In our generation of sedentary gamers and people generally unsatisfied with their lives, we may just find that every day is the same dream. Such is the message delivered in the flash game “Every Day the Same Dream.” Despite being a 2D scroller game, players of this game have been scratching their heads over the cryptic messages, metaphors, and symbolism hidden throughout the simplicity of the game’s mechanics. After thoroughly examining the wake-up call, I have discovered the five principles to breaking out of the same dream every day: living with nature, awakening to reality, compassion/the circle of life, nonconformity, and mindfulness/transitoriness.
First of all, let us look at the title of the game and a quick summary. The game is fairly simply and plays out accordingly: You wake up and get dressed for work, then you enter the elevator with an old lady (who is important!) before driving to your job, where you work in your cubicle until finally, you go home only to wake up to the same grind. Unfortunately, this may sound a lot like a lot of our lives. We have few goals in life, few aspirations. The only thing that drives us through our day is work, and work alone. What is the purpose? Why we do we waste our lives repeating the same thing with no real result? At some point in our lives we must question the direction of our life. And while it may be nihilistic to say the least, some of us do not know we have a true purpose. Hidden from the individual, this purpose, this value—it is buried deeper and deeper with every repetition. All this repetition, all this lack of perseverance, makes reality seem like a dream. Reality is merely a reflection of the past and what is to come, for we do the same thing over and over, yet it is futile. The old lady in the elevator mutters the same cryptic message each time: “5 more steps and you will be a new person.” For the longest time I was bewildered by this esoteric advice. What exactly was she referring to? Then, as the game progresses, we have the choice to slightly alter the course of our day, and that is when we awaken from our Groundhog Day.
The five principles appear symbolically within the game. My interpretations are subjective and purely based on my conjectures alone. While commuting to work, we have the option to get out and find a cow, approach a homeless man and be taken to a cemetery, go to work naked, catch a falling leaf, and finally, jump and end it all. Let us decipher them piece by piece to find out how to find meaning and faith in life.
Leaving our car to enter a meadow is our first piece of evidence. Everything is so industrialized nowadays, so much to the point that nature no longer receives our love and attention. We, the workers, intent on one goal, must stop following a pattern of modernity and turn to nature sometimes. This cow represents all things natural in life. In a little animation, the character in the game pets the solitary bovine animal. From this alone, I can infer that this man is realizing something. He shows this cow affection and sees this animal as another living being. Just think for a moment of all the animals on Earth, of how many other living beings breathe the same air as we do. It is incredible, really, just how much of an impact embracing nature can have. Unlike the cow, our protagonist has a clouded objective in life, not to mention the countless obstacles that hinder him. This cow, on the contrary, is simply living. There is no grand scheme for the creature. Nature has a way of doing things with ease. As Epicurus said, “The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity”; or in simpler words, everything we need is easy to obtain, but everything we want is purposefully made hard to obtain.
If we take a left from our apartment building, the player comes across a homeless person on the curb. This principle still confuses me a bit, as it has two parts. My first interpretation is the virtue of charity and humanism, like that of the Ancient Greek Seven Virtues. Characterized by benevolence and self-sacrifice, charity is giving to others. This is a leading virtue in living a good life. Showing kindness to others will make us a better person, thus contributing to our quest for transcendence. While we do not actually give anything to the homeless man, we take him up for conversation. Again, compassion and care for others will strengthen us and lead us to a more meaningful purpose. Human beings are social animals, and it is disturbing, frankly, that we treat those who are less fortunate than us like they are below us. An experience like this reminds us of the importance of maintaining a goal in life. We may not succeed, and at times we fail, but who does not? Imperfect and predisposed towards failure, humans must learn and accept failure as part of their journey. The old man ends up responding with an eery, “I can take you to a quiet place.” In a flash, we are transported to a cemetery–indeed, a quiet place. I got a feeling of immense gloom when I saw this scene. Lives are fragile and our time to go eventually comes. But we are all human; we are all imperfect. It should be learned that we must treat others with respect as if it were our last day. We all have a time to go, but we never know when.
