Among the Sleep: A New Perspective on Horror

Krillbite Studio's Adrian Tingstad Husby talks about designing this unusual horror game in which you play as a 2-year-old.

'

For very young children, the line between what's imagined and what's real can be impossible to discern. Sometimes, a child's imagination brings him or her joy and comfort; for instance, a stuffed animal can become a beloved companion imbued with a personality of its own. However, that same imagination can also tinge the world with terror, creating the sense that there really is a monster lurking in the shadows under the bed. The rich creative potential for horror that lingers in the imaginations of children has gone largely unexplored in games, but Norway's Krillbite Studio is changing that. In Krillbite's upcoming game Among the Sleep, you play as a 2-year-old, and this influences every aspect of the game, including the placement of the camera, your interactions with the environment, and the ways in which the game attempts to create its frightening atmosphere.

I asked Krillbite's Adrian Tingstad Husby about the inspirations for and influences on Among the Sleep's unusual approach to horror. "A first-person horror game from the perspective of a toddler targets a rather primal stage that everybody has been through and can relate to," said Husby. "The whole team has drawn a lot of inspiration from our own dreams and childhood memories. We hope this will help to make the game more personal. But we continue to draw inspiration from all over the place, from The Shining, to Amnesia, to child psychology--a lot of things have influenced the game in some way or another."

"We don't limit ourselves by realism. We're not making a baby simulator, but a creative experience for adults."

I was curious how important research on actual children was, and how much the team at Krillbite was letting their creative instincts guide them. Husby said, "We combine a creative and research-based approach. For instance, we've been in contact with people of competence within the fields of child development and psychology, as well as reading books and research ourselves. In addition, we've been recording footage of nephews and the like for animation and behavior-related research. But even though all of this research provides a lot of inspiration, we don't limit ourselves by realism. We're not making a baby simulator, but a creative experience for adults. The perspective, imagination, and dream theme also provide a lot of creative freedom to do exactly what we want."

One of the most immediately noticeable things that sets Among the Sleep apart from other first-person games is the way the camera sits lower in the environments than we're accustomed to. But Krillbite is eager to establish that this isn't just a normal first-person game with the camera closer to the ground. "The perspective is central to almost all aspects of the game, from the story to the visuals and the gameplay," Husby said. "When you see your own small hands crawling quickly into a tight spot to hide, it doesn't exactly feel like a traditional FPS! We hope that the player is brought back to their childhood--not understanding what is going on, but always exploring how the world works. We also want to bring players back to their childhood's overactive imagination. When you hear things you can't place or recognize, your mind automatically fills in the gaps--and our graphics will never compete with people's own imagination."

Of course, many horror games rely on combat to generate some of their tension. Sometimes, fear in a game comes from not knowing when the next zombie, xenomorph, or other hideous threat will leap out of the shadows and force you to desperately fight for your life. But the notion of a game in which you play as a 2-year-old involving combat seemed unlikely to me. Husby confirmed my suspicions that Among the Sleep does not involve combat, and talked about how combat can also undermine a game's attempts to be scary. "We feel a combat system is exactly that: a system. People will often master it, or be frustrated by it; either way, the horror disappears. [In Among the Sleep], players will have to explore and find places to hide and avoid confrontation, something that also maintains some of the crucial mystique of horror. Threats still leap at you from the shadows, so [the absence of combat] only changes what actions you must do to overcome them. You'll be thinking, 'What was that thing!?' instead of studying and shooting every creature. While we were still [in the early stages of development], Amnesia was released, and it really reinforced our belief that our 'passive' protagonist would work in practice."

"We feel a combat system is exactly that: a system. People will often master it, or be frustrated by it; either way, the horror disappears."
Watching the gameplay teaser that Krillbite has released (embedded above), it seems clear that the way your perspective tilts and totters as you move around and the way that you see your hands in front of you as you crawl along the ground go a long way toward creating the unusual sensation that you really are inhabiting and interacting with the game's world as a toddler. The game begins with you waking up in the middle of the night in a seemingly empty house. I'm very curious about where your journey takes you over the course of the game, but I deliberately shied away from asking Husby questions about the game's story. I want to uncover its mysteries for myself.

