In time for the CNY holiday, indie game designer Mike Ren just released his new pollution-themed PC game, "Hazy Days," where players help a little girl make it to her family's celebration.
"Hazy Days" is essentially a breathing simulator game set in the smoggy Shanghai winter. A little Chinese girl, Xiao Feng, has to survive the school week (literally) to make it to Grandma house's for CNY. You play as a part of the little girl's lung, timing your inhales and exhales to maximize the O2 particles and minimize the PM2.5 particles glomping onto your little alveolus.
Part two is a hilarious spitting minigame where you can cough up the gunk accumulated during the day. If you time it right three times, you can spit some of the phlegm and pollution into your sink at night before putting your little girl to bed.
As the week progresses, the haze worsens and the background becomes a sickening shade of yellow-green. The pollution particles will get more aggressive, so players have to be careful to time breaths correctly or Xiao Feng will go grey in the face, and her health will decrease. It will take a few tries to beat the game—see for yourself what happens when her health is depleted fully—but using the breathing mechanism is surprisingly addictive and just hard enough to keep players wanting more. The sweet mannerisms of Ren's tubby little protagonist, mixed with the sentimental music and her feeble coughing noises, elicited plenty of "awws" from gamers who've played it already.
"Hazy Days" is the brainchild of game designer Mike Ren. Originally from Xi'an and the US, he works in AAA game development full-time but has always been interested in making socially conscious video games that people actually love to play. "China's air pollution levels are constantly covered in the media," he writes. "With Hazy Days, I hope to humanize the issue so that the problem can be more relatable. Thanks for playing."
To download the "Hazy Days" game for PC and Mac, visit the game's website.
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