New Video Game Combats the Ultimate Villain—the All-Too-Familiar Feeling of Exhaustion

Candleman Games
Candleman Games

Maybe you're up late working on your dissertation, or you're binge-watching every episode of Game of Thrones (again) before the final season airs. Either way, you know how drained this midnight crusade will leave you in the morning. Sleep is a vitally important part of our health (and makes us better people, too), and yet our cultural insomnia often ranks it lower in priority than finishing just one more chapter in that latest page-turner.

In Yet Another Exhausting Day, from indie developer Candleman Games, this feeling of constant fatigue is the central conceit. The player moves an overtired avatar through a series of obstacles, with the endgame being to finally collapse in bed. The visual representation of this debilitating lack of energy, however, results in a hilarious (if oddly relatable) ragdoll physics that forces the character to physically crawl through the game's setup.

The inspiration for the game came during a 2017 Ludum Dare game jam, a 48-hour gaming development competition. The event's theme was "running out of power." From there, Beijing-based programmer and producer Gao Ming began the process and developed a prototype based on the idea that "one can only crawl because of exhaustion."

Speaking with Wang Hao (who goes by Maxine), a level designer from Candleman Games, the main inspiration for the game originated from a very specific word. "Gao came up with an idea about a person who is running out of strength," Hao tells Mental Floss. "This reminded him of a cultural buzz word in China: 葛优躺, a term describing a person's gesture of lying on a sofa in an exhausted way."

Another inspiration for the game, they say, came from an old internet GIF about a middle-school student crawling through desks like a worm. From that, Gao developed the rest of the game by combining the idea of a collapsed person with the crawling action in a 3D space.

The original prototype had an absurd, humorous vibe. But as with the development of any creative endeavor, the design and editing process has been, well, exhausting.

"We did experiments in many directions: combat, puzzle solving, linear progression, and an endless mode with random level generation," Hao says. "But many of these game prototypes were abandoned because they are not fun enough or had no development potential. It really is exhausting."

Candleman Games

Even if the process was tedious at times, Yet Another Exhausting Day was always intended to be a relaxing, therapeutic experience. The game, the developers say, wasn't made to have any clear answers, opinions, or solutions on the real-world issue of sleep deprivation—only to make the user think about what keeps them awake when they're extremely exhausted.

Unlike their previous game, Candleman, a game about a little candle who wants to be a lighthouse in order to illuminate the surrounding darkness, they didn't want players to act as a hero of a pre-scripted story. "We want players to simply have fun, and be the protagonist in their own stories," Hao says.

Candleman Games

You can play an up-to-date prototype of Yet Another Exhausting Day on the game's website, where the team provides updates every three weeks and discusses many of the features that will be implemented. A final version is slated for an early-access release some time during the spring for Steam. Non-PC gamers can expect it to be released soon after for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, as well as on mobile platforms through the App Store and GooglePlay.

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