Dr. David's Indie Spotlight: Sleepy Time is a depression simulator about masturbation
Video games are becoming increasingly poignant when it comes to real-life issues. While that's not a necessary attribute of the medium — some of us still enjoy them for the sheer entertainment value — it's always great to see a game come along every once in a while that's willing to share a deeper message. Sleepy Time from Turkish developer Kayabros does exactly that, delving into the world of depression and taking a look at how some people deal with their woes.
Before you read any further, if you're easily offended by penises and masturbation, you should probably stop reading now. You should probably never play Sleepy Time, either, as the game is chock full of pixelated privates and digital d*ck-grabbing.
Sleepy Time presents itself as a rhythm game, but there's very little incentive to hitting the button prompts when you're “supposed to.” The fact of the matter is that this game is much more about the dreary, brooding experience of having trouble sleeping, bouts with depression, and yanking yourself in an effort to deal with it all.
There's an ever-present sense of melancholia as you play Sleepy Time. Each of the six songs stars a pixelated man trying to go to sleep and resorting to masturbation to finally be able to do so. While the overly disgruntled may have a problem with the way in which this game presents its theme, it's worth noting that its subject matter is rooted in reality. People really do cope with depression by touching themselves. For some, falling asleep is impossible unless it's prefaced with a quick masturbatory session. For many, this is real life.
The music of Sleepy Time is as depressing as its tone and topic. You're treated to music about a man who's lost his two loves, one of whom was his significant other, while the other was his mother who lost a battle with cancer. The songs themselves are slow and off-key, and they serve to further bring down the mood. The lyrics, as you can probably already tell, are also major bummers. The long-drawn-out repetition of the word “pathetic” in one of the last tracks instantly comes to mind.
If you take away the pixel graphics and weird look of the characters, it's not hard to see that this is serious stuff. Even with the offbeat visuals, there's no denying that this project is based on some heavy themes — themes which may be easier to relate to for some more than others. Again, matching button prompts is secondary to the actual thematic direction of Sleepy Time. All you get when you hit the prompts is a matching stroke of the penis by the male character on the screen until he explodes at the end of the song.
Speaking to Indie Games, developer Talha Kaya explained his decision to refrain from using female characters. According to the dev, he wanted to ground the game in a more personal reality, saying that he only knows of guys who resort to masturbation when depressed and in need of sleep. “I actually know some men do it,” said Kaya. “So it would feel really weird for me to include women, although I considered it when beginning the project.” Truth be told, this is the sort of thing that isn't exclusive to men, so don't let the exclusion of female characters fool you.
One of Kaya's previous projects was Ode to Pixel Days — a game about a boy with serious self-esteem issues who has a crush on a cheerleader — and it projected its message quite clearly. Another meaningful game that comes to mind is What Now? by Arielle Grimes, which touches on anxiety and how it completely destroys your mind. I'm not sure if Sleepy Time delivers its message as clearly as those two games, but it also isn't hard to decipher. It's definitely worth a look if you're into this movement of games based on people's personal problems and distresses.
You can play Sleepy Time for free right on your browser or pay $2 for a downloadable version that includes the game's soundtrack. Kayabros is currently working on Orphan, a tale about a young boy who desperately wanders in search of his family.
Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.