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Video Game / Harvester

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Just a charming '50s town, population 51 (steadily dropping).

"Lovely works, pastoral scenes, noble sculptures... these are easy on the eye and mind. But when confronted with a work of hideous form, you're forced to deal with it, even if only to dismiss it as trash. Sadly, the most extreme works are the hardest to dismiss."

Harvester is a graphical Point-and-Click Adventure Game with Live-Action Cutscenes, developed by Texas-based DigiFX Interactive, written and directed by Gilbert P. Austin, and released in October 1996.

The only thing Steve knows about himself is that his name is Steve, and he's really just taking that on faith. Otherwise his memory has been gone ever since he woke up. He soon discovers that he is apparently a citizen of the Midwestern farming town called "Harvest", and that the year is 1953. 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, and 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.

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. Unsurprisingly, it was considered one of the most disgusting games ever created. 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. 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.

In 2014, the game's producer, Lee Jacobson, in collaboration with Nightdive Studios, released Harvester for PC and Linux on on March 6, and on Steam on April 4.

This game provides examples of:

  • Adjustable Censorship: There's an option to turn on/off scenes with gore, making the game censor them with a black screen and some text, and another one that password-protects the aforementioned option.
  • 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 Harvester in the real world, only to be subverted in the end as he actually did kill the victim. And ate her, too.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Invoked. Mrs. Pottsdam reacts at Stephanie's death like she would with anything else. If you show her a picture of Stephanie's spine to her, she will call the sheriff, but keeps that sweet tone throughout.
  • Antagonist Title: Also a Job Title and One-Word Title.
  • Arc Words: "You always were a kidder, Steve." If you replace "kidder" with "killer", it suddenly makes a lot more sense.
  • As You Know: No one will believe that Steve has amnesia. His mom will call him out on "faking" it, and eventually the whole town will assume he is, but plays along with Steve's "charade" by giving him information about the town anyway.
  • Author Tract: The game's development was fueled by the author's views on censorship. Most directly stated in, of all places, the bad ending:
    "Don't you know that people who watch violence become violent themselves?"
  • Ax-Crazy: Almost everyone, but special mention goes to Miss Whaley, Mr. Pottsdam, Jimmy James and Steve's mother for trying to outright hurt/murder someone. Everyone else is just ordinary crazy, weird people. Steve becomes Ax-Crazy in the bad ending as well.
  • 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.
    • Arguably Vice Principal Herrill, revealed to be the second-in-command at the lodge and the one implied to have been directing the Sergeant all along.
    • And moving beyond the simulator, the Harvesters themselves, implied to be a cabal of mad scientists experimenting with turning average human beings into serial killers via the Harvester simulator.
  • Big Eater: Sheriff Dwayne. In fact, he doesn't mind eating pie while observing a corpse.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Steve's mom.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The good ending. Steve and Stephanie choose to live a happy life together in the simulator until their deaths.
  • Black Comedy: Harvest’s more peculiar elements are frequently Played for Laughs.
    (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!
  • Bloody Hilarious: Most of the gore is Played for Laughs, especially if it's not plot-relevant.
  • 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.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: The Agent in the Temple of Abstinence won't attack unless provoked, and if you choose to do so you'll quickly find his rapid-fire pistol with extreme knockback was not worth the fight.
  • Bowdlerise: As mentioned under Painted-On Pants, Mr. Pottsdam was originally in his underwear during his final appearance, but a pair of trousers was added on over his sprite. It's anyone's guess why the devs drew the line here with all the other horrific things the game freely depicts, but there you have it.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Hank, who threatens to tattle on Steve over any and every perceived slight.
  • Broken Aesop: Averted. The game’s Aesop might seem to be that exposure to violent media can lead people to become violent themselves, but he actually thinks the opposite - that any and all censorship is bad, so that isn't the true message of the game.
