I don’t watch an awful lot of television: it’s rare that a show captures my attention enough to make me want to watch it and I’d rather play a video game in my spare time. But every now and again one comes along that changes that and this is exactly what happened when Stranger Things was released on Netflix last summer. My other-half and I sat glued to the TV every evening for a week and by the time we’d reached the end of the eighth episode, I was a huge fan of the world created by the Duffer Brothers.
It’s highly unlikely you’ve not heard of the show or its storyline but just in case: in a small Indiana town called Hawkins, where the nearby Hawkins National Laboratory supposedly performs scientific research for the United States Department of Energy, a 12-year old boy by the name of Will Byers disappears while cycling home after playing Dungeons & Dragons with his friends. Where has he gone? Why is the town suffering from ‘visitations’? And who is this weird girl who calls herself Eleven?
Take the bittersweet comic-fantasy tone of E.T., the adventure from The Goonies and the fear factor from Poltergeist. Add an alcoholic cop from any 80s police movie, the camaraderie of a group of friends from Stand By Me, and the young female hero from Firestarter. Mix with a bunch of other references from Steven Spielberg films and Stephen King books, and you’re close of capturing the essence of Stranger Things.
These elements all combine for a huge nostalgia hit and it’s one of the reasons I love the show so much. Not only is it influenced by the media I grew up with during the decade in which it’s set, I can remember being one of those kids in the programme. My friends and I spent our summer holidays cycling on our bikes, exploring the nearby forest, and believing there was a secret to uncover if only we’d stumble upon a clue hidden among the trees.
My other-half and I will be going to Kitacon this weekend, a geek culture convention where cosplay is fully encouraged, and so I’ve recently been working on putting together an Eleven costume. While trying on the outfit last week I happened to mention to Pete that it would be great if there was a Stranger Things video game; what could package such a mysterious storyline better than an adventure? So I sat down to write a post about my ideas…
…and then Google quickly revealed that a developer has already produced a short tribute to the show. Why had I not heard about this already?!
Created by Infamous Quests, the spoiler-free demo can be downloaded from itch.io and is a one-room point-and-click adventure. Its synopsis on the site gives a very brief overview of what made the Stranger Things storyline so intriguing: “’99 out of a hundred times, the missing kid is with a parent or relative. This is about that one other time.’ The disappearance of Will Byers has the town of Hawkins, Indiana – and Chief Jim Hopper – on edge.”
Anyone who’s a fan of old-school adventures such as Monkey Island and King’s Quest will feel right at home. Players step into the shows of Hopper himself while he’s on the search for Will in Mirkwood, navigating a single scene from the show while handling dialogue trees and inventory. It’s very short and won’t take you any longer than ten minutes to complete; but it shows that Infamous Quests has a great understanding of what makes both adventure games and Stranger Things so special.
I’m in no way a developer but I can see there being some design problems in making a full title based on the show. For example, some of the action scenes probably wouldn’t translate into point-and-click as well as they could in other genres. But being able to switch between characters for their parts of the storyline, as happens in the programme itself, would work a treat.
When IGN interviewed Matt and Ross Duffer last year, they suggested a Stranger Things comic but the brothers said themselves that what they’d really like to see is a video game. In addition, Steven Alexander from Infamous Quests has stated he’d like to be able to chat with Netflix about the possibilities, and even told Wired that he ‘wrote up a whole design doc, did research on the locations in the show, mapped out ideas’.
Come on adventure game gods, smile on us and make that happen.
The second season of Stranger Things is due to be released around Halloween in October so hopefully by the time it arrives there may be more news about a potential video game. In the meantime, don’t keep any curiosity doors locked.