A graphical point-and-click adventure game, released in 1996.The only thing Steve knows about himself is that his name is Steve, and he's really just taking that on faith. Initially the neighborhood may appear to be a perfect Stepford Suburbia, but with even more things wrong than usual. Mom is baking (thousands of) cookies in preparation for a bake sale that's still a week away. Of course, they won't be good then, so she's shovelling them into the trash. Steve's baby sister lies screaming in her crib, neglected. Steve's brother, Hank, is immovable from in front of the television, where he watches a disturbingly gory and realistic show about cowboys killing Native Americans. There's not much of a plot or anything, just killing them over and over, with the "special effects" making it disturbingly real.Mom informs Steve that when the big day comes, the town's Lodge will have a big blood drive, and everyone has to give blood. Well, except for Lodge members.Steve should consider joining the Lodge.Steve decides to join the Lodge, if he makes it past the paper boy that is. See, times have been tough around Harvest since the newspaper building burned down, and a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do, right? Well, if there aren't any newspapers being made, then our lad has decided to pick them up. He'd really appreciate it if you could help him out, just leave a newspaper for him outside every day... or there might be some consequences.Upon visiting the Lodge, the Lodge's Sergeant At Arms informs Steve telepathically that the Lodge has standards Steve must meet in order to apply, and for today's task Steve must steal or otherwise acquire an application to the Lodge. Each day, Steve is given a successively worse task. From stealing an antique barber pole from its shop (how was Steve supposed to know that the wires from the pole's light would land in a puddle of water, or that the shopkeep would be standing in that puddle when he went to go turn the pole on in the dark?) to outright arson (which provokes suicide), Steve finds himself becoming more and more the villain in his own tale, but he can't stop... he has to join the Lodge before the blood drive. Everyone has to help with the blood drive, Steve.Unsurprisingly, it was considered one of the most disgusting games ever created. Harvester is a reaction to, and deconstruction of, the idea that video games promote violence, taking it to its furthest extreme in the idea that video games create serial killers. Steve is a normal boy who's been abducted and placed into an incredibly detailed Virtual Reality simulation, the ultimate goal of which is to turn him into a serial killer, essentially a boy put into a video game that will make him a killer, or kill him. Because of the game's graphic nature, it was banned in Germany, heavily censored in the UK, and never released in Australia at all, as the distributor felt there would be no point as the game would just get banned anyway. In the US, the game received heavy attention from Moral Guardians and Media Watchdog types. Harvester set out to offend the hell out of anyone who took it seriously, while simultaneously using a quirky sense of humor for anyone else. E.G., when asked about Edna, the owner of the local diner, Mr. Johnson announces that "what she really needs" is a penis. The game's goal is both to make you laugh at certain points and be horrified at others, it's a rare person that Harvester cannot make squirm at some point.
This game provides examples of:
All Just a Dream: Parodied during the bad ending, in which Steve, after murdering a victim after successfully becoming a serial killer, is shown playing Harvesterin the real world, only to be subverted in the end as he actually did kill the victim. And ate her, too.
Arc Words: "You always were a kidder, Steve." It's implied that "kidder" here is supposed to be similar to "killer" as a means of Foreshadowing, but it's never directly stated.
Author Tract: It's hard to tell if it's the developers' actual opinions, but all the "Temple of the Mystery of X"s in the final floor of the lounge all have some rather cynical things to say about abstinence, motherhood, religion and all sorts of other topics.
The game's message is possibly best summed up in the worst ending:
"Don't you know that people who watch violence become violent themselves?"
"THAT'S BULLSHIT, MOM."
Berserk Button: You'd better not forget to leave the paper out for Jimmy James every day. Bad things might happen.
Big Bad: The Sergeant at Arms, who engineers and manipulates the bulk of Steve's actions and trials in Harvest.
(after your mother pushes your infant sibling's eyeballs back into place)
Steve: Shouldn't we get her to the hospital?
Mother: Nonsense! She has her mother!