    • On the other hand, if the author is trying to say that censorship is bad and that video games causing violence is a myth, the Bad Ending's proud display of Author Tract from the mouth of a serial killer might also break that aesop. Unless that's intended to be absurd... it's Harvester, let's just say the message is unclear.
  • 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. Failure to do so ends in the Lodge coming for your blood in the "blood drive." Even if you get and do everything you need to become a Lodge member, but go home instead of to the Lodge on the final day, Steve is forced to donate blood.
  • Butt-Monkey: Deputy Loomis.
  • Camp Gay: The Harvest Fire Department. They drive a pink fire truck, and spend their spare time drawing pictures of naked men. This is not even close to the most offensive thing in the game, by the way.
  • Cassandra Truth: Absolutely no one will believe that Steve has amnesia (or so they say). At the very least, though, they're willing to play along and give you information anyway.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Creepy Child: Pretty much every child in the game except Karin.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: The game practically runs on this. The quests Steve is given by the Lodge's Sergeant at Arms always involve him having to commit some sort of crime and/or an act that will seriously screw at least one other character over.
  • Cutting the Knot: Some Fetch Quests can be resolved by just killing the person who has the item you want.
  • Deconstruction Game: Mocking Videogame Cruelty Potential and the idea that Evil Is Cool.
    • 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.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: There's a TV room with a bunch of monochrome screens near the end. A cowboy that appears in that room is also fully black-and-white.
  • 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).
  • Descending Ceiling: One of the later rooms on floor two of the Lodge has a ceiling that is about to crush Steve. He has to put two flags on pedestals to stop it and open the door to the next room.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • Characters have unique dialogue based on how the player progresses through the game. Nearly everyone has some sort of comment based on how the plot unfolds.
    • Similarly, there are many items throughout the game (such as the pornographic photo of Miss Whaley and Principal Herrill); despite being minor plot devices to advance through quests, everyone in town will have unique reactions to them if you show them around, even though the game never tells you to try that.
  • 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.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: If Steve refuses to become a Harvester and chooses to marry Stephanie. It's still in accordance with the Harvesters' terms and they terminate both Steve and Stephanie's life functions in the real world, but it also denies them the victory they wanted, which was to create another serial killer to unleash upon society.
  • 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.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: The dream sequence has several lines and images that show up later in the game, like ripping off Mr. Cain's eyes and the Dark Exotic Woman.
  • Dunce Cap: One cutscene has a blood-covered dunce cap right next to the equally bloodied baseball bat, showing just how violent Miss Whaley's punishment is.
  • Easter Egg: The game has many. Examples include:
    • Found during a Let's Play that was experimenting with curse words in the text parser. It turns out, asking Steve's mother to "FUCK" will cause her to seriously consider the offer.
      • Through the script, it was discovered that writing "DOMINATRIX" in the text parser will have Steve's Mom angrily deny knowing what the word means.
    • Entering "PEEPHOLE" while talking to Mr. Pottsdam will trigger a dialogue between him and Steve, as will entering "MOLEST." The latter gives the player the option to make Pottsdam squeal like a pig, and you can repeat it as many times as you want.
    • You can also tell Stephanie about the peephole, and the dialogue changes based on whether or not you've already talked to Mr. Pottsdam about it.
    • Once you obtain certain inventory items, you can show them to everyone in town and they all have unique reactions to them. Some of these items include the deed to the TV station which lists the sheriff as a co-owner, the sheriff's checkbook which proves that he'd been blackmailing Postmaster Boyle about the newspaper fire, Mr. Moynahan's ledgers, the photo of the corpse, and the photo of Miss Whaley and Principal Herrill making out in the broom closet. Similarly, you can show the adult magazine to Karin, and Edna will warn you not to show it to her again, or she'll tell the sheriff. If you do show it to her again, you get arrested and sent to jail.
