By Staff Writer Larry Shi
With a thoroughly engrossing storyline of mental health struggles and cultural identity, The Space in Between is a newly released indie game on gaming networks. Made by Sondering Studios, the game was in development for months before its release on January 18. Ray Hsiao, an MSJ Class of 2020 graduate, was on the development team, working primarily for the promotional comic and the marketing of the game.
Ray Hsiao’s team published promotional comics in episodic format leading up to the release of the game.
With over 4,000 plays in less than a month after its release, the game, which is a simulation that depicts a couple living through their daily lives together, is easy to maneuver with just drags and clicks from a trackpad. Players control the characters’ life decisions to continue their journey within the simulation. “Despite the heavy topics in the game, it’s overall a sweet story about two people who care about each other a lot, enhanced by the gorgeous art and music,” Hsiao said in a recent interview with the Smoke Signal.
The Space in Between starts off with an almost mythical clearing of the clouds before introducing the two main characters. June, a Chinese American college student, is dating Miles, who is an artist that struggles with his mental health throughout the game.
With just one game mode, it is up to the player to determine their various life paths through choices and decisions, with some leading to constellations, an additional game mechanic to the already existing storyline. After June and Miles’s conversations, the player is brought to a view of the night sky to create constellations for themselves. They symbolize hope and prosperity for June and Miles through the bright stars in the dark night, but they do not directly relate to the plot and do not enhance the storyline itself, however.
One complete playthrough of the game takes around thirty minutes to an hour.
The Space in Between successfully combines the relatable themes of mental health and personal identity all in a unique way: a storyline featuring a classic teenage romance. It is touching, poignant, and the game deserves more attention.
Being one of the first works that talks about the themes of mental health struggles and family relationships in a video game format, The Space in Between is one of a kind in also offering a side game activity of constellations in the midst of the storyline.
Miles’s struggles with his own mental health are unique in the video game. “Mental health, and men’s mental health, in particular, is stigmatized… I hope the game helps people feel seen and more comfortable discussing mental health issues,” Hsiao said.
June’s own identity also involves being a Chinese American, and her conflicting views about herself add to the storyline’s twists and turns. The viewpoint directly from a Chinese American teenager is uncommon in today’s video game industry, and The Space in Between showcases this throughout the game.
The game has soothingly serene graphics that contribute to a comfortable, calm aesthetic.
Right from the beginning of the game, the graphics and artistry play a major role in the overall aesthetic, contributing to the comfortable and nostalgic sense that the game gives. The dark blue and black themed graphic design enhances the themes of mental health and identity struggles, giving the simulation a dark and endless night time feel. With no stiff animations and surprisingly smooth transitions throughout scenes, The Space in Between has accomplished graphics that are clearly shown in the constellations in the night sky.
However, one downside is that the characters in the various scenes are stagnant, not moving while dialogue is playing out on the screen. While their movements are rather robotic, it does not affect the overall view of the storyline.
The Space in Between is available, free-to-play, on Steam.
Cover art courtesy of The Space in Between