Bondage Is Bad: Steve's mother, full stop. Not only is his father confined to a bloodied room and bandaged from all the sexual abuse she dishes out, but if you return to the room at night, she'll kill you without question.
Bratty Half-Pint: Hank, who threatens to tattle on Steve over any and every perceived slight.
Broken Aesop: Arguable. The game’s Aesop is that exposure to violent media can lead people to become violent themselves, and tries to demonstrate this by forcing the player to perform heinous actions to win, and then rub their nose in it in the end. Whether this move works or simply breaks the Aesop completely is debatable.
However, given that this IS Harvester, it's entirely possible it could be a Spoof Aesop, too
But Thou Must: You will join the Lodge, whether you like it or not. Oh, and you will commit crime after crime, all because some guy in front of a door keeps telling you to.
Also Option B seems to be that the Lodge will come for your blood in the Blood Drive, if you're not a member.
Confirmed. If you get and do everything you need to become a Lodge member, and go home instead of to the Lodge on the final day, the day ends and Steve is forced to donate blood.
Chainsaw Good: Subverted. You can pick up a chainsaw (after killing its former owner, a birthday clown), and it is one of the most powerful melee weapons in the game. However, it has limited fuel, burns through its ammo supply quickly, and by the time you get it, you’ll probably have much more reliable weapons on hand.
It's also an inversion of the whole "adventure game hero makes everyone happy through random fetch quests" trope. Steve's actions only make everyone's lives worse, and whatever good deeds he does do are just made worse by later bad deeds.
Depraved Kids' Show Host: Range Ryder, star of a kids western wherein he brutally and bloodily kills Indians (and apparently cusses on-air as well.)
Dirty Old Man: Deputy Loomis is obsessed with porn. In fact, one of the game's objectives is completed by bribing him with a porno magazine.
Downer Ending: Both endings. Either Steve and Stephanie get married in the dream but die in reality, or Steve kills Stephanie and make it out, as a full-fledged serial killer. The former at least has some qualities of a Bittersweet Ending, considering that Steve and Stephanie live long enough to have a normal virtual life, but at the same time, there's no indication that Steve could have stopped the Harvesters.
In addition, once you take a picture of Principal Herril and Miss Whaley in the broom closet, you can show it to almost everyone in Harvest, and everyone has a unique reaction to it. It has no impact on the game unless you show it to Karen, where Sherrif Dwayne will arrest you.
Four-Star Badass: Colonel Buster Monroe. The bastard got his entire lower body shot off during WWII, so what did he do? He crawled all the way from Germany to England, stopping every few miles to wind his intestines back in. In any other game, that’d just be ludicrous; here, it’s par for the course.
Gainax Ending: The Lodge itself is absolutely nothing like the rest of the game, shifting from one unrelated environment to another. The reason for this is revealed at the end of the level - see "The Ending Changes Everything" for an explanation.
The Bad Ending. When Steve is released from the simulation, he ends up playing... Harvester itself?
I'm a Humanitarian: In the bad ending, it turns out Steve's now a cannibal, on top of being a serial killer.
Improbable Weapon User: Lampshaded if you examine the piece of toast in the evidence room: "That most improbable of all murder weapons...toast."
Infant Immortality: Steve's brother, Hank, cannot be killed no matter what. Subverted with Karin; killing her, though, collapses the plot and gives you an instant Game Over. You can also kill Jimmy the paper boy... if he doesn't kill you first.
Knight of Cerebus: The Sergeant-At-Arms. While Harvester was already a pretty dark game, most of the dark elements in the earlier portion are at least somewhat Played for Laughs. After Steve gets his Lodge application in, though, the Sergeant-At-Arms orders him to perform increasingly heinous tasks, two of which indirectly result in death.
Large Ham: Appropriately enough, Mr. Pottsdam. “My meat! MY MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!”
Last Name Basis: Mr. and Mrs. Pottsdam are a rather jarring example. They even refer to each other as such.