    • Similarly, once you obtain the meat from Pat O'Reilley, you have the option to show it to Mr. Pottsdam. You can either give him the meat, or tease him with it. If you give it to him, though, you'll have to get another permission slip signed to get another piece of meat in order to complete the "steal the bolt of cloth" puzzle.
    • After you steal the bolt of cloth from the firemen, you'll be told that they each think the other has stolen it and they are fighting amongst themselves, but you can't actually go back to the firehouse again after this...during the day. At night, you can go back, and if you do, you can pull the cloth off of the male model and see that he is now dead. Guess that shows who got blamed for stealing the cloth.
    • Typing "LODGE" while visiting Marv triggers a dialogue that indicates that Marv knows about Harvest's true nature.
  • Easy Level Trick: Mr. Cain usually takes quite a beating before going down and can put up a good fight, but he can be rendered helpless and killed in 1-2 hits if Steve uses the Cat-o-Nine Tails to rip his eyes out.
  • Eccentric Townsfolk: Though they shouldn't all be called "harmless", most of them have issues and others are flat-out psychopathic.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The ending makes sense of a whole lot of weird stuff in Harvest: it's all virtual reality designed to create the ultimate Serial Killer.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: You know the button that launches all those nukes? Maybe they shouldn't have put it directly under a mentally unstable torso-man with a recoil-heavy machine gun.
  • Enemy Summoner: One of the last rooms has a guy using a TV remote to make a cowboy and a robot appear. Once Steve kills them both, he goes down as well.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Sergeant-at-Arms speaks with a Dr. Claw-like voice.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Downplayed. In the bad ending, Steve catches a ride with a woman, before killing and cannibalizing her. The last shot shows her finger in his bowels... with a ring still on it.
  • Eye Scream: Cat-o-Nine Tails, plus mutant inbreed’s face, equals devastation.
  • Facial Horror: The Dark Woman in the Temple of Beauty will flay part of her face to the bone with her nails if you present her with the mirror, finding it to be ugly. Doing this allows you to leave without a fight, however.
  • Fingore: A really nasty one occurs in the bad ending.
  • Flatline: Some game overs cut to a flatline shown on a monitor. This is subtle Foreshadowing of Harvest's true nature, which is why you also see that in the good ending where Steve dies.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the transition between days, Steve dreams of a man's eyes coming out of their sockets. Turns out it's a bonus cutscene for a specific weapon kill on a specific character.
    • The Annual Blood Drive, aka blood donation, is mentioned several times throughout the game, and Steve just assumes they mean giving blood through a needle, as it's usually done. When he says this to his mother, she says that they don't use needles. Damn right they don't; they decapitate the donor.
  • 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?
  • Game-Over Man: The Game Over screen shows the Sergeant-At-Arms and a red skull, both looking disappointed. The former does not show up in some versions.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Killing Stephanie during regular gameplay does not affect the game any differently then when you kill a normal Harvest resident. What makes this weird is that the Sergeant of Arms tells Steve that retrieving her spinal cord is the final task to getting released from the virtual world of Harvest and wake up as a serial killer, since Stephanie is a real person just like him. It's understandable why the developers didn't do anything different with her since it would have ruined the plot, but still...
  • General Ripper: Colonel Monroe. Just try to piss him off.
  • Goodbye, Cruel World!: After burning down Edna's Diner, Steve finds a suicide note from its owner that explains how they lost all motivation to go own and decided to hang themselves.
  • Gorn: There is a reason this game is called one of the most gruesome games ever created. Most of it is even Played for Laughs.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Inverted. None of the most disturbing Gorn scenes are hidden, but the least violent and bloody scene in the game (when the Sheriff hits Deputy Loomis with a magazine) isn't shown and only seen in shadows. This was obviously intended and Played for Laughs.
  • Guide Dang It!: Some of the puzzles can be pretty difficult the first time you play the game. Pretty much the only way to figure some of them out, other than looking it up, is via trial and error.
  • Hostile Hitchhiker: In the bad ending, Steve catches a ride with a woman, but then he stabs and cannibalizes her.
