Akuya or: Purgatory, when a game is designed to not be a game

By: Ashley Rivas

Confession: after I play one of these Dumpster-worthy games, I generally open Word and immediately begin the rampant onslaught of angry words.  I clack on the keyboard furiously, so soon after consuming the bitter pill of that week’s game.  This is largely due to intense hatred and a violent need to translate my distress into coherent thought beyond “IT’S—IT’S—THIS CAN’T–?!!?” and other such gibberish.

Akuya did not receive that treatment.  After the game was done, I simply went about my day.  About an hour after I played the game, I began to ponder.  And this pondering continued for some time.  What, pray tell, did I ponder?  Basically, the existentialism of Akuya

I pondered the existentialism of a non-game that I played for 13 total minutes.  It was a slow day.

Akuya start game menu

There’s something strange about a game that promises nothingness.  We play games to escape the monotony of life, and try to push ourselves to survive in whatever fantastic setting the particular game of interest creates.  It’s a unique tactic for a modern game to actively go out of its way to tell you nothing will happen, and you will die.  I had to play this, for the sheer mind-fuckery it was promising more than anything else.

So why, 10 minutes into play, was I begging for death?  This game, this very unique experience, was purgatory.  Is purgatory.  I’m still living in the hollow existence this game has created.  I have never wanted digital death more than I did with this particular game. 



Why did I pick it?

The reviews for this game weren’t really why I went for it.  Granted, I liked how absolutely volatile they were; I personally think that’s an indication of something, whether it’s good or bad.  Having crazy, very hateful reviews on a page means that it moved people towards such an intense emotion that they went insane on a public forum (it’s the Internet, so not exactly unheard of, but still, that doesn’t make it rational). 

The main reason why I picked Akuya was the following excerpt from the Steam page:

Akuya review

They call it a game, but say it’s not a game.  They say it’s a survival game, but survival is impossible by design.  But the trailer paints a different picture; you have to “find a way to stay alive”, “gather resources”, and experience a “game based on a true story” where you explore the ocean and discover a long hidden secret. 

I was so intensely intrigued by this strange series of contradictions.  The game was proud of not being a game, but also wanted to make it clear that there were things to do in this game.  I had to play it; I had to try to understand.  Curiosity is a powerful force, and I’m a sucker for punishment, apparently.

Akuya island


Why is it bad?

This is going to be short, so try not to blink.  There’s nothing to do. 

There is.  Nothing.  To.  Do.

This is a recurring theme now in this series; these shit games have no features, no mechanics, no systems to guide a player towards any kind of objective.  They just exist. Or don’t exist, depending on your bar for existence as a game.

You start on a desert island, and then you walk around.  Great!

Akuya raft

You’ll find this shark, who apparently died in the wreck…?  Maybe this is what haunts me about Akuya

Who was this shark?  Who were his parents?  Was he loved?  Did I love him?  Did he love me?  Were we happy?  Were we enemies?  Had we drifted apart?  What were his dreams? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN????

Akuya shark

I’m never going to know.  And I don’t know how I can live with that.

Akuya says you’ll die.  You won’t.  I promise.

To die; to sleep! Blessed release from the slings and arrows of outrageous ennui.  I tried to kill myself.  I stayed underwater for as long as I could, with and without a mask (that does nothing, BTW).  Nothing happened.  I continued to be.

Akuya isn’t Hell.  It isn’t a torture chamber.  It isn’t particularly menacing. It’s purgatory.  I wanted to die and could not.  How often has that happened to you in a video game?

Akuya green

The game has a random invisible wall around the sand somewhere, so you can kind of get to the rest of the ocean, but only sometimes.  The ocean itself just ends.  You can either hit a collider or fall off into the default Unity skybox.  YOU DIDN’T EVEN CHANGE THE SKYBOX, YOU LAZY FUCKS.

Akuya Unity skybox


What’s good?

Nothing.  There is no optimism here.  There is nothingness.  We are in the void now.  Akuya is the void.  It is nothingness.  We are nothingness.  The shark is nothingness.

WHO WAS THAT GOD DAMN SHARK!?

…maybe the shark is me.  Maybe it’s me finally being able to kill myself and rid my mind of the memories of Akuya.

We should all be so lucky.

