Take a moment to think of the activities that other people around the world are doing right now.
Done? OK, I do this from time-to-time—usually when procrastinating—and the imagined activity I always find strangest is that people are having sex and masturbating, right now. Bear in mind that it’s not just a handful of people engaging their sex drives in this very moment. It’s thousands or millions of them, all hitting a similar and regular rhythm with their hips, fingers, and wrists.
In some part, that is what Sleepy Time is about; the unified, rhythmic masturbation of the many. But you won’t be a passive onlooker in this rhythm game; you’ll be the conductor of the world’s most masturbatory orchestra, instructing each tug of a penis with your button presses to, eventually, arrive at the erupting climax. The images of the men masturbating in each level are gradually laid over each other until, by the game’s end, you have five guys singing and stroking in unison in the same 2D space.
In truth, Sleepy Time is a little more joyless than that makes it sound. As creator Kayabros says, it’s a “psychedelic adventure into the minds of depressed people.” Each of the five men you help along to a beat is masturbating on a nightly basis in order to go to sleep—it’s the only way they know how.
The rhythms their hand movements match belong to songs called “No Hope For You” and “Nine To Five” (not the Dolly Parton song), which are sung by raspy, drone male voices to a lazy guitar strum. One song’s chorus is the word “pathetic” repeatedly dragged out by a nearly out-of-tune yet anguished groan.
This isn’t asexuality by choice, nor is the masturbation done for pleasure, it’s a coping method. I’ve been depressed before now and am familiar with the craving for routine and rhythm that the men in Sleepy Time are after. Without the routine a job or any kind of responsibility can bring, you slip into a lethargic state of being; you have no reason to get up in the morning, or to sleep in the first place (as hard as you might try).
Sleepy Time‘s grim treatment of routine masturbation among those who are depressed is accurate to some extent, then. However, there is one glaring omission; there are no other genders represented except men. Let’s be clear: masturbation and depression isn’t as discriminate as the majority of videogames that touch on these subjects would suggest.
Creator Talha Kaya admitted to IndieGames.com that the reason only men are portrayed in Sleepy Time is due to only having experience with the male perspective.
“I actually know some men do it. So it would feel really weird for me to include women, although I considered it when beginning the project.”
This is not the first time I’ve heard a game creator using a lack of experience to excuse a missing female perspective (outside of titillation), particularly when it comes to female sexuality. It’s funny, though: there’s never usually an issue when it comes to creating goat simulators, or playing the role of a serial murderer …