  • Human Resources: The butcher is heavily implied to serve human meat.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: Comes into play in the last room of the game. Steve has to kill Stephanie to complete his training and exit the simulation.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: In the bad ending, it turns out Steve's now a cannibal, on top of being a serial killer.
    • It's heavily implied that the butcher serves human meat.
    • At one point in the lodge, you encounter three children eating their own mother, one scene having one of them biting off a good chunk of meat off her leg.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: 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.
    • However, at the very beginning Steve's mother says that even Hank would have to donate blood for the Annual Blood Drive, so it's safe to say that this trope does get subverted off-screen for Steve's little brother in at least one of Game Overs.
    • Steve's baby sister, while she can't be killed, eats a spider and... other things happen...
    • The dog at the fire house can't be killed. Ironically, neither can the cats at the meat plant, despite a clearly mutilated cat in plain sight and it being very obvious that Pat butchers cats.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Lampshaded if you examine the piece of toast in the evidence room: "That most improbable of all murder weapons...toast."
  • In Mysterious Ways: The Lodge's religious ministry goes from describing reasonable aspects of God's will to utterly bizarre proclamations.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • When the Sheriff is called into Stephanie's fake corpse, which is just a bloodstained skull and spinal cord, he declares it death by natural causes.
    Sheriff: Can't live without a spinal cord, Steve. Ain't nuthin unnatural about that.
    • Steve's Mom's reasoning for continuously baking cookies days before the bake sale counts as well.
      Mom: Never put off til tomorrow what you can do today!
      Steve: But they'll be stale by then...
      Mom: That's why I'm throwing them away.
      Steve: And then cooking more?
      Mom: To replace the ones I throw out.
      Steve: Why?
      Mom: Well I have to! No one's gonna pay to eat stale cookies out of the garbage can!
      Steve: But you expect me to...
      Mom: Of course not, Steve. I wouldn't charge you. I'm your mother. Help yourself.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: When Steve calls his brother a "Little shit", he tells on their mother. Her response:
    "Stop that, Steve. You know Hank is sensitive about his size."
  • It's All Upstairs From Here: The Lodge mostly consists of killing everything in your way and climbing to the next floor.
  • Job Title: Also an Antagonist Title and Job Title.
  • Karma Houdini: The Harvesters; either ending will do. While they don't succeed in making Steve a serial killer in the good ending, they still have the option to find a new victim for the simulation if they change their minds. What they do is downright disgusting, they never got arrested for their crimes and the game has no indication whatsoever that they ever will.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The Sergeant-At-Arms. While Harvester is consistently a dark game, before visiting the lodge, most of this darkness is centered around how "off" the residents of the town of Harvest are. Once the Sergeant-At-Arms starts assigning tasks, though, the game gets even darker and characters begin to get killed off. Of course, there is still plenty of black comedy, but the overall tone of the game still becomes much more sinister.
  • 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.
  • Last-Second Ending Choice: Whether Steve chooses to marry or kill Stephanie dictates the ending you get.
  • Laughing Mad: The bad end. Even serial killers mad at their moms find the idea of censoring Roadrunner Cartoons stupid.
    "Roadrunner cartoons? Hah. Roadrunner cartoons?! HAHA! ROADRUNNER CARTOONS?! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-"
  • Lawful Stupid: Postmaster Boyle is constantly running out of Lodge applications whenever he makes fresh copies because he refuses to make copies any more than once a month at the exact same time.
  • Loading Screen: The game shows a clock with the words "Please Wait..." below it whenever it has to load another area.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Every character that can be killed explodes violently when attacked, even if they aren't attacked with a firearm.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Range Ryder doesn't seem to mind being covered with severe burns after Postmaster Boyle burns down the TV station.
  • The Many Deaths of You: There are a lot of ways to die in combat - especially in the Lodge. Some of the more memorable deaths, however, only occur by means of Non-Standard Game Overs.
