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Kids is a horror game that doesn't look like a horror game


Kids looks like a physics toy, an arty, knockabout playful thing. There are cartoon crowds. There's a cartoon black hole. You run a finger or a cursor over the stuff on the screen and see what happens.

But "cartoon" isn't quite right and Kids isn't a physics toy. It's one of the most interesting horror games I've ever played. It's not about spooky hospitals or old mansions where dogs might dive in through the window. It's about crowds and complicity and bad decisions and how consensus is created.

It's not a toy because its scenarios are there to be solved, as it were. Dozens of people gathered around that big hole in the ground? Have a fiddle about and - yep! - they all go into the hole. Done. Next scenario. Bodies falling through space? Touch them to slow them. Crowds filling the screen? Run a hand over them to trigger a sort of volumetric wave of applause. Run a hand over them to get them to scarper. To run away from you. To point in the direction they think we should go in, and then to change their minds. To give in. To do it all over again, subtle variation but the same outcome.

Kids is not remotely subtle, but it doesn't have to be. It's about the big obvious things that we all ignore, and that make us lean on each other, wittingly or unwittingly, so we can ignore them together. It's about bullying and cowardice, about going with the flow, even if the flow leads to a big black hole in the ground. It looks sweet, at first glance, but it made me feel absolutely grim. And to call this thing 'Kids' is quite the conceptual nailbomb.

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