She Dreams Elsewhere is The First Game That Feels Made Specifically for Me
She Dreams Elsewhere could be the perfect video game for me on a personal and emotional level, and I just want to play the full game already.
As a black gamer, there are very few examples of main protagonists in gaming that make me feel seen. When it comes to this generation alone, there are only two notable characters that I can think of: Lincoln from Mafia III and Marcus from Watch Dogs 2. There are also great black characters where their race doesn’t have a significant impact on their background, like Lee and Clementine from The Walking Dead. Not only that, but I am a black gamer whose favorite genre is JRPGs, and the last black party member I’m aware of from one is Sazh from Final Fantasy XIII back in 2009. It isn’t something that upsets me personally, per se, but it is a reality that I think developers could improve on.
There have always been ongoing conversations around representation in video games, especially in regard to featuring black main characters. Part of me thinks that this comes from a lack of black video game developers, writers, and others working in the games industry as a whole. Another part of me thinks non-black video game developers might be worried about creating a black main protagonist and not doing them justice. While those may be sound reasons, personally I feel developers should take that opportunity to tell more stories from different racial perspectives in games.
In light of this, last year I came across a compelling indie title called She Dreams Elsewhere, a turn-based adventure game featuring an all-black party that seemingly has everything I want in a video game. Up to now, I have only played the opening prologue (which you can also play right now on Steam) and I came out of it being thoroughly surprised and pleased. Mixing together the best parts of games like Persona, Undertale, and Mother 3 while still having a story and characters all its own, this all makes She Dreams Elsewhere one of my most anticipated games this year. Starring a young woman named Thalia, you experience her relationship with her mental health conditions like social anxiety. From the start, it is a game in similar JRPG fashion that isn’t about the end goal, but the journey that Thalia and her friends Amia and Oliver go through along the way. After falling into a coma, Thalia and friends travel through different sections of her mind fighting her inner demons. While an obvious metaphor, it’s the characters and game design that really shows She Dreams Elsewhere‘s creativity.
Being a turn-based RPG, each character has skills that they can use to hurt enemies, but in a more grounded “in reality” type of way. By using the Roast ability that deals fire damage you don’t actually hit them with fire: you verbally burn them. Another, for example, is telling an enemy to “Shut The F**k Up,” with the chance of silencing them so they can’t use abilities against your characters. The idea of it is so obvious, but so unexpected at the same time: I can’t help but praise it.
The immediate hook that originally reeled me into She Dreams Elsewhere is the music. Having a mixture of black originated genres like R&B, funk, and jazz completely sets the atmosphere and identity of the game. The music was always present in my mind, and I can’t wait to hear all the different tracks that will play throughout the story.
Everything that She Dreams Elsewhere does speaks to me on a profound and personal level. The dialogue feels natural, modern, and relatable for those are in their mid-to-late 20s like Thalia, the representation of black characters (without having to be obvious about the characters’ race), and the continuously fun gameplay makes She Dreams Elsewhere one of my most anticipated titles for this year and at this point, I’m just begging for a release date, as you can tell from my tweets.
— Cam Hawkins⚡️⚡️🧢 🔜 PAX East (@TheCinephileGuy) February 6, 2020
She Dreams Elsewhere is set to release sometime this year on Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux, but you can play the prologue right now for free on Steam. For more information on She Dreams Elsewhere, you can check out my interview with creator Davionne Gooden.