The life events and changes most of us experience between the ages of eighteen and twenty create the vast difference we see between young adult fiction and new adult fiction. This variety makes it hard to pin down what “new adult” actually is. Up until eighteen years-old, most people have a common through line due to the elementary and high school education that many complete. But once we hit legal adulthood, options open up. Many people go to college, others go into the workforce, some do a hybrid and go to trade school while working, and there are people like me who joined the military. This variety makes the new adult genre a weird beast to tackle—which brings me to Night in the Woods, a single-player video game developed by Infinite Fall and published by Finji.
The game follows a young cat named Mae who returns to her small mid-American hometown after dropping out of college, addressing the experience of so many of today’s young people in a smart and interesting way. Moreover, Night in the Woods is an interactive story with gameplay depending on which of your two friends you choose to spend your evenings with, contrasting their own life experiences to Mae’s. The game addresses a variety of issues both in the main characters and through conversations held by the general townspeople. Mae herself is a reckless soul trying to stay one-step ahead of her own anxiety and even existential dread portrayed in beautifully animated dream sequences. These issues are compared with her friends’ problems and their interactions help flesh out eachother’s struggles with adulthood. This all is framed by the backdrop of a small town dealing with the changing times and the new economy created by e-commerce.
The other nice thing about Night in the Woods is the fact that, since it is a game, there are new and different things that can be found depending on what you choose to do during gameplay. If you replay the game, you could see new scenes and engage in new dialogue sequences depending on who you interact with. This means that the characters become more fleshed out in subsequent playthroughs, making Night in the Woods one of those games that feels like a living book. Overall, it’s a narrative that really engages with the new adult literary genre, both in its subject matter and themes.
PRR Writer, Jon Kresal