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Mood Pieces: TRAUMA, A Photographic Journey To Dreams

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This installment of Mood Pieces is about an art game called TRAUMA, which is a functionally quite simple but extremely atmospheric journey into the mind of a young woman. The game was designed by Krystian Majewski and it’s published for Mac, Windows and Linux, and available on Steam. You can also play it for free online, but I recommend paying for it.

I have to say I encountered TRAUMA totally by accident. This year I’ve been buying every Humble Bundle I’ve noticed. They are these incredibly nifty game collections, where you get a bunch of DRM free games with a price you can select yourself, and where you can choose how much of the money goes to the game designers and how much for different charities. I’ve bought them just to support the concept, and only a month ago I realized the games can be imported to Steam, which made me finally install them. Today I had a totally free day, a real rarity, and I started looking at what I had actually purchased. Most of the games were of the puzzle or tower defense variety that don’t really interest me, but TRAUMA was a total jackpot.

TRAUMA is a beautifully constructed story about the mind of a young woman, who has had a car accident and who re-evaluates her life in a hospital. The game starts and ends with video clips, but most of it uses photos and panorama pictures. When the player moves the mouse around the screen, there’s a camera focus sound an a blurry outline of a picture when it’s possible to move somewhere or look at something more closely. Part of the enjoyment of the game is figuring out what the player has to actually do, so I’m not going to go into details about the gameplay, apart from mentioning that it’s intuitive and works beautifully. The game is over in about an hour or so, but it’s time well spent.

In addition to the photos and occasional animations, the background music is minimalistic and appropriately atmospheric. The driving narrative force of the game is the voiceover of the main character, which is very pleasant, and the writing is skillful and to the point. There are four dreams to go through and process, named The Next Hurdle, Following Role Models, What They Expect and The Road Less Travelled. What is the best thing about the writing is that TRAUMA is not a clichéd, fantastic story of insanity that aims to shock, but instead it’s a wonderfully constructed comment on the almost banal yet very crippling issues most people encounter in the modern life.

I can’t really write much more about the game in order not to spoil it, so without further ado, go buy it, take a quiet moment away from the bustle of the workplace or home, and play it.

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