When we all might get the chance to uncover those mysteries depends on whether or not Among the Sleep's Kickstarter campaign succeeds. Currently, the members of Krillbite are balancing work on the game with part-time jobs to pay the bills, and though they say they will continue to work on the game if the Kickstarter fails, they also say that it will take longer and that some content will, of necessity, be cut. As someone who both wants to see more games take creative risks like the one Among the Sleep is taking and who just really wants to play this unusual and atmospheric horror game, I hope this Kickstarter is a success. In a landscape where games in which you shoot zombies have gone from being creepy to being commonplace, the opportunity to return to those hazy days of memory, when every shadowy closet was a potential source of danger and every ordinary bump in the night was a reason to be afraid, sounds truly scary. Among the Sleep could end up being that rare nightmare that's actually worth having.

'
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

56 comments
plasticreality
plasticreality

Why has only 55 people commented on this, yet ANY news of a new console gets hundreds?  This is a brilliant idea, and I really hope they succeed.  

Anyone remember the big wheel sections of The Shining where Danny was riding through the hotel?  Scary stuff.

vadagar1
vadagar1

in amnesia i was shitiing bricks the whole time... good god that game was scary

vadagar1
vadagar1

as kids our minds are more flexible and we accept things that would make adults slobber in shock

oOhedzOo
oOhedzOo

You can see PewPie play this game on youtube. But this trailer looked scarier as PewiPie always make annoying noises in his videos. So many like him I don't know why.

DerSchwarzMann
DerSchwarzMann

Looks fun and scary, but totally ridiculous to anyone who has the faintest idea of how children react to fear. "we continue to draw inspiration from all over the place, from The Shining, to Amnesia, to child psychology" LOL okay.

whitewolf227
whitewolf227

the direction gaming needs to go.

not toddler gameplay mind you, but the bravery to do something outside the norm.

Smokescreened84
Smokescreened84

I saw a gameplay video for it last week or so, it looks very promising.  It has a very creepy vibe to it and the lack of combat works beautifully well.  When you consider that a young child sees the world differently than we do as we grow up into adults, then the concept that the child's imagination is the real threat is very innovative, more innovative than 'Generic man have gun, kill scare tactic monsters, repeat and rinse'.

True horror isn't in killing things trying to attack you, but in what your imagination is creating out of fear, that's what makes psychological horror so enjoyable - you expect something to happen but it doesn't, instead your imagination goes into overdrive trying to think of what's out there, especially if you're in a dark room and you can't see what's in the corners, so your mind is beginning to creep you out with all kinds of things that might be in the dark, waiting, lurking, watching.


Love psychological horror, it's the reason why I enjoy the Paranormal Activity movies so much.

mr_azim
mr_azim

This game is actually Super Mario Bros 2 in disguise.  The ending?  It's a dream.

korvus
korvus

Hope it succeeds, it might be interesting, although I'm not sure if it can be scary or just frustrating and clumsy. 

Either way, good job Carolyn.

modernsocks
modernsocks

Well, every generation needs an Irritating Stick, I guess.

Retro_Squid
Retro_Squid

Kind of reminds me of Lucius a little, just without the "spawn of Satan" and all the killing of handymen and lawyers...

Bordonaro
Bordonaro

So..its just a normal game...but with the camera height lowered , sounds terrifying....-ly terrible

ESB
ESB

The only problem I see is that they will not likely hurt/kill the baby so I don't know if it's possible to fail the game...

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

Soooooo....no beards in the character customization then?

I hope we can use objects in the game...mostly forks...and outlets.... "press x to stick fork into outlet." "press x to eat the Legos."

Power ups come in the form of that 6 month old hairy jawbreaker your character got for Halloween...seriously though, how was that a thing?