Akuya secret


Final score:

A few days after playing this, I took a peak into the Internet to see if I could find more information about this “NOT-game”.  And lo, I found the Steam Greenlight page, which was published around October 2016.  The game itself was released on the store during December 2016.  And look at this description of the game based on the Greenlight page:

Akuya description

WELL GEE THAT’S INTERESTING!  Look at how different this all looks compared to the description page for the same game on the store—it’s just fascinating!  All of these features, a plot, and the ability to actually stay alive…that sounds a lot like a game, huh?  And they actually call it a game.  So what happened to make it a not-game eventually?

The last comment was from the author, and it was a very noncommittal “thanks for the feedback” style thing.  But there’s no indication that something happened between Greenlight status and release.  The studio does have another game, a horror game called Near Midnight (WHICH I HAVE DEFINITELY ADDED TO THE FUTURE LIST, HELL YEAH), that was released in December 2016.  So was that the issue?  Did they just want to crank games out as quickly as possible?  Was the base world built for Akuya, so once the false promises got them Greenlit, they just slapped a price tag on it and hoped for the best?

I don’t know.  I can’t begin to know or understand, because I can’t find more information on this game.  But it’s a class project that I’d be ashamed to turn in.  I’ve had classmates at Full Sail turn in absolute shit that smelled better than this turd.

The rage is there, bubbling under the surface.  I have been mislead.  We have all been mislead.  You cannot hope to defend your piece of trash by calling it a “NOT-game”.  If it was truly a non-game, whatever the fuck that means, it would never have tried to pass itself off as a non-game.  It’s like when The Room came out, and Tommy Wiseau saw the over-the-top reaction to his masterpiece.  People laughed, and wept.  He tried to say it was a black comedy, when it had never actually been intended to be so.  He saw how it was received, and tried to angle it in that direction.

Akuya saw that it was nothingness.  It was a broken mishmash of Unity store assets slapped in a broken fucking skybox, so it tried to claim it was a non-game.  Why?  To be ironic?  To try and avoid blame?  Well, maybe you could’ve.  Maybe that could’ve been a solution.  BUT IT’S FUCKING BROKEN AND YOU CHARGED ME MONEY FOR THIS.  You actually charged money for a non-game.  How can that be justified?  How can you try and bury that fact in your cheeky attempts to call it a non-game?  NEWS FLASH, YOU FUCKING CAN’T.

I played this for 13 minutes.  I will have to live with that fact for the rest of my days.  At least GASP was fucking free.  This game cost money.  This game lied, blatantly, hurtfully, and without remorse.  It can’t be enjoyed ironically; it can be played for laughs with your friends.  This is what it feels like to live in the abyss, only good ol’ Cthulhu isn’t there to at least make things interesting.

I walked away from this wishing for a game that was actually nothingness by design, but I have no idea what that would actually look like.  Can you have a game where nothing happens?  Where nothing is done?  You can, like Akuya, but nothing happens here because the developer is a lazy money grubber.  Can someone design nothingness?  Can it be created?  Enjoyed? 

By the very definition of a game, a non-game shouldn’t be able to exist.  They do by accident, or by failure, but not intentionally.  And yet…the paradox itself is appealing.  I think I’d love to see one try to be.  But that’s not AkuyaAkuya is the void.  It’s a place where your brain becomes trapped, twisted and tormented by the whys and the whats that you’ll never begin to understand.

My final score is -13/10.  -1 for every minute I won’t ever get back.  Steam doesn’t refund time, or wounds to your soul.  Which is a sound business practice, I’ll give them that.


What’s next?

We’re actually going to try One Final Breath next time, but here’s a special caveat to that game’s future: I will not be reading a single review prior to playing the game.  I’m going to download it, play it, and then see what other people thought.  I didn’t read anything about it beyond the Kickstarter page after GASP, so all I know is that it’s a horror game, it’s $3.99, and it’ll be the most expensive game we’ve played to date. 

Which ultimately means nothing beyond how angry it’ll probably make me. 

About The Author

I'm a big ol' nerd, and I want to effuse that nerdiness for the rest of my life. I spend as much time as I can drawing and playing video games, and I've taken that to the career level now since I'm back in school to be a game designer. I'm the mom to three puppies and a fat kitty, and the wife to a fellow nerd.

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