You lay flat on your stomach, still and breathless. The night creaks, groaning with the sound of predators hunting, their prey waiting. It will find you. Attempt escape, and its gaze will follow, unhinged, uneven, but always directed at you. “Keep your eyes on me. And your compass,” it instructs. “And I won’t kill you.” You want to believe its promise. You know you have until morning, when all creatures of the night stalk back to their lairs to await darkness once more. For now, you cannot hide, cannot run while the green-red gaze bears down on you. So, instead of hiding, instead of running, you listen. You keep your eyes peeled, barely blinking. You play its game.
Badblood is the stylish, cut-throat hide and seek game by Winnie Song being created through the NYU Game Center’s Incubator program. In this local multiplayer hunt, a childhood game is transformed into a life or death battle, as you and the other player hunt each other in tall grass that obscures your vision. BLOODSPORT, a minigame prequel to Badblood, brings a different kind of gory gameplay into the mix.
Removing your ability to escape entirely, BLOODSPORT does not cast you as an equal in a sick and twisted game. Instead, you are the game, as a nameless creature toys with you like a cat twirling a mouse’s tail in its claw. The predator’s voice, lurid and low, tells you to listen if you want to live. As with Badblood, which spins around its players perspective to keep them confused, following the predator’s directional instructions is the difference between survival and death. You try to keep track of the hunter’s movements and stave off a final attack. But each round is punctured by your human need to blink: a split second of vulnerability when it could all come to a sudden end.
But the longer the night draws on, the more complicated the hunter’s instructions become, eventually introducing false warnings and double meanings. You can only scramble to keep up with the predator’s ever-increasing hunger for your panic. Oddly enough, the pressure trains you to feel relieved by the sight of those unhinged eyes staring back at you, since it means you’ve at least won this round, and a few more seconds of life.
Winnie Song not only released BLOODSPORT as an aesthetic and thematic preview of Badblood, but also as a promotion. The first three players to survive the night and send her a screenshot of the sun will win a free code for Badblood and a physical copy of the Badlands Periodical (an art magazine about Badblood). But I wouldn’t hold my breath on getting a happy ending in the mean jungle of the Badlands, where there’s nowhere to run and luck can turn against you on a dime.