  • Monster Clown: Steve is inexplicably attacked by a shrieking, chainsaw wielding clown inside the lodge. Inexplicable until The Reveal, at least.
  • 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. May qualify as Fridge Brilliance, because with the possible exception of the Sergeant at Arms, they're all imperfect computer simulations and not real people.
  • 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.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Several FMVs show Stephanie stripping down to her underwear.
  • Multiple Endings: Actually, only two.
  • Murder Simulators: The town of Harvest is an in-game example of this.
  • Mystery Meat: The meat plant mostly produces cat meat.
  • Nail 'Em: On the second level of the Lodge, Steve comes across a janitor who tells him not to come in since he had just mopped the floor. Ignoring his warning or shooting him will make him retaliate with his nailgun, which Steve can pick up and use against later enemies as an effective ranged weapon.
  • 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.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Trying to help the townsfolk like saving Karin or stealing ledgers from Moynahan that prove he's a murderer will only result in them chiding Steve as those who are running the simulation wouldn't care about him helping people. In the case of the latter, showing them to the sheriff will get Steve arrested for theft regardless of them being evidence.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Killing anyone (with a couple of exceptions like Tetsusa or Jimmy) 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.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The TV executive is a very obvious parody of Donald Trump.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Parodied. When Steve asks Colonel Monroe if he had any failsafes on the missiles, he replies with, "This The '50s! There are no failsafes!" Indeed, the Big Red Button is right under his torso where it can easily be pressed by accident.
  • One-Word Title: Also an Antagonist Title.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Steve and Stephanie. Averted with Steve if you choose the bad ending.
    • If we only speak of the people in town, Edna is more down on Earth than anyone else, and her daughter Karin could count as the only sane child.
    • Marv, Steve's dad, isn't that insane either, just deeply traumatized from all the sexual abuse he has endured from his wife.
  • Optional Sexual Encounter:
    • Stephanie will ask to have sex with you, and you have the option to turn her down both times she asks.
    • The hooker in the Lodge. It's not necessary to have sex with her to progress. In fact, you better not because doing so results in getting infected by a deadly STD which will eventually kill you should you not find the vaccine in time.
  • Out with a Bang: If you sleep with the hooker in the Lodge, you get a STD that will kill you if you don't find the vaccine.
  • 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.
  • Parental Incest:
    • It's revealed later that Mr. Pottsdam masturbates to his daughter by watching her through a hole in the wall.
    • If you say the keyword "FUCK" to Steve's mother, she considers the offer, but it never comes about.
      • Then again, given what she considers "intimacy" with her husband...
  • 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."
  • Pixel Hunt: The key in the Lodge fountain is almost completely indiscernible.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Lodge only lets men join, and some of the flavor text inside implies even harsher views on women as well. Probably applies to the Harvesters too, given how they designed their female characters, among other design choices; more Fridge Brilliance when you consider the sort of views serial killers typically hold toward women.
  • Product Placement: There's a weird example early on in the game, where Steve's mother randomly starts quoting an advertisement for a dishwasher.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: What the game turns out to be for 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. There seems to be a pattern here…
  • Red Herring: Everything about the Wasp Woman, the military structure, aliens, and the nuclear missiles. They seem to have something to do or be relevant, but in fact they do nothing the entire game.
  • Red Scare: Being that the setting is a satirical version of The '50s, the people of Harvest are very quick to accuse people of being Dirty Communists.
  • Reduced to Dust: Killing Range Ryder after the TV station burned down results in him turning into a pile of ash, with his hat on top.
  • The Reveal: Harvest isn't real. It’s a VR program, shaped to destroy its victim’s will in the most efficient way possible.
  • Rule of Sexy: The only logical reason why Stephanie would wear white ankle socks over stockings held by a garterbelt.
  • Rule of Three: If you don't put out the paper for Jimmy for three days straight he'll shoot you down with a gun (if you don't kill him first).