Mood Whiplash: Conversations with NPCs can go this way when they're talking about the various things Steve has done around town. Try going most of the game without talking to an NPC, then talk to them and see how many times they change moods at the drop of a hat while they're discussing current events.
Moon Logic Puzzle: Deliberately invoked with the Temple of the Mystery of Religion (which is also a Take That at fundamentalism,) where Steve has to answer multiple choice questions about God to prove that he's a true believer and not a heathen. They start out simple enough ("Does God exist?", "Where does God dwell?") and then quickly get more and more ridiculous ("Does God bounce on a spring, or frolic with the wombats?") to the point that it's impossible to get the right answers without just guessing. Fortunately, Steve doesn't have to pass the test; He can always just kill everyone in the room.
Moral Guardians: The game was deliberately made to offend these types - though this is part of the point of the game. When it was released, one angry guardian claimed that one particular scene, involving the decapitation of an infant, was so horrifying that she literally could not believe it wasn't real, thinking that they actually killed a baby.
In the game itself, this is subverted - a lot of the adult characters try to act as moral compasses for many others - but their own insane perversions of morality end up bringing about suffering to those that they look out for.
An example that is played straight appears in the bad ending. Steve's mother sees him playing a violent video game and worries that he could become a serial killer. Steve dismisses her claims as "bullshit"... Only because he'd already been conditioned to become a Serial Killer at that point.
Mr. Fanservice: Steve seems to have been an intended example, if the fact that they keep reusing the FMV sequence of him taking his shirt off is anything to go by.
This becomes really creepy in hindsight, as the actor who played the character was eventually arrested for possessing child pornography.
Ms. Fanservice: Several FMVs show Stephanie stripping down to her underwear.
New Media Are Evil: Played for Laughs with Boyle, who blames television for the fall in mail circulation, and has already burned the local TV station down at least once. Played horrifyingly straight with the ending. The entire town of Harvest is a virtual reality game, meant to break Steve and turn him into an actual serial killer.
Nightmare Sequence: At the end of each day, Steve has one. They're represented by various short clips of Gorn floating in the screen, along with, for some unfathomable reason, a burger.
Non-Standard Game Over: Killing anyone outside the lodge without a Get Out of Jail Free Card or specific orders to kill them lead to Steve's death by electric chair. There are also many other that may stem from wrong dialogue choices or actions.
Painted-On Pants: When seen in the Lodge, Mr. Pottsdam. It's very clear the "pants" he's wearing in the scene were added digitally in post, which begs the question of what he was wearing (if anything at all) in the original take.
If you look closely at his in-game sprite during that part when he walks, his legs are a slightly different color than the rest of his pants. This probably indicates that he was wearing underwear, and they edited it in post-production, for some reason.
Pet the Dog: Steve rescuing Karin from Mr. Pottsdam early in Day 3. Which makes the end of Day 5 all the worse.
Phrase Catcher: Almost nobody believes Steve when he tries to tell them about his amnesia, responding with, "You always were a kidder, Steve."
Real Men Eat Meat: Mr. Pottsdam subscribes to this philosophy. The only reason he’s marrying Stephanie off is so he can get a job with Steve’s dad’s meat plant. When that falls through, he offers Stephanie as a means of joining the Lodge, and tries to kill Steve. In a freezer. Full of meat. I’m sensing a pattern here…
The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Played to the point of parody. Upon seeing what appears to be Stephanie's removed spine, her mother thinks it could've been a suicide. The sheriff points out that he never heard of anyone ripping their own spine out... only to say she died of natural causes, because "You can't live without a spine. There's nothing more natural than that."
The Sociopath: Hank tells you that when he heard that Karin was missing, he went over to her mother's house and asked if she could play. He says that he wanted to see how long it would take her to stop crying, but went in to their house to watch TV once she didn't. Sensing her vulnerability, Hank asked her to fix him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and to cut the crusts off, but he ate the crusts anyway. He then says that while Karin's mother was in the bathroom with the water running, he went into her room to see if there was anything worth taking, but didn't take anything because all she had was "girl stuff."
