Night In The Woods isn't your typical game.
Anthropomorphic animals and dropping out of college don't usually go hand-in-hand. But what creators Alec Howolka and Scott Benson are making is a game that many can relate to.
The title centres around a cat who just dropped out of university and has returned to her small mining town. When asked why this scenario was chosen, Benson said "it’s a situation that’s pretty rich with different resonances- failure, trying to reclaim a comfort zone, things moving on with or without you, growing and changing. You can feel that way with jobs, or with relationships, or just regular old aging."
One of the interesting aspects of the game is the cat herself, named Mae. In addition to being one of feline nature, Mae is also a girl, which is an uncommon commodity in gaming these days. But Benson's reasoning for this goes beyond that of trying to break the norm. "It’s not exactly a secret that video games have a representation issue. So it’s not like we weren't aware of that going in, but we also weren't thinking “we’ll show them, we’ll make the main character A WOMAN! The character was more interesting and fit the story better as a woman, and her gender is in some way a part of the story (as it is with all of us). Mae is a character that is interesting to us, and she is who she is for the same reason any good character is."
Benson also acknowledged that while Mae's situation is quite specific, the feelings are very universal: "I mean, I’m a 32 year old dude and I see myself and my struggles in her." Holowka also mentioned that he wasn't hooked on the game until Mae's character was brought up.
But Mae isn't the only character who breaks a certain norm. Gregg and Angus (friends of Mae) are a homosexual couple. While homosexual relationships have been explored in past games (Mass Effect), it's rare to find it as a centrepiece of a title. This gives the game a modern twist, as well as the potential to break down more barriers in the industry.
As for why the characters are non-human, Benson summed it up quite nicely. "...these are animal characters, a kind of which I've been drawing and animating for years, so it was a place I've hung out in for a while. Also everyone loves cats."
Night In The Woods is set to release on January 2015 for PC and Mac. You can still help fund the project here on Kickstarter (even though it reached its initial goal). Holowka says the game will be between 4-8 hours.