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Video Game / Among the Sleep

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"A child should not have to go through this..."

Among the Sleep is a crowd-funded Psychological Horror game by Norwegian developer Krillbite Studio. Distinct among games in that genre, it is played from the point of view of a toddler, who wakes up in the middle of the night after something disturbing happens, and they go seeking their mother with the help of their faithful teddy bear. Unfortunately, things are not as they seem and the situation becomes increasingly surreal and dangerous as it unfolds...

The game was first released for the PC in 2014, with a port for the PS4 following in 2015 and the Xbox One in 2016. There have been two DLC released. The first was released a few months after the game's release and adds an extra chapter taking place before the events of the main game. The second, packaged the "Enhanced Edition," was released in late 2017 and contains behind-the-scenes, extras, and other tidbits related to the game's production. The game received an Updated Re-release on the Nintendo Switch in 2019.

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

Tropes used in Among the Sleep:

  • Abandoned Playground: The first of the dreamscape takes place here.
  • Abusive Parents: The mother, who is shown lashing out at her child physically and verbally. On one hand, it does seem like the Mother only acts this way when drunk, but alcoholic parents can be... Problematic in their own right. This is coupled with her attempts to cut off the Father, who seems to be the Big Good of the situation. On a hopeful note, it's implied by the end that she finally realizes that she's abusive.
  • Advancing Boss of Doom: Honz in the prequel chapter. Unlike most examples, you can't do jackshit to it once you're trapped besides screaming out for mommy. A temporary solution is to turn the lightswitch on the right wall, but the light will turn off eventually. You can also hide in the space where you find the frozen doll.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The toddler often does this after picking Teddy up. They even do this to their mother while she's crying on the kitchen floor.
  • The Alcoholic: The Toddler's mother is having some issues.
  • All Abusers Are Male: Subverted; the mother is the abusive alcoholic. The father appears to have been trying to save the child the whole time.
  • All Just a Dream: It appears that way toward the game's end, where you come to in a closet; when you traverse the house once more, everything looks normal.
  • All There in the Manual: There are a lot of interesting trivia in the Museum DLC about the symbolism of the levels' designs. The reason why you get locked up in a shed of the Playground is because the Child was once bullied by older kids. Meanwhile, the Forested House level is depicted as a half-house, half-swamp structure as it represents the tearing apart of the Child's family.
  • All There in the Script: The names of the game's four monsters are Harald (the one with the umbrella), Hyda (the frizzly-haired, tank top-wearing female), Heap (the Trench Coat Monster), and Honz (the furnace). However, you will never know about them unless you have the Museum DLC and bother to read the texts.
  • Ambiguous Gender: The child is dressed in blue pajamas, but seems to identify with a girl in a pink dress in a jigsaw puzzle. When directly addressed, it's only by terms of endearment that could be used for any child, such as "hun" and "little one." The developers state outright that while the toddler was designed with a boy in mind, they intentionally made it ambiguous so the player could identify with them however they wanted.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Did mom lose the custody battle because she was an alcoholic, or did she become an alcoholic because she lost the custody battle?
  • An Aesop: Don't abuse alcohol. It may turn you into an abusive monster that hurts the ones you care about the most.
  • Anti-Villain: The Mother isn't a particularly awful person when she's not drinking, though she can't break her habit while raising her child, leading to his abuse.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Teddy's arm is ripped off near the end of the game.
  • 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 child. While it's clear she does love them, 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 another guardian is not made clear. Sadly, Truth in Television: alcohol can change someone's personality in a negative fashion.
  • Big Bad: Can be interpreted as the toddler's mother, who is an alcoholic and lashes out at them, 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 them away from their abusive mother. Even when the DLC reveals he had his own issues, he is still shown to be the more benevolent parent.
    • Teddy might count too, being your constant companion and advice-giver throughout the game. It is worth noting that Teddy has the same voice as the man at the end, who most players interpret as the child's father, implying that while the Toddler is afraid of being taken from the Mother, they know that the Father will protect them.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: The whole nightmare takes place during the toddler's birthday. But it turns out that it is not an isolated incident, just the latest one. Plus, at the end of the day, the toddler is rescued from it all by his father.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The child finally places each of the memories of its mother to unlock the door and leaves its room to find her drunk on the kitchen floor and - after she shoves them away from her — the child leaves with the father who gave them 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 them, 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.
  • Bookends: Applies for the scrapped ending only. Some of the first lines Teddy say to you are the ones he reads from a storybook, about a group of animals who search for water in a well. The same lines are repeated again by the skeletal monster who possesses Teddy before it proceeds to cook you alive.
  • Bottomless Pit: Appears in "Into the Closet."
  • 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 they're in the middle of. The strange surroundings are their imagination's way of coming to terms.
  • Cold Snap: The prequel chapter is set during a blizzard. You need to close the windows of the house to prevent the cold wind from freezing the dolls.
