is what is known as a twenty-four hour RPG, this does not mean it will take that long to play, only lasting an hour or so at most, but that it was envisioned, designed and created in twenty four consecutive hours. While I enjoyed it I can’t help but hope that one day they go back and make mark two. The game walks a fine line between trying to be accurate to the concept of a Hikikomori and being an engaging game. After all a truly accurate Hikikomori style game would involve your character sitting in their room all day playing WoW and staring at the ceiling. Which wouldn’t be that engaging to play at all. Still the game has a problem of being quite engaging when your stats are low and kind of interesting when really high but can get quite dull anywhere in the middle. Though perhaps also the game is realistically too short, after all with such an extreme psychological condition, I’m no expert but I doubt many would be able to turn their life around in seven days.
Still maybe you can, why not give it a go