I'm getting married next year, which means I can reasonably expect to sleep with one person for the rest of my life - barring any situations involving car keys being placed into a bowl, that is. Not that I have a car. Anyway, my point is that it's been a long time since I had a one night stand, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect when jumping into One Night Stand on Steam.
What I got was an extremely potent flashback to my bed-hopping early twenties and all the feelings of awkwardness, vulnerability and faux-Catholic guilt that characterised that period. I realise that doesn't sound like the most ringing endorsement for a video game, but bear with me. One Night Stand is a game in which you wake up naked in a stranger's bed, unable to remember what happened to you the night before. As the minutes tick slowly by, you attempt to piece together what happened last night by talking to your former bedfellow and - whenever she nips out to do something - snooping around her bedroom.
The items you find in the room open up new dialogue options, many of which hint at there being more to this tale than a simple drunken hookup - issues of consent, identity and the burning question of what comes next are all raised. You can also play as a complete pig, if you want to - I don't know many games that will let you attempt to steal someone's underwear in the first two minutes, but One Night Stand certainly isn't afraid to go there.
To discuss the other elements and conversation topics would be to spoil the game, but the really striking thing about One Night stand is how well it captures that feeling of awkwardness and vulnerability that often (but not always) follows a one night stand. The sense of being under a lens, of having to quickly feel out and re-establish boundaries, all while naked in a stranger's bed. The tension, in other words, between desperately needing to pause and process what happened last night but being unable to, as the experience isn't yet over.
As with the real world equivalent, One Night Stand is a conversational minefield through which one should tread carefully, as the situation has many possible outcomes. Because of its brevity, it's a game you're encouraged to play over and over to see how else things could have played out. It's an uncomfortable game to play at many points, so these repeated playthroughs inevitably lead to a moment in which you ask yourself 'why do I keep doing this?' Which is kind of brilliant, as it's the same question one often (but not always) ends up asking oneself when habitually sleeping around.