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Video Game / Trauma

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Trauma is a short Adobe Flash game created by Krystian Majewski. It chronicles the dreams of a woman recuperating from a car crash.

Its gameplay is probably best described as a variety of Hidden Object Game, as you are supposed to find small photos buried in the background of the screens (which are themselves real-world high-definition photos taken by the developer). However, you are also supposed to trace specific patterns through the screens with your mouse in order to activate transitions and such, in a way somewhat reminiscent of calligraphy in Ōkami.

It can be played for free on its website, and can also be bought for PC through Steam, where it was released on 8th of August, 2011. It was also released on iOS, and used to be available on Desura before the latter went bust.

No relation to the 1993 Dario Argento film, or the NBC medical drama.

This game provides examples of:

  • Anachronic Order: After the opening, which represents the car crash that caused the titular trauma for the protagonist, you are presented with the four chapters in the menu (seen in the image above), which can be attempted in any order. Moreover, each chapter has multiple story outcomes, referred to as "discoveries", and these can also be triggered in any order, with the game only ending once you discover them all.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The final piece of the story requires 100% Completion. YMMV if this ending is happy.
  • Endless Corridor: The main path in "The Road Less Travelled" is as such, being an endless corridor when flying through at high speed. The narrator claims the cut-path as seeming to go on forever, but at the final step she says that it's the dream that never ends rather than the path.
  • Full Motion Video: Most of the graphics are taken from live action video and picture stills.
  • Going in Circles: Two scenes involve this type of loop, where the ghost goes through a building and returns you to the starting area, and the other is discovered to be as such after clearing the barrier.
  • He Knows About Timed Hits: The woman will say "I can draw this symbol to move back/turn right/move around" in the exact same voice as when she narrates about her past.
  • Mind Screw: Every level has elements of this, especially when it comes to the alternate endings. Whereas the main endings have a pretty obvious motif (see Plot Parallel below), the alternate ones can be rather disjointed. I.e. the second dream has a locked crate, and managing to draw the right symbol to get it open results in blood emerging from it - not liquid flowing blood like The Shining, though, but just huge red blood cells instead. She simply comments on this with "I was always able to get blood from the stone. At least, I tried."
  • Mood Motif: An eerie sound track keeps the player off guard and makes the whole thing feel (even more) surreal.
  • Multiple Endings: Each of the four dreams has a main ending, which is comparatively straightforward to trigger, and is always followed by an FMV scene, and several alternate endings, which are often harder to trigger, but also much less detailed. However, this all builds up to a single main ending once you have seen everything else.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Invoked. In the first chapter, you have a photo of a teddy bear wedged under a large granite ball, and need to trace the right pattern in order to lift the stone and get it out. Once you do, it turns out there was a broken pipe (or something) beneath the stone, and lifting it causes the water to fill the entire screen. Of course, this is all a metaphor: see below.
  • Plot Parallel: Every dream parallels a certain motif about a woman's past. For instance, main ending of the first dream, "The Next Hurdle", ends with the player lifting a huge heavy stone to free a teddy bear wedged beneath it, only for a huge amount of water to burst from beneath the stone, presumably drowning the player. She narrates on this with "I always thought that if I were to lift another weight, I would also be saved, like the teddy bear. Even as I am drowning." which ties into the message of "The Next Hurdle". Likewise, the second level is called "Following Role Models" and you are supposed to catch an elusive ghost during in it, but always seem to be just a step behind and eventually realize you are running in circles - i.e. living up to a role model is as elusive and fruitless as chasing a ghost.
  • Shout-Out: One chapter has graffiti on one wall of a certain elephant.
  • Signpost Tutorial: Some of the scattered photos contain glyphs that instruct the player what to draw to proceed.
  • Skewed Priorities: The woman barely survived a car crash, and now has to spend several weeks in the hospital to recover, but still asks a doctor is she could recover in time for an exam she was going to take in three weeks.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: You learn about the woman's past whenever you find a photo or a new part of the background and her resultant narration provides yet another glimpse into her backstory. For instance, turning around far enough in the first dream to find a cafe reveals that she used to study in a law school, and regularly went there.
  • Symbol Drawing Interface: The player needs to draw glyphs to do actions