My third favorite principle in the game is that of nonconformity and divergence. I can not help but stress how much this century emphasizes conformity and sticking with the status quo. Shackled to commitment, we are only slowing down our own growth. Our talents and our purposes are being chained with us. Society demands conformity, and we, like obedient sheep, follow along. We are told what to do and we do it. Sometimes there is a special type, though. If you could not tell, Nietzsche’s Superman is one of my favorite paradigms, and it helps in this situation. The third step to becoming a new person is to diverge from the accepted way of doing things. The character in the game has the ability to do his daily routine naked. That is right. He breaks a social norm—a construct, really—and does it like a boss! The man’s wife questions his sanity, and as he enters his workplace, his boss is furious and fires him. This firing may not be so bad; in fact, it is a blessing. Formerly constricted by our workplace, we now have new opportunities in life. We were strapped in our chairs and stared at our computers for hours on end. Being fired frees us, literally and figuratively. But that is all it takes. This is not to say we should all strip down for work in order to be nonconformists, no; rather it is saying we should take risks. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” after all. Judgement from others is a complete absurdity. When we break free from the “set” way of doing things, it is interpreted as wrong or inappropriate. Who are they to say what the correct or right way of doing things is? We must rise above Nietzsche’s proverbial herd and be the Clark Kent of our own world!
Our fourth and penultimate step is foretold by a leaf. Before we enter our office, we come across a small, lonely tree out front. It has but one leaf dangling from its poor, wretched branches. In the previous run-throughs, the player most likely paid little attention to this tree, but alas! how metaphorical it truly is. On this second-to-last level, that one seemingly inconsequential leaf manages to fall from its perch. Powerless, it is guided by the air into the character’s hand. Mind you that this is not some sort of epiphany or ultimate enlightenment, it is a reminder to be mindful. Once more we are brought back to nature and to being in the moment. Nature is the easiest place to practice mindfulness. It is in nature that we find our breath and awaken our senses to the world. Noticing the leaf all those previous encounters is an example of this. Taking in our environment and noticing details is easier said than done. Our filled schedules make it near impossible to take into account details as meticulous as a simple leaf. More than that, this leaf not only represents awareness, it also represents the transitoriness of life. Like the seasons, our lives change, and like that leaf, we will eventually wither, too. The leaf goes through immense changes throughout its life. We can learn a thing or two from that leaf: in the spring, it retains its beautiful color and becomes healthy; in the autumn, it changes colors, yet it does not complain about the wind; in the winter, it gets cold, but it does not yield; in the summer, it gets hot, but it does not care about the tan it receives; and at the end of its life, it does not worry about what is to come. We undergo so many changes and overcome so many challenges because we were built to. Fearing death is useless, it will come in time. This is not to say living is without purpose, but we should not be knocked down by the obstacles that encumber us.
Finally, we find transcendence and awaken from our dream to find reality. When all is said and done, when we have attained our touch with nature, our charity, our individualism, and our awareness of life—only then can we awaken from this dream we call life. So far, everything we have seen is a dream. All that time working and achieving nothing has been a waste, truly. We must—we have to—face reality. Waking up is hard; waking up is not splashing water on your face or simply meditating; waking up is like Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. We fear waking up. We have lacked the comfort of nature, we lacked charity in mankind, we lacked faith in ourselves, and we lacked awareness of reality. Standing over that cliff with no idea of what lies ahead, you must make a choice: to jump or not to jump. It is a gamble. It is the most dangerous gamble possible. Are you willing to find your meaning without guidance or will you stay in the comforts of your dream? This is no longer, “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you too?” This has now turned into, “If no one has jumped off a cliff, would you do it?” Would you be willing to defy all that is expected to transcend reality and find your true meaning? Doing this means letting go of control. You must have faith to jump off that cliff and find what you have been searching for. There is no return, for this is it. This is reality. In the final level, our 2D friend stands on a railing outside his office and makes this leap. No, it is not suicide. It is waking up. And that is exactly what happens. The final level consists of you walking through your empty apartment, into the deserted elevator, through the car-less traffic, and into the office building devoid of life. True, objective reality awaits you. You have officially transcended life and completed the spiritual journey.
However, the ending is a bit disconcerting for some. Upon awakening from the same dream every day, and after exiting your old workplace, you come across the same railing you jumped from just moments ago. Standing on that railing is a figure that appears to be… you. I will admit, this got me mixed up a bit, and it took some thinking to figure it out. With the help of my friend (his review is the first link down below), I have come up with a solution. Our incarnate doppelganger standing on the railing is in fact us, but from the past. We have transcended this corporeal world and entered a whole new intellectual plane, and we are viewing our transformation–our transcendence from an objective standpoint. After all these dreams we have been dreaming, we have found the dreamer. As per Descartes’ cogito ergo sum, we have established a spiritual awakening and grounded ourselves as the viewer of reality in its whole.
Every day, the same dream occurs. Held in check by a lack of ambitions, an obscure idea of the future, and a predetermined course, we must all transcend this dream and awaken to reality.