A lot of in-the-dark games use the absence of visual cues to make sure players concentrate on something else: on sounds, typically, or sometimes touch. The obvious example – since it was so recent, and so staggeringly successful – is Somethin’ Else’s Papa Sangre. It’s an iPhone game so it’s not necessarily played in the literaldark, but players have no visual cues at all, and have only sound to respond to; which for a screen-based game is as meaningfully “in the dark” as it gets.
It doesn’t use the dark just for focus – there’s a hefty dose of fear as well. It’s the same for Ghost in the Graveyard (the feel-your-way-across-a-lawn-in-the-dark game). Then there’s all manner of teenage kissing games that use the darkness for focus (on touch, this time, rather than sound), but also for secrecy.
We haven’t had many games at the Sandpit that use the dark for focus, but we have had Sangre y Patatas, a game that Tassos Stevens and Peter Law ran at the Weekender in 2010 (and which Tassos had been running in various iterations for years – he reports that these earlier runs were part of the inspiration behind Papa Sangre). Players wander around over corn chips and through bells that hang from the ceiling, blindfolded, creating inevitable crunching and jangling noises as they go. Occasionally players run into each other, at which point they both whisper “patatas”.
The danger is the monster, who moves among them – also blindfold. On running into someone, the monster whispers “sangre” instead of “patatas”, and the whispered-to player expires noisily, falls to the floor, then clambers off the playing field.
It’s a brilliantly enjoyable game – but it’s just a little off-topic. Lack of visual cues used to focus people on sound: sure. Lack of visual cues used to make things scary: that too. But, crucially, there’s one thing that keeps it from being a game played in the dark: the fact that, well, it’s not played in the dark. It’s played with blindfolds. And that’s quite a different thing – but blindfolds are tomorrow’s topic.
Picture by toiletooth