The agony and ecstasy of playing out your school years in games

George Pigula can’t get a prom date. With about 24 hours until the dance, the Sims 4: High School Years lead producer relives one of the most humiliating experiences a teenager can have: rejection, rejection, rejection.

Pigula’s plight is self-inflicted, as an architect and player, but he’s hardly the only one as an adult screaming to be a kid again. “Teenage is very important,” Pigula said during a press demo for the new expansion pack. “They are formative. It is a time to find friends and seek out relationships. You have the ability to navigate these challenges, the joys of young love, be it a blissful crush, the proposal or the difficulties of a breakup.”

School environments have been a long-running staple of video games, whether they tell stories about the teen experience, choose murder and chaosor balance vigilance with do your homework. Adolescence is a crucial time when people learn who they are, but it is also full of heartbreak, shame, loneliness and a host of other triumphs and traumas. And the genre that has sprung up around it is thriving. In addition to High School Yearswhich falls on July 28, there is Persona 5 Royal‘s impending Nintendo Switch release and brand new titles such as Necrosoft Games’ recently announced demon school.

However, Necrosoft’s approach has a much more mature tone than that in The Sims. demon school takes influences from the Italian horror film and Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series. The game takes place on an island with two defining locations: a university and a prison. This particular school is a last chance for the students, who either graduate or end up in jail. Faye, the heroine of the game, is the latest in a long line of demon hunters. A small caveat: for hundreds of years no one has seen demons. They are myths, until suddenly they are no more.

A school environment is interesting for many people, demon school director Brandon Sheffield tells WIRED because “for a lot of people it represents a time of freedom – intellectual freedom, where you’re not limited by certain social ideas, you’re not locked into a job yet. There is a lot of hope and opportunity for you.”

demon school‘s more mature setting also put the characters in scenarios other than their high school education Sims counterparts. “We chose college mainly because you have characters who can become friends or have romantic relationships,” Sheffield says. Sometimes games like Persona lets you get involved with adults despite being a minor. “It always made me feel a little weird about all the things in high school where you can romance each other,” he says. Of demon schoolsays Sheffield, it was important that everyone “had the age.”

Not that these youth re-creations are all about relationships or becoming royalty before the prom. In demon school, the panic of growing up is compared to real horror scenarios. Faye and a few friends investigate demonic apparitions while her classmates write essays and do math homework. The game works on a calendar, where events are followed by a weekly structure and specific events during each day. It is a more limited version of games like Persona or Yakuza, which Sheffield notes as influences. He loved what series look like Persona or Shin Megami Tenseiof which the Persona series spin-off, use negotiation to convince demons to join your party. “There’s some pushing and pulling there, rather than just a faceless mass of evil that you have to destroy,” he says.

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