The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne is an unusual point and click game that explores the aspects of social anxiety in a very simple way. Living in shared dorms, with a shared kitchen, we find that making oatmeal is a lot harder than one would think. Through Samantha’s eyes, we see some of the possible struggles that a person with social anxiety would have to face on a daily basis.
In a way, this game can be seen as a visual novel, as the player has to make certain decisions for Samantha as she reveals her thoughts to us. The choices given can be seen as a form of a spectrum of uncomfortably confident and encouraging to completely uncertain. The latter is what seems quite suitable for our shy character, whose face is completely hidden by long brown hair.
Although making oatmeal may not appear as a challenge for some, it is still quite difficult within this game, and it proves quite effective in portraying social anxiety. It is the idea of venturing out of the room, unsure whether an interaction is welcome, as well as about the fear of being embarrassed or getting in anyone’s way.
Interacting with friends through her laptop also shows how difficult Samantha’s life is made through her anxiety. Nobody seems to understand why she is so bothered by the fact that there might be people in the kitchen, or that she might have to interact with them, or that she might wake someone up by accident.
In a way, through using that empathy, the character discourages the player from leaving the room and going into that kitchen. This is through simple pieces of her speech such as “I’m never gunna make it” or “I can’t do this. I just can’t”. Since the player doesn’t get much encouragement, that also results in Samantha being a bit discouraged and more stressed as the game goes on.
Considering that Samantha’s stress levels are left for us to control just with the mouse, it almost makes her as a character a lot more vulnerable. As a player I felt quite bad for Samantha, she had to put up with the judgments of the players too, not just the people she shares the dorms with.
To add to this, the character always asks the player what she should do next, which reflects on the difficulty of decision making when having anxiety. Since this happens very often within the game, it is giving the player a chance to think about the decisions that are made and about the consequences these choices could possibly have.
I know that I made many decisions wrongly myself before successfully feeding Samantha. Dropping the hot mug in the corridor on the way back to the room, making oatmeal with cold water, not making enough food, all these failures really put anxiety into a realistic perspective.
However, every decision makes the experience of the game make the player feel something. I know I felt guilty for wasting Samantha’s oatmeal, and stressing her out beyond belief. But some people could possibly feel frustrated with the difficulty of getting such a task completed.
Now, you may judge me for somehow making oatmeal with cold water, but let me give you some context here. Samantha doesn’t know how to operate an electric kettle. Here is where anxiety comes in with the idea of limiting one’s knowledge. Samantha admits that she feels too embarrassed to ask how it works. Admitting to not knowing how to use this appliance makes players judge the character too, and the choices with using it really reflect on that.
With the worries of changing people’s views of Samantha, she appears very afraid and very careful about every action she takes. Some actions may appear a bit meaningless, but there’s a reason for everything. Choosing a spoon, a flavour for the oatmeal, hurrying or walking slowly through the corridor are just a couple of the decisions to be made.
Now, there is something that makes this oatmeal-making situation more stressful, even for the player. There is a stress scale, no matter what the player does, Samantha grows more and more stressed with every action. With almost every decision being perceived as some sort of failure, the game succeeds in making the player feel empathetic towards the character.
But in the end, the game does provide a lovely sense of satisfaction once Samantha is fed and not completely stressed out. With the comfort of a cosy room with some lovely plushies and encouraging posters and the warm blanket, Samantha ends up pretty proud of her achievements.
The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne is available to play for free on Steam.
Magdalena Kolodziej is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. You can find her on Twitter @magda_0019