Schmuck Bait: A lot. Your father warns you that it's a really bad idea to let your mother catch you in their room. Allowing this to happen leads to her blowing you away with a shotgun. Similarly, you can flat out admit that there's no good reason why Colonel Monroe shouldn't blow you away, and he'll kindly oblige.
Single-Issue Wonk: Mr. Pottsdam can't go more than ten seconds in a conversation without bringing up red meat.
Slapstick: Played straight and then quickly and brutally subverted when Whaley hits one of her students with a baseball bat. At first, it cuts away to the kid's head with a goofy expression in front of a swirling cartoony background and equally cartoony sound effects - and then it returns to the kid with a caved in skull and blood leaking out.
In fact, your mother, Stephanie's mother, and every other mother in the game are all played by the same actress, as though they had been mass produced.
Your mother is inexplicably present when Steve is being executed during the aforementioned Nonstandard Game Over, smiling and looking as pleasant as always.
She's also secretly a ludicrously violent S and M dom who locks your father in their room and performs horrific sex acts on him. Catching her in the act is enough to make her kill you.
Surreal Horror: There's buckets of blood and guts, but a lot of the creepy factor in the game comes from just how utterly wrong everything in Harvest is.
Take That: Both endings are a huge one toward a particularly popular assumption that was growing in the media (specifically, that video games are leading to real-world violence). The Good Ending has the antagonists lamenting that since the simulation ends in failure, they'll just have to go to the old fashioned way of creating serial killers by way of genetics, effectively criticizing the argument itself by means of referring to something that actually has scientific support instead of something based largely on circumstantial evidence. In the bad ending, where Steve's mother sees him playing a video game and telling him that it's going to make him violent Steve simply responds with a succinct "That's bullshit, mom."
Title Drop: "You can't live in Harvest without being a Harvester."
Tomato in the Mirror: Harvest isn’t real. It’s a VR program, shaped to destroy its victim’s will in the most efficient way possible.
Town with a Dark Secret: The town of Harvest. It is clear from the get-go that Harvest is not a nice place to live, and nobody even tries to hide that. Despite this, it does contain a Dark Secret like you would not believe. The town of Harvest does not exist. It is just a virtual reality program that Steve and Stephanie were hooked up to. The entire program is a murder simulator and it is supposed to slowly and surely turn Steve into a Serial Killer. He can get out of the program if he murders Stephanie and makes her Killed Off for Real.
Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Jimmy James in general. What kind of paperboy goes around collecting papers, making thinly-veiled threats to adults and and carrying a gun?
the cannibal children in the Lodge and Hank, Steve's younger brother, also count.
There's actually a random element to this. Certain characters not essential to the plot can be killed, and whether or not Steve gets away with it seems to be random chance. Namely, there seems to be some percentage chance that killing the mortician will go unpunished.
There's also a way to blackmail the sheriff, which results in a "Get out of Jail Free" Card, which allows you to get away with killing a single NPC who isn't essential to the plot.
Violence Discretion Shot: Parodied, as the only such shot in the whole game is used for a scene where the sheriff smacks his deputy with a rolled-up newspaper.
Wide Open Sandbox: Steve can go anywhere in Harvest during the day, including places that have no actual bearing on the game itself. A few puzzles even allow for alternate solutions in this way.
Womb Level: One of the least disturbing things Steve fights through in The Lodge.
Would Hurt a Child: Steve, should the player be willing to do so in the town. He has to do this in the Lodge.
Also... just about everyone in Harvest.
Miss Whaley especially. Repeatedly. With a baseball bat.
You All Look Alike: Many characters in the Lodge look like the residents of Harvest. Not to mention that Steve's mom, Mrs. Pottsdam, and all the moms at the Bake Sale are all played by the same actress and dress pretty much the same.
You Bastard: If you actually enjoy Harvester at any point, you are a monster. The game itself tells you this, and it's trying to entertain you!