If set in the 60's, look for the lawn darts!

fatee
fatee moderator

Supported this game since the get-go. This planet needs fresh idea, even in gaming. Variety is the spice of life!

Sento_brean
Sento_brean

T_T I hope the little guy doesn't get hurt in the game, I hate when kids get hurt

LeoLex_
LeoLex_

omg s*** this could really work, will be keeping a close eye on this...

tomouse84
tomouse84

I hope it takes off. Experimentation and creativity will help take gaming in new and fun directions. Amazing that the makers are balancing part time jobs along with the making of this- good luck to them. I'm very excited about this!

SlowMotionKarma
SlowMotionKarma

Yeah right! If two year olds could climb/descend stairs like that, parents would be in big trouble. The concept is strange (how many places can a two year old be alone?) but intriguing. Certainly an original concept to keep an eye on.

RPG_Fan_I_Am
RPG_Fan_I_Am

Did you guys see that fridge attack that 2 year old? the nerve!

knyght1008
knyght1008

People are really scared of this? Really??...

Sefrix
Sefrix moderator

Looks very interesting! 

justin01
justin01

Damn I am a sissy, I had to finish it with the sound off.

Pawfalcon
Pawfalcon

could be very cool, need more

Drew1333
Drew1333

this could be very cool.......

abnergoinbig
abnergoinbig

I wish more games like this came out on consoles. Lets hope for more great indie games on the PS4.

vadagar1
vadagar1

@whitewolf227 this game gives me the creeps and im just reading about it :P

Jasper_73
Jasper_73

@Smokescreened84 i remember watching an old black n white horror movie a while ago. it was about this deranged serial killer. he would cut his victims into little pieces alive. what made it so frightening, was that although it was a movie. all those bits were shot in silhouette, or you would just see it in shadow on the wall. it was done so well, it made your imagination go into overdrive. even though you couldnt see what was actually happening, you still had to look away from the screen.

robert83a2
robert83a2

@---Cipher--- 

There will be character customization, in fact it will re-invent character customization, they are working day and night on it. I guess they will name it    iCustomisation, newer before have this been made, and Apple...erm, sorry Krillbite studios is very proud to offer you the awesome choise between 3 sets of Diapers!!!! , ... with such awesome features .... what do you think? 500 USD ? 1000 USD???? NoOOOOOO... it will only be 99.99 USD!!!

BANG , iReinvented the world again

Cloud_imperium
Cloud_imperium

@abhisheknerdy20 I think he's gonna wake up . It's name "Among The Sleep" could mean he is in nightmare or something and have to complete the story within the dream . I could be wrong though .

Burning-Blader
Burning-Blader

@abnergoinbig Agreed, Indie is definitely more exciting than run of the mill shooters and should get some homage on future consoles. Especailly the PS4 because it is more similar than any game system to a computer than anything announced.

Smokescreened84
Smokescreened84

@Jasper_73 @Smokescreened84 That's good horror, showing you just enough while barely showing you anything and making the viewer imagine what they're seeing or what they can't see.  So much better than having things jump out in front of you all the time, the jump scare kind of horror loses it's edge after the first time.  The psychological horror angle though, that stays with you for a long time.

uncle5555
uncle5555

@carolynmichelle@mr_azim "SPOILERS!"

 For goodness sake, the game is 25 years old this year, there has got to be a statue of limitations on when you can discuss a game, I argued RE2 being as old as it was a few years ago when someone got wrankled over spoilers. 

I understand there are people who've never played a game before but seriously, when can you talk about something without someone who hasn't played it before coming in and being spoiled 50 years? I mean seriously there's got to be a time when enough is enough ya know.  Everybody knows Rosebud from Citizen Kane, and I don't think that spoiled the movie for me at all considering I saw it over 50 years after it had been made. 

 The experience is what matters,  not some unknown time limitation to discuss something just because some newbie hasn't played it yet, enough has got to be enough, ya know. 

And this game is really cool, backed it over a week ago, looking forward to a fresh take on the genre.