Before I explain the image above, which contains the word SUCCESS in bright green, the word DEAD highlighted in yellow, and lists the details of a woman dying from having her head smashed by a truck bumper, I'm going explain the story of Accident, a new simulation from Duality Games.
And that's going to be tough because I don't entirely understand it myself. I played the free demo (the full game isn't available yet) and I still have a lot of questions.
Warning: I'll be talking about more or less realistic portrayals of car accidents, severe injuries, and deaths, including that of a child, because that's more or less what this game is about.
In Accident, you're a journalist "who researches old car accident cases." You do this from the comfort of your office, where you load the details of a case on your laptop and put on a VR headset (Accident is not a VR game, but in the game your journalist character is using VR, to be clear).
Then the simulation begins—but you don't start by investigating the accident, you actually come across the accident while driving your own car and you have to pull over and spring into action: call emergency services, check on the victims, put out fires, drag people out of smashed cars, and perform life-saving first-aid like CPR.
The investigation stuff comes later, once you've attended to the scene of the accident where you'll be called upon to, for example, drag an unconscious child out of a car and watch him die while you're performing CPR on him.
If you fail to save someone, as I did with the unconscious child who died while I was performing CPR on him, the scenario ends and you can rewind time to try again. Which led to me watching the same unconscious child die four times while I was performing CPR on him before I got it right.
What part of this is car accident journalism, exactly? How and why am I doing this in VR from an office? And who thought "Let's make the very first level of the game include a dying child." This sim really throws you right into the deep end.
Accident successfully makes the scene of the simulated accident feel overwhelming and panic-inducing. As I pull up, I have a few tasks to complete—call emergency services, put warning triangles on the road on both sides of the accident so no one else comes along and crashes into us, and turn off the ignition of all the vehicles. In this Accident demo level, a truck and two cars have collided.
But while I'm running around to place triangles and turn off ignitions, one car is actually on fire, which needs to be put out immediately. Also, everyone is either dead or unconscious—one guy is slouching in his car, another guy is lying bloody right in the road, a woman is slumped over a steering wheel and a kid is in the backseat. It's hard to run past all these injured or dead people to place a triangle in the road, or to reach into their windows to turn off their ignitions without wanting to help them immediately. Accident is a game where it feels like everything needs to be done at once, but you have to prioritize. The fire seems the most dangerous thing, so I put that out with an extinguisher I find in my own trunk.
Then it's time to examine the victims—shake their shoulders gently to see if they respond, then listen for any sounds of breathing. Only one person of the four are still breathing, which is horrifying. Just as horrifying are the tiny little dots you need to click on to perform actions and the fact that these dots sometimes require a click and sometimes need to be held for a short period of time. I actually said "I'm sorry!" out loud because I kept accidentally dropping this poor woman's head back onto the steering wheel.
Emergency services tells me to focus on the kid, so I yank him from the car, open a first-aid kit, put on gloves, then put a CPR mask on him and try to breathe air into his lungs with a series of mouse movements. I fail to do it in time, and he dies. I'll refrain from showing you a gif.
Rewinding halfway back through the scenario I try again. This time I get air into his lungs, but then I have to put him in the recovery position—clicking dots on his arms to raise them, clicking dots on his legs and torso to turn him on his side—I fail to do that in time, and he dies again.
After two more tries and two more child deaths, I decide to rewind all the way back to the start of the scenario. Now that I know where things are and which dots need to be clicked and held, I can be more efficient in putting out the fire, placing the road warnings, and turning off the ignitions. This gives me more time to save the kid, which I finally, thankfully, do.
The kid's mom? She's dead. The dude smeared on the road is still breathing, somehow, and I'm trying to revive another victim, the dude in the car, when emergency services finally arrives.
With medical professionals doing their jobs, I can finally do my accident journalism, even though what I'd really like to do is lie down and put a blanket over my head because I just ran around in a blind panic and watched a kid die four times in the worst Groundhog Day remake ever.
With the game of Dance Dance Resuscitation over, the investigation part is far more leisurely. I can already tell what happened—the red car swerved into the oncoming lane, it had a head-on collision with the truck, and then the truck was hit from behind by the second car with the woman and kid in it. And I feel quite proud that even among the carnage I noticed a 'boar crossing' sign next to the road, probably because I've never seen a boar crossing sign before because I don't live in an area where boars are a common road hazard. My pet theory: there was a boar in the road, the red car swerved to avoid it, causing the accident.
And it's the correct theory, proving that while I'm a terrible medic, I'm a fine car accident journalist. I have to find and click on six actual clues: boar prints by the side of the road, the sign, the trucker's seatbelt being off (hence him flying through the windshield), etc, then put them in chronological order and submit them to finish my investigation.
And then there's a bit of wrap-up, which brings us to the green SUCCESS indicator above the picture of the dead woman. You get a little bio of each accident victim, with that green SUCCESS sign hovering over them the whole time.
The truck driver had a spinal injury and will have to take painkillers for the rest of his life. SUCCESS. The driver who swerved to avoid the boar had several nerves severed by glass and lost full use of his left hand. SUCCESS. And the kid, now motherless, wound up in a coma, was severely traumatized, and it took two years of therapy before he could return to school. SUCCESS.
I mean, yes. I saved the kid's life, I resuscitated the driver, I successfully detected a boar was involved. But it's not exactly a Let's Goooooo! moment, is it?