I’d heard a lot about Night in the Woods, and the things it addresses throughout its relatively short playtime, such as mental illness and depression, the difficulties we face when growing up, and trying to find our place in the world. My wife and I play a lot of games together – or rather I play and she likes to watch. It’s normally games like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Firewatch, and Gone Home, mainly because we’re cerebral people who think about things far too much, and this genre tends to offer plenty to connect with.
When things finally settled down with work and life in general, my wife and I sat down to play it. I’d read a lot on Twitter from people about how good it was, how poignant and moving it was, and how well it dealt with the difficult themes at its core. I personally haven’t had to deal with mental health problems, but I was curious to see how Night in the Woods dealt with it so well. There were many moments throughout playing when I got choked up, or I got it. They talk about religion, which was something I had huge amounts of exposure to growing up. I went to church up until the age of 15, and it messed me up, truth be told. It made me terrified to live my life, be a teenager, and enjoy the things a kid growing up should. I’ll save the story for another day, but basically, Night in the Woods gets a lot right when it acknowledges how it feels to be beholden to a ‘God’ that doesn’t exist (in my opinion, anyway), and fearing the great unknown.
I also connected to the way Mae feels when she’s at home – calm, safe. Throughout all of the struggles she faces, and all of the mistakes she seems to make, her parents are always there for her, ready to talk, ready to help, ready to love. No matter how old I get, or how distant I drift away from my beginnings, I know I’ve got my mum and dad to support me in anyway that they can. This kind of leads me onto the main reason I’m here right now writing this.
There’s one character I connected with the most in Night in the Woods, and his name is Stan Borowski, the unsung hero of the story. From early on, it was Stan who was sat on the sofa after his daughter came home from her day in Possum Springs, always willing to listen, and never ready to judge. I admire his relationship with Mae, and I hope to be that kind of father – one that never judges his kids regardless of what they’ve done, and just wants to make her feel happy, whatever the resolution is. When my girls reach that age, I want to ask them to come and watch TV with me, and sit on the sofa as if everything is OK, letting me know whatever may be on their mind.
I cried once whilst playing Night in the Woods. It hit me like a punch to the stomach, and it happened towards the end of the game. Without dipping into spoiler territory, I won’t put Stan’s speech into context. What he says to Mae whilst standing outside his house moved me because I related to it, 100%. Stan pours his heart out to his daughter, and it’s a emotional window into Stan’s soul; he talks about how he struggles with the irregular hours he works, and how he does so because he wanted to give her mother time to do the things she wanted to do – “I wanted to give you and her your time. I wanted her to have her hobbies and enough time and money to do them”. I enjoy my job, but no matter what kind of job you have, if you are the sole provider regardless of the trade you are in, it can be fucking tough.
“That’s what made me happy. Now I just work so I can keep our health insurance and hold onto the house. Or try to at least”. Sometimes I feel like work just to pay the bills, and I think this is what affected me the most. Sometimes all you seem to do is work, pay bills, sleep, wake up, work, pay bills, wake up, and on it goes. But life isn’t that at all. Life is filled with happiness, joy, and love. If you have special people in your life, then nothing has to be monotonous or painful. Yeah, shit happens all the time, but if you have what matters the most in your life, the bad times can burn in the grandest of fires. Mae listens to Stan, and she hears his pain, but as he finishes, Mae gives him something, and it turns him around. He sees his daughter stood there, listening to him – wanting to help, and he gets it. He knows how lucky he is, and he thanks her.
Whenever life gets me down, I have my two beautiful daughters there to give me a hug, to draw me a picture, or tell me a joke. I have my wife there to tell me how good a person I am, and how she appreciates me, and I believe her. We all have shit going on in our lives, but it’s important to look around us and see how lucky we are, be it through friends, family, or the comforts that give us peace. Stan Borowski helped me to see I’m not alone – to know it’s OK to struggle and to worry, but as long as you have happiness in your life, everything will be alright.