Actual Sunlight tells the story of Evan Winter, an overweight, lonely, depressed 30-year old. The game consists of mostly reading text of Evan’s inner thoughts about life and death. As Evan interacts with the people and things around him, more stories unfold. The game deals with many adult themes such as depression and suicide. Since this is a fairly new game, I’d like to warn you that this Backlog Blog Review will include spoilers.
Actual Sunlight may look like a classic 2D RPG, but it isn’t much of a game as it is a short story. The game explores the day-to-day experiences of Evan Winter, a down-on-luck thirty-something overweight guy who is struggling to find friends, love, and his place in the world. Evan lives alone, takes the bus to work everyday, where his only interactions with the outside world take place. There’s something brewing with at least one or two of Evan’s female co-workers, but I think his lack of picking up on social cues have kind of diminished any chances. Evan appears to suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression, and somewhat suicidal thoughts. No matter what options the player makes for Evan, the results will always be the same. The outcome is unavoidable. The game wants you to realize that Evan’s diseases and / or disorders are crippling him with almost every action – to the point where they take over.
The first major interaction appears when Evan is on the bus. There is a seat between each person on the bus, but he still insists on sitting by himself all the way in the back. He figured sitting next to a male would give off homosexual vibes or instigate an argument, and that sitting next to a female would creep her out. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I’d sit away from people, too.
The first interaction where I realized the point of the game, was when Evan visits the store after work. He browses around, considers buying healthy food in hopes that he’ll work on being healthier, but then puts it off to another day. Then he walks over to the video games. He sees the games, and even though they’re not necessarily his favorite genre, the scores are high. The option pops up to buy the game or save your money. Whether the player wants Evan to buy the game or not; it is inevitable. Evan simply cannot leave the store until he has bought the game.
The next interaction is the trigger. The screen turns black for a few seconds, and then everything turns red; as if the game had switched over to the Virtual Boy. Evan wakes up in the middle of the night with extreme rage. The game will not let you continue until everything (and I mean everything) in Evan’s apartment has been destroyed.
The final interaction is heart-breaking. No matter what the player tries to do, they are continuously reminded of Evan’s only option : Take the elevator to the roof of the apartment, and jump off. I thought maybe once I got all the way up there, that I’d be able to talk him out of it; that I’d be able to do something. Once you’re on the roof, you cannot leave. I’ve never felt more hopeless.
Actual Sunlight may just be one of the most important video games ever created. It’s sad, it’s bold, but the message is real. Millions of people around the world are struggling with these issues, and many of them don’t get the help that they need. Actual Sunlight displays exactly what it is like to experience such issues. It’s very real in that sense. It makes you think, and it makes you aware. I definitely feel that I’m more knowledgeable because of this game. Actual Sunlight will help those who are unaware to learn, and it will help those who are aware to learn more. The subject is important because it very well could be related to your life or to someone you know. I know I saw parts of Evan that I see in myself for sure; not the suicidal thoughts, but I feel depressed, lonely, and out-of-place sometimes. Who doesn’t? That’s why Evan is so easy to relate to. In more ways than one, he’s very much like me. We both love video games, movies, and technology. We both have problems socially. We both have thought-processes to avoid social encounters, awkwardness, or people in general. We both have jobs where we feel like we aren’t really a part of the team. We both don’t know how to talk to women we’re interested in. We both have problems purchasing things to escape from our lives or to fill a void in our lives. I’m sure I could go on, but you get the point. Actual Sunlight really spoke to me. I probably would never be talking about these things had I not played the game. I can’t recommend this game enough. Play it and learn something new today. Pass it on. If you or someone you know is having problems, know that you’re not alone. Get the help that you need, and if you know someone, please help them to get the help that they need. It matters.