Simulation games are nothing new. There's The Sims franchise, for those who like to create a virtual life that sometimes dips into the uncanny valley, Animal Crossing for those who prefer a twee alternate universe, and Spore for those who want step into a little science fiction. But none have quite crossed the bridge between game play and actual, real-life corporeality like Close Your.
"The inspiration came a long time before we started," says Will Hellwarth, game director and lead engineer. "I was talking to my friend John [Billingsley, lead designer] years ago about radical game control methods—like when you track when a player blinks. We thought it would be so cool if you never knew which blink could be your last one."
That admittedly macabre approach to gaming led Hellwarth, along with Billingsley and three other team members, to create Close Your, a life simulation game that presents players with different choices, all of which affect their character's life paths. But here's the catch: each time the player blinks IRL, their computer webcam picks up on it and, in turn, the game moves forward in time to a new scene in the character's life. Gameplay, which lasts about 20 minutes, always ends in the inevitable death of the character. Players effectively blink themselves to the grave.
If that sounds dark, then Hellwarth's vision is a success. "The game is about mortality. It's about disempowerment," he says. "The whole metaphor with the blinking is that you don't have control over when you blink—and you're going to blink eventually."
While death may have a strong presence in the game (voiced by Inception actor Dileep Rao), it's not all darkness, all the time. "The more we put in light moments, memorable moments that totally make you forget about death, the greater impact the ending has had on players," says Hellwarth. "These fun scenarios have actually made the admittedly morbid message of the game get through."
Close Your, which will be made available for download in February via the gaming site, Stream, will have multiple paths characters can take: they can quit their job in a huff, get involved with other characters, or simply have a pretty nice life. Whatever scenario players blink through, they'll always end up, as we all do, facing death itself. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts, right?
Learn more about this delightfully morbid game at closeyour.com.