Games

Indie Horror Month 2016: Executing 'The Deed'

It's just so easy to kill someone in a video game that it's surprising when a game makes murder difficult.


The Deed

Publisher: GrabTheGames Studios
Developer: Pilgrim Adventures, GrabTheGames Studios
Release Date: 2015-11-23
URL

I've killed a lot of people in video games. Mostly on purpose, sometimes accidentally. It's usually for some greater good or for survival. It's kill or be killed out there in these virtual worlds. Occasionally there is no greater good or even any good involved. Vengeance, anger, curiosity, boredom -- these are all fine reasons to kill someone in a video game. It's not a big deal. I'm not here to pontificate on the morality of it all, I'm more interested in the ease of it all. It's just so easy to kill someone in a video game that it's surprising when a game makes murder difficult.

The Deed is not explicitly a horror game. Tonally it's more of a crime thriller, a classic murder mystery whodunit in which we play the killer instead of the investigator. Structurally it's more of a puzzle game in which have to figure out how to best frame someone else for our crime. However, the horror element emerges the more that you play it and the more that you realize how the game is making you think.

We play as Arran Bruce, heir of Dunshiel House, though not for much longer. We’ve been estranged from our family for quite a while, but we’ve come home for our father's birthday in order to stop him from giving our inheritance to our sister. The easiest way to accomplish this is to kill our sister. Don't worry too much about the morality of your actions here. Our father was physically and mentally abusive, and our sister is a deranged individual who would squander her inheritance anyway. Our mother drinks away her pain, but at least the maid and butler seem like fine people. Not that that matters. We're going to murder someone tonight, and we need a patsy to take the fall. Kindness and sympathy are only going to get in the way of our perfect crime.

Like any good murder simulator, The Deed offers plenty of options for killing: shotgun, rope, poison, knife, club, or even your bare hands. As the evening begins, we have free reign to explore the house in order to pick a weapon and a piece of evidence. Once we choose these two items, the game automatically moves forward to a dinner scene, and afterwards, we have free reign once again to plant the evidence and do the deed.

This structure is actually quite simple and straightforward. The Deed is a short game that's all about replayability, testing different combinations of evidence and murder weapon. If you skip over the dialogue, which you'll absolutely do by your third attempt, you can get through the game in less than 20 minutes. It's short, but it's far from simple. There's a surprising and impressive amount of nuance in how the night can play out.

The first time that I tried to kill my sister I carefully explored the house until I found some items that told a perfectly acceptable story. I’d hide some love letters between my sister and the maid under the maid’s bed. Then I’d strangle my sister with a noose, making it look like suicide. To further sell the lie, I was sure to comment on their flirting during dinner.

The maid was certainly a great patsy, but I ended up getting the details of my story all wrong because I didn’t realize the game was smart enough to recognize my inconsistencies. The noose came from a crate locked by the butler, so why would the maid have access? My sister and the maid may have been flirting, but I did nothing to hint at a strained relationship, so the suicide angle fell flat. Finally, I was acting like an asshole the whole night, telling off my abusive father, insulting my idiot sister, and calling my mother a drunk. It felt good to do all those things since the fiction goes a long way in demonizing your family members, but my cathartic vengeance only succeeded in turning suspicions towards me. It took me a few tries to realize what I was doing wrong.

Games often make us into killers, but they rarely make us think like a killer. The Deed wants you to think like a killer, and more specifically a sociopathic killer. The perfect crime is more than just the right weapon used at the right time. It’s about manipulating the people around us as well. The Deed wants us to think through every aspect of the crime, to plan our every move and every word. All that we do is a thoughtful act of deception. We’re not just any old killer, we're a fledgling Hannibal Lecter, an amateur Dexter Morgan.

If those two successful (fictional) serial killers have anything in common, it's their understanding of the importance of outward appearances. They act demure. They're smart, calm, and certainly not afraid of speaking their mind, but they're not one to go looking for a fight. If offended, they would shrug off the insult publicly, make a show of taking it in stride. Privately, they would kill the shit out of the offender, but it's that awareness of outward appearances that matters to The Deed.

Our attitude matters. Our outward appearance matters. Our actions, as interpreted by others, matter. We're not an assassin or soldier or hero who can act without consequence, we actually have to worry about how our actions will be perceived by those around us (or more specifically, by the detective called to the house to investigate).

This is how the game moves beyond its premise as a simple murder simulator. It's not really about the physical action of killing, it’s about the mental preparation before the killing. It's not about being a killer, it's about thinking like a killer. It's about understanding the importance of a social mask, and forcing ourselves to bear the niceties of society in order to achieve our dark goal.

I can’t curse out my father if I'm trying to set up the maid. I must be polite so as to not distract the later investigation. However, if my father is going to be the fall guy then I can argue with him, but only in such a way as to establish him as a man with a violent temper. I still can't curse him out. I still can't let my true feelings be known. The kill is all that matters, any other want or desire must be suppressed and controlled.

There is a perfect way to play The Deed, a perfect series of answers that you’ll always want to give to avoid suspicion, and they always involve you keeping your real feelings to yourself. You only let down your mask if doing so will help frame a target, but for the rest of the night, every night, you put up a smile and act nice.

As a sociopath in The Deed, I cease to exist as an individual, a character, a personality -- I am nothing but a conduit for the kill, a malleable persona that changes depending on the situation and plan. I am not a person, I am only a means to an end.

The Deed is available on Steam for $0.99.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.