A Look at Lone Survivor’s Unique Take on Mental Health and Horror

When horror games take on mental health, the results tend to be bleak, at best. Even when they aren’t filled with stigmatized portrayals of psychiatric hospitals and their patients, they aren’t usually very hopeful.

Lone Survivor, released in 2012, is a rare exception. Its creator, Jasper Byrne, sat down with Waypoint to explain how its darkness doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Content warning: Major spoilers for Lone Survivor.

“The darkness needed a bit of light,” he explains. “The revelation I had was to split the game basically into two paths. If you were playing a certain way you could eat a rat to survive, or something, but if you did it the other way, played sensibly, gave yourself a treat and looked after the character with cups of warm coffee or finding music to listen to, he could come out of all this pain. It became about recognizing there could be something wrong in your nature, but with nurture it could get better.”

So became Lone Survivor’s central theme. Rather than avoid confronting one’s pain, the game implies that ordeals and the act of dealing with them can be contributive and curative. To suffer the world is to know it more intimately. To see him break down in the basement and fantasize about a better reality, is to see the protagonist of Lone Survivor understand that pain can lead to fulfillment: On waking from his daydream, though still trapped in the dark basement, he reminds himself he’s strong and he “can do this”.

Be sure to check out the full article for a thorough look back at this fascinating indie game.

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