Video Game: Among the Sleep

"No child should have to go through this..."
Among the Sleep is a crowd-funded Psychological Horror game by Krillbrite Studio. Distinct among games in that genre, it is played from the point of view of a toddler, who wakes up in the middle the night after something disturbing happens and goes seeking his mother with the help of his faithful teddy bear. Unfortunately, things are not as they seem and the situation becomes increasingly surreal and dangerous as he goes...

Warning: all trope names will be unspoiled, so read at your own risk!

Tropes used in Among the Sleep:

  • Abusive Parents: See The Alcoholic below. On the other hand, it does seem like the Mother only acts this way when drunk, and it's implied by the end that she finally realizes that she's abusive. On the other hand, it appears as if the Father is the Big Good of the situation, although the mother is constantly trying to cut him off.
  • Adult Fear: The whole game. You play as a toddler who is going through a world filled with dangerous creatures that want to kill you. Towards the end, an even greater fear is discovered: the toddler has been abused by his mother and has been seeing images of her previous breakdowns.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The toddler often does this after picking Teddy up. He even does this to his mother while she's crying on the kitchen floor.
  • The Alcoholic: The Toddler's mother is having some issues.
  • All Just a Dream: It appears that way toward the game's end...
    • Or Was It a Dream?: Until you see some of the key items sitting throughout the house. It's Subverted though, as those items were already part of the child's life and toy collection, hence their significance as "memories" during the game.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Teddy's arm is ripped off near the end of the game.
  • Anti-Villain: The trenchcoat monster could be trying to protect you from the violent female monster by getting you away from her, just like the child's father may be trying to protect him by getting him away from his abusive mother.
    • Also the Mother herself isn't a particularly awful person, though she really, really should not be drinking so heavily with a child to raise.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: One of the reasons why the reveal is particularly shocking is that in the opening scene and the memories the mother comes off as a kind-hearted, pleasant woman who genuinely cares for her son. While it's clear she does love him, she's definitely not a good caretaker. If she is always as much of an abusive drunk as she is in the ending, or if that came about because of losing a custody battle with a worse guardian is not made clear. Sadly, Truth in Television: alcohol can change someone's personality in a more negative fashion.
  • Big Bad: Can be interpreted as the toddler's mother, who is alcoholic and lashes out at him, the unknown father who is fighting for custody of the child, or both.
  • Big Good: Possibly the protagonist's father, whose entire role in the game may be trying to get him away from his abusive mother.
    • Teddy might count too, being your constant companion and advice-giver throughout the game. He's even lost near the end because of the representative of the aforementioned Big Good, the trenchcoat monster. It is also worth noting that Teddy has the same voice as the Father, implying that while the Toddler is afraid of being taken from the Mother, he knows that the Father will protect him.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The child finally places each of the memories of its mother to unlock the door and leaves his room to find her drunk on the kitchen floor and - after she shoves him away from her - the child leaves with the father who gave him the teddy bear. You literally give up memories of good times with your mother to open the door to a future with your father.
    • It's also clear that while the mother really does care for the child, she is just not fit to raise him, as in addition to being The Alcoholic, her fits of depression cause her to end up abusing the child without realizing it. While it's depressing to see her finally realize this and give up the child, it's also a reassuring feeling knowing the child won't be abused anymore.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The later stages of the game become increasingly abstract.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: The mother's necklace, the music box, the storybook, and the pink elephant seen at the beginning of the game are all memories that power the machine in the playhouse.
  • Children Are Innocent: Played for Drama, in that the protagonist is too young to fully understand the custody battle he's in the middle of. The strange surroundings are his imagination's way of coming to terms.
  • Creepy Good: Teddy, who is on your side and a pretty nice guy, but also has a creepy voice and falls squarely into the Uncanny Valley.
    • The trenchcoat monster may fall into a combination of this, Not Evil, Just Misunderstood, and Hero Antagonist, as it represents the child's father, who seems to be trying to get him away from his abusive mother. The monster representing the mother could be as well, a formerly great mother who is driven into a bottle by a long custody battle with a father who deserves custody less.
  • Determinator: The child. He endures the dark, danger and runs afoul of Monsters to find his mom and the memories. Not bad for a two year old. On the non imaginative side of things, he's managed to get through 2 years of his mother's drinking and abuse and still love her through his limited expression of Affectionate Gesture to the Head.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A child tries to cope as two figures fight to take it away. The ending shows the backdrop of the story is a custody battle.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Thanks to a thunderstorm occurring while the protagonist is walking around the house at night.
  • Fairytale Motifs: Swamps, forests and the shadowy monster that lies within them all bear a great deal of imagery from Scandinavian folklore, reinforced by the nursery rhyme called Trollmors vaggsång, the "Trollmother's Lullaby" that plays at various points in the game.
  • Foreshadowing: In the library level, one of the paintings depicts a woman drinking from a well, then walking toward a lake suddenly looking suspiciously like the monster that's been chasing you...
    • Some of Teddy's dialogue can qualify, particularly the line "No child should have to go through this". It makes sense for him to say that given the context of the game, but once you know about the protagonist's mother being an abusive drunk it takes on a new meaning.
