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There are many new innovations being made in video games these days. We have the technical advances of virtual reality pushing the boundaries of immersion, but after seeing Nevermind, I wonder if VR will be the only way immersion can be revolutionized in games. Nevermind is a biofeedback-enhanced horror game. Essentially what that means is that it is similar to horror games such as Among the Sleep and Amnesia in the sense that it provides an in-depth first-person horror experience but with the addition of biofeedback technology. During the demo, I got the chance to utilize two forms of biofeedback, including a ear-clip heart rate sensor designed by Wild Divine and a laptop that utilizes Intel’s new RealSense technology.
So far there is a limited number of biofeedback devices associated with the gameplay of Nevermind so using things such as Wild Divine’s Iom PE personal edition heart rate monitor is a good example about how The Flying Mollusk devs are trying to make Nevermind playable using a wide range of devices. The idea is to make the game compatible with heart-rate monitors people may already be using like Fitbit, Apple Watches, or Garmin Heart-Rate monitors. Currently, the Wild Divine device is primarily used for meditation, but it’s simple USB 2.0 design allows it to be easily used for playing Nevermind. If you do not have a heart rate monitor device, Nevermind is still a great first-person horror adventure game.
The plot is centered around you, the newest Neuroprober at a facility where psychologists use the most breaking-edge technology to explore the minds of trauma victims repressing memories from their past. I know, I know it sounds similar to the plot of the 2000 film classic The Cell, but I can assure you that Jennifer Lopez never shows up, and aside from basic similarities, Nevermind is a fictional experience all its own. When you enter a patient’s mind, they are aware that they have repressed memories so you are given a little background on them before fully entering their memories. The level design of every patient’s mind is different and equipped with a primary hub where you collect all of your clues.
There are ten clues per level but only five of them relate to the traumatic memory the patient is repressing. As you venture through each section of the patient’s mind’ the areas you explore, sounds you hear, and puzzles you solve will all serve as clues when you go to complete the final puzzle. These explorable areas will contain the clues in the form of photographs and some of them may represent false memories the patient created in order to hide the traumatic event from their conscious brain. I found this to be a great element of the puzzle-solving as well as the design of each set piece. To complete the final puzzle you will need to discern the five memories relevant to the trauma from the red herrings created by the patient’s repression.
In the area I was able to explore while using the Wild Divine’s Iom PE device, I was in a kitchen where everything was very large and I was clearly very small because the memory I was experiencing was from the patient’s childhood. There was a spilled milk carton on the floor and as my anxiety rose so did the level of milk pouring into the room. Every area you explore has the potential of danger and in this case that included me drowning if my anxiety level rose so much that I drowned in the milk before I could find all of the clues. Not only was this a built-in clue, it was an element of the game that was reacting to my personal anxiety while going through a scary sequence of the game.
While you cannot “die” in these situations because you’re in a simulation, they result in you being returned to the hub of the level where you started off because it is specifically designed to be the most calming part of the level. In turn when you encounter a situation where you can tell you are getting overly anxious due to the built-in visual and audio cues, the most common visual cue being a film grain that will increase along with whatever noise or element of the level is reacting to your elevated heartbeat. When these moments of high anxiety occur, you can take a moment to calm yourself before you continue.
The fact that Nevermind has the built-in element of being able to recognize internal anxiety—and deal with it in real time—shows that it has great potential to help players who have issues with varying degrees of anxiety themselves. I know that it’s odd to think that a video game that’s meant to be scary can help people who have issues with anxiety, but after playing it for myself, I’m a believer.
I also had the chance to play Nevermind using a laptop with Intel’s newest innovation, the RealSense 3D camera. Along with the 3D features, it is also able to track movement and heartrate. While using the RealSense camera, I played through the tutorial level of Nevermind which is used to train the new Neuroprobers. Since the tutorial is meant to be easier it’s obvious who the patient is simply based on the setting, especially when you see a candy house on the horizon, Hansel and Gretel. When approaching the house there was an oversized lollipop with insects on it that traced the shape of my face because of the real-sense camera technology. Along with fun little elements like face-tracking, you are also able to interact with objects in the game using hand motions.
Nevermind is a game that pushes the boundaries of the horror adventure experience and also provides an accessibility for players who have elevated levels of stress and anxiety. Play with heartrate sensor technology to see how the game reacts to your fear or play it without biofeedback devices as a traditional horror game; either way, it will be a memorable experience. Nevermind will be available later this month through Steam Early Access with a more definite release coming Fall of this year on Windows (with Oculus Rift support), Mac, and Xbox One. It has not been confirmed whether it will be stand alone or episodic upon release, but one thing I do know for certain is that you won’t be able to get Nevermind off your mind.