  • Creator Provincialism: Probably. It's not clear where the game is set, considering that the only real-world scenes are the child and their mother's house and their father's house in the prequel chapter, whose outdoor is a boreal forest during a heavy blizzard. Dialogues are also conducted in English for international reasons; for all we know, the game could be set in Canada. However, imagery within the dream world and particularly the lullaby (Trollmors vaggsång) suggests that it's set somewhere in Northern Europe, possibly Norway (the home country of the game developers).
  • Creepy Good: Teddy, who is on your side and a pretty nice guy, but also has a creepy voice and is incredibly unnerving.
  • Dark Is Evil: All of the game's monsters, with the exception of Honz, who is Light Is Not Good instead. Harald, in particular, is pitch black, whereas Hyda and Heap at least wear a white tank top and a grey trench coat, respectively.
  • Determinator: The child. They endure the dark, danger and run afoul of Monsters to find its mother and the memories. Not bad for a two year old. On the non-imaginative side of things, they've managed to get through who knows how long of their mother's drinking and abuse, and they still love her through their limited expression of Affectionate Gesture to the Head.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • The mother is abusing the child whenever she is under the influence.
    • The DLC suggests that the father was abusive to the mother. There's little context to the slap witnessed by the child, making the context of the scene and the father's personality ambiguous. Developer commentary at least confirms that neither parent handled their degrading relationship well.
  • Double Standard:
    • Most playthroughs seen of the game will have the bottles attributed to the Dad. It's actually the other parent.
    • The actual shock of the reveal relies on common double standards. People surely wouldn't be surprised by The Reveal had the one who is the abusive alcoholic been the father, but it is the revelation that the mother is the one who does that that tickles your heart-strings.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Thanks to a thunderstorm occurring while the protagonist is walking around the house at night.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: It is possible that the entire game (minus the DLC) takes place within a single afternoon. The toddler waking up at night might just be the first part of their nightmare and thus is not actually real. If you adhere to the theory that "Mother lost your custody battle," your birthday is the deadline for your transfer to Father, and his appearance at the start of the game is not only to give you a present, but also to pick you up. This is further supported with the fact that when you are leaving the house at the end, you are immediately greeted by Father, implying that he is waiting outside until Mother is finally ready to let you go.
  • Fade to White: At the end. It's signifying the fact that you're going to leave your abusive life with your mother and start a new (and possibly happier) life with your father.
  • 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 alcoholic it takes on a new meaning.
    • You may notice that the levels are often littered with glass bottles. Turns out that they belong to the mother. You can find some very near the start, before your house even starts getting weird, and in addition to being unusually numerous for a one-adult household, they're also mostly empty if you look closely.
    • One of the items you need to collect in the game, the pink elephant, foreshadows the ending if you understand the meaning of "Seeing Pink Elephants."
    • Very early into the game, in a closet there's a cute drawing of the kid's parents being happy together, except it's been torn in half. It's about as on the nose as it can get.
    • The mother has quite a bit of foreshadowing to the big reveal:
      • At the very start of the game, if you pay attention to her hands, you can see that she isn't wearing a wedding ring. A closer looks shows a thin line where she used to wear it.
      • 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.
    • Two of the mother's lines very early on heavily foreshadow later game mechanics. "Careful, it might break," in reference to a glass, foreshadows Heap, a monster that will attack if you break its bottles. It is also a big hint to the fact that Heap is one of the monster incarnations the Child sees their mother as, rather than the father as commonly assumed, as confirmed in the Museum behind-the-scenes. And the other line foreshadows the stealth-based gameplay: "You've got to stop hiding from mommy".
    • The closer you look at Hyda, the harder it probably is to deny the monster's identity.
  • Harmful to Minors: The monsters that chase the protagonist.
  • Heroic Mime: The protagonist, although they do make little noises here and there. Teddy lampshades this near the beginning.
    Teddy: Not much of a talker yet, eh?
    • They do, 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 they don't talk by then hints at The Reveal.
  • Humanoid Abomination: There are three pitch black monsters, each found in three stages of the game. The first is Harald, a bizarre creature with spiky protrusions who carries an umbrella. The second is Hyda, who is visually similar to Harald, except that it wears a tank top and has frizzled hair. The third is Heap, a trench coat with eyes inside the neck hole. All of them can be found on the varying drawings throughout the game. They all symbolize how the Child perceives their mother when she is in different stages of a drunken stupor, and judging from the drawings, they believe that she frequently becomes possessed by monsters.
  • 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.
    • Pay VERY close attention when the mother goes to answer the phone during the birthday dinner. If you listen, you can hear her screaming at someone...and the same thing happens, which does come up quickly enough that a player who isn't paying attention to it may wonder what caused it, but an attentive one will get their very first clue that there's more to mom than meets the eye...
  • Jump Scare: The first and second encounters with the monster.
  • Kid Hero: Exaggerated, as the hero is two years old. It helps that they have a sapient teddy bear with the mindset of an adult and a player that's close to beyond that point.
  • Light Is Good: Teddy emits a light that serves as your only light source in a world of utter grim and darkness. On the other hand...
  • Light Is Not Good: Honz shines bright in the otherwise gloomy basement, yet standing in awe will result in certain death.
  • Living Structure Monster: The fireplace monster in the prequel chapter is a quite nasty example.
