Don’t judge me: Why I ate my team in Gods Will Be Watching
“You are Sgt. Burden, and remember: Gods Will Be Watching. 40 days left.”
With just a single stage, seven characters, and the crackling of a fire pit, Gods Will Be Watching is the epitome of “minimalism,” the theme of Ludum Dare's most recent 48-hour game design competition in April. GWBW was created in less than two days as part of that competition, but it has emerged as a memorable work of considerable emotional heft.
The title, Gods Will Be Watching, bursts in front of your eyes at the title screen in stark white text across a pure black background. This is a message they want burned into the back of your eyes as you begin your quest to survive the alien wastes.
I took control of the leader of a small band of researchers stranded on the beach of an alien lake. There's a small story primer, but that's not what matters. The story is this: I will survive. At all costs.
GWBW does for Oregon Trail what Canabalt did for Super Mario Bros. My team consists of seven members: five humans, one android, and Marvin…a Rottweiler. The goal is to survive the harshness of the alien environment while ensuring the upkeep of supplies as well as the health and mental stability of every group member while repairing a radio to call for help. It's true achievement isn't in drastically refining the survival formula, but in outfitting it with a wonderful minimalist atmosphere that greatly enhances the whole by empowering your imagination.
Unfortunately, you will not survive, but you will remember how you died.
30 days left
“I want players to experience suffering, pity and commitment: values I've enjoyed in very few games,” said Jordi De Paco, lead designer at Deconstructeam in Valencia, Spain. “I prefer when those feelings aren't driven by the plot, but by yourself. The reward is greater when you do good, but have not been forced to.”
Like all good survival games, GWBW starts out with a feeling of hope. I confidently strode among my crew in good health and good spirits. I barked out orders, spending the precious five actions-per-day as though time was infinite.
A few days passed before I realized that things were beginning to slip, and slowly but surely despair began to set in. Someone got sick, forcing me to spend actions to create medicine to heal them. Members of my team started to get lonely and despondent. I had to take time out of the day to talk to them and comfort them. If I didn't, they might have died of a terrible disease or run away from the camp.
I soon discovered that there were other options. Why keep weaklings around, consuming precious resources and actions when they could actually benefit the collective? After the fifth day, I wanted to save everyone. After the twentieth day I found myself saying things like, “nobody is abandoning this camp with food still attached to their bones.”
“I felt that the title “Gods Will Be Watching” had a very deep resonance with the role that the player has to play, making hard decisions in order to survive,” said De Paco. “I love when games present you with moral dilemmas, and Sgt Burden has to face 40 days of them, so… what could be better than feeling the eyes of many gods judging every decision you make?”
20 days left
De Paco might think I give a damn about what the supposed gods think of my actions, but they know nothing of the struggles of mortals. Morale in the camp was at all all-time low and food was scarce. The psychiatrist was infected with a disease, and we couldn't spare the time to get her healed.
What was I supposed to do? Let her die slowly, letting the disease spread into her muscles, making her impossible to eat? No. I had every intention of surviving, and survival is nasty business. We didn't have the luxury of immortality like those who sought to judge us.
So I did what I had to do. I put a lazer round in her chest, and we lived another day. There were still problems, but we were fed and that was enough.
10 days left
The soldier couldn't cope with the loneliness anymore, and ran off in the middle of the night. He lost his mind, and we're not likely to hear from him again. At least I hope we don't. He ran off with a week's worth of meat still attached to his bones. That's against my rules.
Unfortunately, this is turning into a cascading situation. All that's left is me, the Engineer, a dog, and an android. We were already on our last leg, but that leg was swept from underneath us when a pack of wolves showed up to steal our Psychiatrist meat.
That's when I remember something that I'd forgotten. The Engineer was married to the Psychiatrist, and now he's rocking back and forth rapidly as though his mind is about to break.