  • Sadist Teacher: The town’s school is staffed entirely by this. Hell, the Principal is the second-in-command at the Lodge.
    “We don’t believe in ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’ A rod is too thin. But a baseball bat…”
  • Serial Killer: Steve becomes one if you choose the bad ending, and the whole point of the simulation is to turn the player into one.
  • 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.
  • Shirtless Scene: Steve gets A LOT of these.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Steve and Stephanie don't have much of a choice about getting married, with Stephanie getting confined to her room by her parents until the wedding day.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The whole game is an escalating series of these, culminating in Steve’s rescue of Stephanie.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Within a Show:
    • Hank is watching a cowboy show that stars Range Ryder and has plenty of Indians dying in very graphic manners.
    • The Lodge has mentions of two particularly odd works, a light holiday children's classic MonkeyBoy Goes Apeshit with a Chainsaw and the Lodge Rep's musical hit Mr. Smith's Trip to Turkey.
  • Signs of Disrepair: Edna - scratch that, 'DNA'S DINER.'
    Mr. Pottsdam: This town won't be the same without DNA's diner. Or DNA, for that matter.
  • 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."
  • 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 bloodily 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.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The scene where Steve's mom pushes his baby sister's eyes back in is quite painful, but it's contrasted by stereotypical baby music.
  • Stepford Smiler: Both Steve’s Mom and Mrs. Pottsdam.
    • 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&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.
    • The Lodge is even stranger. It has a wide variety of video game settings, from Womb Level to dungeon to coliseum. Demonic creatures prowl the hallways, and everyone is trying to kill you just because they can.
  • 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 tells him that it's going to make him violent, Steve simply responds with a succinct "That's bullshit, mom."
  • The Talk: Marv explains to Steve what a man and a woman do when they love each other very much. More specifically, he describes the bondage activity his wife makes him take part in.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Range Ryder gets all his responses to Steve's questions off of cue cards (which even include Steve's name in them).
  • Thriving Ghost Town: Played Straight. Harvest boasts a population of 51 - and dropping.
  • Tin-Can Robot: Hank's Robby the Robot figure looks like a can. Near the end of the game, there's a human-sized Robby that makes beeping noises and tries to zap Steve to death. Fitting, considering the game takes places in the '50s.
  • Title Drop: "You can't live in Harvest without being a Harvester."
  • 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.
  • Trade Snark: Steve's mom mentions the Reynolds Dishwasher with their patented Auto-Dry Process (TM), with the last part also getting voice-acted.
  • 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.
  • Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: There's some finesse to it early on, but the Lodge quickly descends into this. It doesn't hurt that you can get an actual chainsaw late into the game.
  • Understatement: Steve's Mom: "Don't forget to put the paper out for Jimmy! You know how he gets!" No kidding, he shoots you to death if you don't give him the paper for three days straight. He already begins cussing at you the first time you don't.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Steve can walk around holding a weapon in plain sight (including a gun and a bloody baseball bat) and nobody seems to care.
  • Verbal Backspace: After the TV station is burned down, the sheriff says that it was his, before backpedaling and saying it was Harvest's.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can kill almost everyone. Hell, only a few even bother to fight back! And that’s not including all the killing Steve has to do...
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: If you kill anyone prior to entering the Lodge, Steve is arrested and executed immediately.
    • 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.
  • Visual Pun: Outside of the police station, an officer is filing a fine for a parked Bug. Examining the cop describes him as filing a bug report.
  • What Would X Do?: When Steve tells his mother that he believes Karin when she says Mr. Pottsdam kidnapped her, he gets chewed out and asked whether Range Ryder would accuse his future father-in-law.
  • 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.
  • World of Jerkass: There are only a small handful of likable people in Harvest; the rest are insufferable at best, downright evil at worst. This is deliberate, of course. That way, Steve won't feel bad about killing them.
  • 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 Familiar: 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!