  • Mature Work, Child Protagonists: The player character is a toddler trying to find their missing mother while avoiding monsters. In addition to being too scary for young children and capitalizing on an adult's fears for a nigh-helpless child being placed in such a situation, the revelation that the monsters are metaphors for the child's troubled mother abusing them would probably not be well understood by a small child.
  • Motifs: Swamps, rivers and the sound of running liquid are all very prominent through a part of the game, perhaps hinting at the mother's struggles with a different kind of liquid.
  • Multiple Endings: Not in the main game, but the Museum DLC shows you some concept art about the original direction of the game at a time when it was supposed to be more of a standard horror story than a psychological one. Among them is the ending, where the skeletal monster who possesses Teddy successfully lures you into his lair, where it cooks you alive.
  • 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.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Mother. After she strikes her child, she immediately apologises and says that she didn't mean to hit them. She then starts crying just as someone starts knocking on the door.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: There are drawings scattered around the house of the baby protagonist, their mommy, and a creepy dark figure terrorising them...
  • No One Gets Left Behind: The Prologue DLC deals with the toddler finding their dolls and rescuing them from the cold. All but one is rescued from being frozen to death.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Some areas are completely barren save for a few items here and there.
    • There is no monster in the Playground, despite the game teasing you to the contrary. It is just you, a couple of playground attractions, a shed, a castle, and a rainbow bridge. Nothing else.
    • "Home" is similarly empty. It is just you and an empty house in the middle of a stormy night. There is a monster, however it serves as a mild jumpscare that cannot kill you.
    • There are the many doors you enter into in "Into the Closet," some of which lead nowhere, others which lead straight down. You only see Heap a few times, but you hear it quite often.
  • 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.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: You see some of the key items you collected in your dreams 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.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: The protagonist is wearing stars-and-moons pajamas from start to finish.
  • Parental Substitute: Teddy serves as the player character's protector and guide and has the same voice as the man who turns up to help them at the end...
  • 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. They just happen to have a stuffed toy that is literally a pink elephant. Its prominence in the game is a foreshadowing of the mother's alcoholism.
  • Red Herring: Because of how it wears an ostensibly masculine overcoat and how it appears to battle with Hyda over the Child, many, if not most, players theorize that Heap is a representation of the Child's father. Now that the behind-the-scenes are out, we finally get a confirmation: it is not. Heap is, like Hyda, a form the Child perceives the Mother, this time whenever she is mad if the Child messes things up, which is why it is attracted to the sounds of breaking glass.
  • 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.
  • Spiritual Successor: Got one in the form of Five Nights at Freddy's 4. A troubled toddler is stalked by monstrous creatures in his own house, has a talking teddy bear as his friend and the Big Bad is yet another family member to boot.
  • Stepford Smiler: The Mother is revealed to be a Type A. On the surface, she looks like a happy and loving single mother raising her child. However, she’s suffering from severe emotional issues and has resorted to alcoholism, which leads to her being abusive to her child. The DLC also suggests that something happened between her and her ex-husband and that it might have led to her alcoholism.
  • Super Drowning Skills: You won't survive if you fall to a swamp that looks like it should be just a few feet deep. Justified, as your character is still a toddler.
  • 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.
  • Swamps Are Evil: Forested House is a dilapidated, overgrown manor house in a bubbling, dark swamp, inhabited by Hyda, a hideous humanoid beast that stalks through it.
  • 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.
  • Terms of Endangerment: "Not now, honey" is a particularly twisted example. Because it's at least partially sincere.
  • Tragic Villain: The mother. She doesn't mean to become the "monster" who hurts her child, but is frustrated and depressed from losing her custody over them. When she hits or screams at her child, she's either drunk or suffering from a bad hangover.
  • Troubled Abuser: The mother; her abuse of the child is implied to come from her frustration over the custody battle with the father.
  • The Unfought: Harald. It appears exactly once: during the jumpscare that ensues when you reenter the living room from Mother's bedroom in the "Home" chapter, where you cannot be killed by anything. This is the point where the demo ends, by the way, after which the gamemakers apparently decided not to put it anywhere else.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Clicking the mother a second time after you retrieve the bear from her causes the child to stroke her hair in an affectionate manner.
  • 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 monsters really are.
    Mother: Not now. Not now, hon. I said...not now.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: "You'll make mommy angry... and neither of us want that." At the end of the game, the mother literally hits you before bursting into tears and claiming she didn't mean it.
  • Word Salad Title: Possibly designed to evoke a very young child still learning to speak and who isn't quite able to string a coherent phrase together yet.
  • Would Hurt a Child: 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 their mother and has been seeing images of her previous breakdowns.
  • You Won't Like Me When I'm Angry: Mommy claims this in the climactic scene. The context, however, implies that the problem is only partially to do with anger, and partially to do with drunkenness.


Video Example(s):


Among the Sleep

The toddler's mother is revealed to be a divorced alcoholic.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheAlcoholic

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