    • You may notice that the levels are often littered with glass bottles. Turns out that they're the mother's.
    • One of the items from the Chekhov's Armoury mentioned above foreshadows the ending if you understand the meaning of "Seeing Pink Elephants".
    • At the very start of the game, if you pay attention to the mother's hands, you can see she isn't wearing a wedding ring. A closer looks shows a thin line where she use to wear it.
      • Speaking of the mother, take a hard look at her sweater during the opening cutscene. There's a wine-colored stain at the bottom, usually partially covered by her left arm. When she stands to answer the door, it becomes clearly visible.
      • Now look at her eyes when she picks the kid up for the credits sequence. Anyone else think they look awfully bloodshot for an otherwise accurate character model?
    • Early on, Teddy picks up a storybook and reads from it. From what he reads aloud, it's about a group of animals drilling for water before they die of thirst. We find out later the mother has a different kind of thirst.
  • Harmful to Minors: The monsters that chase the protagonist.
  • Heroic Mime: The protagonist, although he does make little noises here and there. Teddy Lampshades this near the beginning.
    Teddy: Not much of a talker yet, eh?
    • He does, however, yell out "No!" when Teddy is taken away near the end of the game.
    • It's worth noting that toddlers generally learn some level of speech by age; the fact that he doesn't talk by then hints at The Reveal.
  • Humanoid Abomination: There are two pitch black monsters each found in two stages of the game: one is a bizarre creature with a tank top and what appears to be frizzled hair, while the other is a trench coat with eyes inside the neck hole, both of which can be found on the varying drawings throughout the game. The former is how the toddler perceives his mother when she is in a drunken stupor, and judging from the drawings, believes she frequently becomes possessed by a monster. The latter is the child's father, who constantly tries getting him away from her.
  • Infinite Flashlight: Hugging Teddy functions this way, to evoke the feeling of protection that a stuffed animal would give to an infant in dark and scary places.
  • Interface Screw: When the toddler looks directly at the Humanoid Abomination. When it happens again after the mother harms her child at the end, it becomes the final sign of what's really been going on in the game.
    • The closer he looks, the harder it probably is to deny the monster's identity.
  • Jump Scare: The first and second encounters with the monster.
  • Kid Hero:Exaggerated, as the hero is two years old. It helps that he has a sapient teddy bear with the mindset of an adult and a player that's close to beyond that point.
  • Motifs: Swamps, rivers and the sound of running liquid are all very prominent through a part of the game.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Mother. After she strikes her son, she immediately apologizes and says that she didn't mean to hit him. She then starts crying just as someone starts knocking on the door.
  • Music Soothes the Savage Beast: In the Prologue DLC, all of the items that completely dispel the cold freezing influence of the house, are either the music box, radios, or a kiddy cartoon with bright and peppy music.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: There are drawings scattered around the house of the baby protagonist, his mommy, and a creepy dark figure terrorizing them...
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Some areas are completely barren save for a few items here and there. In particular there are the many doors you enter into in the final stage, some of which lead nowhere, others which lead straight down. You only see the monsters a few times, but you hear them quite often.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: The Prologue DLC deals with the toddler finding his dolls and rescuing them from the cold. All but one is rescued from being frozen to death.
  • Nursery Rhyme: Though the lyrics are never sang, likely for language reasons, the tune the mother hums is the Scandinavian nursery rhyme, Trollmors vaggsång, "Trollmother's lullaby", which is about a Trollmother bedding her children and singing to them the most beautiful words she knows: Ho aj aj aj aj buff, "Ho ow ow ow ow shove"... It becomes an extremely Ironic Nursery Rhyme, though and through, and with an extra helping of meaningful irony to boot, when the truth is revealed at the end.
  • Pajama Clad Hero: The protagonist is wearing stars-and-moons pajamas from start to finish.
  • Parents in Distress: The adventure starts when it looks like the monsters have kidnapped the protagonist's mother. Turns out that's not quite the case...
  • Pink Elephants: No, the baby is not an alcoholic. He just happens to have a stuffed toy that is literally a pink elephant. Its prominence in the game is a foreshadowing of the mother's alcoholism.
  • Security Blanket: Teddy acts as one for the toddler, and occasionally the player as well. Oddly enough, he seems to act as one for the mother as well, as she's seen clutching him at the end. This may be symbolic of the mother realizing that she can't take care of her child, as Teddy represents the father.
  • Stepford Smiler: The Mother.
  • Swamps Are Evil: One of the areas of the game takes place in a dilapidated, overgrown manor house in a bubbling, dark swamp, inhabited by a hideous humanoid beast that stalks through it.
  • Surreal Horror: The setting starts out comprehensible enough, if a little scary from a child's point of view, but as the events of the game progress the environment becomes increasingly abstract, featuring settings with out-of-place objects and rooms and Bizarrchitecture.
  • Teddy Bear: Teddy is a faithful companion in the protagonist's journey, who can offer commentary, hints, and when hugged tightly, make the world literally seem a little less dark. At the end of the game, the father speaks with Teddy's voice, implying that the toddler was using Teddy as a substitute father during the game.
  • Troubled Abuser: The mother.
  • Vocal Dissonance: The toddler's heavy breathing at times sounds very much like an adult's.
  • Wham Episode: Though there's plenty of Foreshadowing as to what's really going on, the area after the protagonist is separated from Teddy leaves no doubt about what's really happening as well as who the monster really is.
    Mother: Not now. Not now, hon. I said...not now.