The Everyday Average Life of Samantha Browne is a visual novel game available for both PC and mobile, that examines social anxiety in students and young adults. The game opens up to a university dorm, where each floor has a communal kitchen. We then meet Samantha Browne, a young, shy, college student who is hungry for oatmeal.
She talks online with a friend, setting up her story and explaining why she doesn’t want to go out. This is when the sound effects start to build on the style’s cute vibe, with Samantha’s careful footsteps creeping down the hall in her striped pajama shorts. The player can make decisions for Samantha, trying to feed her before her anxiety takes over and she panics. She plays a cute game called ‘Choose that spoon!’ to make her morning more exciting and encourage herself to keep heading outside. You continue to follow the character, guiding her to choose oatmeal flavors and cook the oatmeal enough so that it’s edible. From each decision made, her hungry meter slightly moves closer to meltdown mode. The suspense builds as you venture through the dorm, strategically choosing ways to get this girl her oatmeal.
I first played this game in a free trial at IndieCade, and it wasn’t until the game tester at the booth mentioned it that I realized Samantha’s face is not seen in the game. I was fascinated by all the hidden meanings behind this simple artistic choice. It could have been that Samantha was a shy girl, wanting to remain anonymous while still having the opportunity to share her story. Hiding her face also could have had a much deeper connotation, representing the player through Samantha. As she rests on her bed wasting time on her laptop, the player starts to project their own personality and procrastinating habits in Samantha’s actions. She prolongs going outside multiple times in her dorm room, making up silly excuses to prevent her from facing the possibility of human interaction. Making her face mysterious allows the player’s imagination to run wild and see Samantha as more than just a hungry and anxious college student.
There are NPCs for Samantha to interact with, but she finds more comfort in solitude. The visceral representation of social anxiety is what I connected to in this game. Samantha is most happy in the security of her dorm room, embracing her introvertedness and avoiding face-to-face confrontation. Although I’m not entirely introverted, seeing Samantha do anything to prolong leaving the room reminded me of things I have gone through to avoid engaging in events with too many people.
After falling in love with the art style of the game at the free trial in IndieCade, I downloaded it and have since replayed it six times. Each time I made different decisions from before, trying to come across a different ending and evaluating the game in more depth. I found that the music is very soft techno beats and the sound effects accurately represent the tone and Samantha’s actions. As the setting changes, the music speeds up or changes beat expressing movement and variation, keeping the player from getting bored. In small actions like the Choose That Spoon! game, a cheering crowd alleviates some anxiety of waiting, while little stirring noises from the spoon and button noises from the microwave take out the awkward silence waiting for Samantha to cook her oatmeal.
Feeling fascinated by all these small touches, I encouraged my friends to play it too. It wasn’t until I saw them playing I saw how the novel style is really only meant for one play through. I felt my interest flee after I revealed all the possibilities of Samantha’s morning. My friends lost enthusiasm having to read all the subtitles and pay attention to the plot of the game. This discovery hurt my heart because I met a game tester for Samantha Browne at IndieCade who told me about the hard work the developer went through making the mobile game. I grew this strong appreciation for the game, wanting to share it with everyone I knew. For me it was a way to share art that I appreciated and related to. The art style with bright and warm colors made me happy even though the game addressed sad concepts.
Overall I give the game eight oatmeal bags out of ten. It’s a fun and short game novel, but it is awkwardly long in some sections. From watching people play, they lose interest before finishing, but turning on the sound makes a huge difference. The plot is interesting and if you stick with it, you’re in for a real treat. If you love visual novels, this is a great game to try, but stay away if you’re on an empty stomach, because Samantha’s hangry tendencies are contagious. Don’t hesitate to try this game, available for free on the App Store.