There are games that I instantly back and then there are those that I’m wary about but eventually decide to put some money down and become surprised by how good the game ends up being. When it ran on Kickstarter I almost passed on Neverending Nightmares. There was something about playing a game that dealt with anxiety and depression that was a bit of a turnoff. But, being an avid adventure fan I put in enough to get a copy of the game and the rest, as they say, is history. It also helped that Matt Gilgenbach kept in touch with fans on a pretty regular basis.
After seeing the latest update for the game, I reached out to Matt to get some insight on the man behind such a unique game, its “spiritual successor” Devastated Dreams, and whatever else that I could pry from his mind. First off, Neverending Nightmares was a short game about mental illness, with both aspects were planned from the beginning. The subject matter is close to him as he has repeatedly discussed his own battles with depression through the record breaking number of updates provided. This was a story he didn’t just want to tell but from what I can tell he NEEDED to tell it.
I’d like to say that I think there is a stigma against talking about mental illness, but I think it is very important to bring it to people’s attention if we want to change the stigma. While it was hard to bare my soul through Neverending Nightmares, it was really a positive experience overall for me, and I encourage everyone to consider talking about their depression rather than hiding it.
– Matt Gilgenbach
As mentioned, the game was also planned to be short from the start. Matt Gilgenbach told me that they treated it kind of like the movies, where the full story could be told in under two hours. Which is why it ended up being quite short even if you take the time to play through all four branching paths. And, honestly, I feel like this plan worked out as it conveyed both the narrative and feelings they were trying to bring out from the player. I certainly enjoyed playing Neverending Nightmares, which is apparent from my glowing review over at Kickstart Ventures.
However, it’s also fair to note here that Neverending Nightmares almost didn’t come to be. For those of us who remember the campaign, it only got funded at the very last second…only hours before the clock ticked down to zero. Understandably, it was a real nailbiter not just for Matt Gilgenbach but for the backers that became invested in it themselves. It was certainly an experience, which is why I’m always relieved to see a project get funded in days if not hours from launching. It’s a lot less stressful.
During our campaign, it was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. We were funded in the very final hours of our campaigns and had many scares along the way. While things didn’t look that promising during the trough period of our campaign, I never lost hope. I think the final game was very well received by backers who were interested in the mental illness aspect of the game. Most people who play the game like it, but it is definitely an experimental game in how it explores powerlessness and frustration, so there are some who just thought it might be a traditional horror game that didn’t enjoy it.
– Matt Gilgenbach
And then came the announcement for Devastated Dreams. After thoroughly enjoying his previous game I was ecstatic to see Matt Gilgenbach return to Kickstarter for another run. This time, instead of dealing with mental illness in a more “traditional” sense this one dealt with the stress and fears of becoming a parent in the backdrop of the Philippines and the Aswang legends. Unfortunately, this one didn’t even come close to getting funded. For whatever reason, Matt shelved the project presumably indefinitely due to not getting the money to develop the game. Whether it was because it was too similar to his previous outing or that there just simply wasn’t an audience it floundered early on and never recovered. Even with a demo it was a hard sell.
I wish we would have focused on communicating the focus on the story through the demo rather than by creating a tense atmosphere and promising story. It was tough to put story info in the demo or pitch because I wanted it to be something a player would discover while playing the game, but I think that may have been the wrong decision when trying to pitch a product. I don’t think that would make a difference to the campaigns success though.
– Matt Gilgenbach
Still, you can’t keep a good man down, as they say. Having been excited to see Devastated Dreams a reality it devastated me to see it not even break a third funded. And I can only imagine how Matt felt when it was all over. Which is why I just had to ask him if the game will be put on the backburner indefinitely or if there were any plans to resurrect the idea in the future. While he’s made it clear in the past that crowdfunding will not be the answer, he does really want to get back to it at some point. The main issue would be how to get the funding for it. Even though it might be slim, even that there is the possibility to see it release brings a glimmer of hope in my eyes. Here’s hoping.
If given the chance to run another Kickstarter or go through one of the other crowdfunding sites Matt told me that he’d love to do it. One thing he noted was how different the experience was back in 2013 when he ran Neverending Nightmares compared to today, something that he’ll have to take into account in the future should he go this route again. I know that if he does return I’ll be there as a backer. I’ve loved his previous work and I love how he stays in touch with his fans. The fact that he was willing to talk about himself to us should be telling enough that he’s worth keeping an eye on whatever the future holds for him.