It gives me great pleasure to be able to reveal our first ever Xbox One title: Stay. It’s a branching adventure game in which you play as yourself, but you happen to have found your way into an internet chatroom populated with one other person: Quinn.
Stay takes place in real-time, so every second you spend in the chatroom is logged, as is every second you spend away from it (whether your Xbox One is switched off or you’re using it for other activities). Oh, and there’s the small matter of Quinn having been abducted and left abandoned in a dingy room, with seemingly nothing but a creaky old PC and an internet connection for company. What happens next is entirely down to you.
The idea for Stay first originated not from thoughts of abduction or online interactions but from conversations about imaginary friendships – and how interesting it would be to build a game around this concept. Of irrationally sending messages to your phone and asking for advice, and of the emotions wrapped up in such a concept. Don’t worry, neither you nor Quinn is imaginary in Stay. I haven’t accidentally spoiled the plot!
From that seed we formed three core ideas to pursue during development. Firstly, we wanted to make a tribute to the classic CYOA (Choose Your Own Adventure) books that we grew up reading. Next, we loved the concept of an adult-Tamagotchi; one with emotional needs instead of simply physical ones. And finally, we were taken by the idea of removing control from the user as much as possible, and of letting the gamer feel much more like a sidekick than occupying the leading role in a story.
Something we have noticed over the last few years is how impatient our society has become. We ourselves appear more impatient than ever when we jump into new games: that search for instant gratification has to be sated. The challenge of building a slower-paced experience, therefore, with deliberate pauses, calls to attention, and opportunities for serious moments of introspection really appealed to us. We deliberately break some of the accepted game rules and conventions: Our goal is to for you to embrace patience and empathy, the same qualities that we need when dealing with real-life relationships.
Emotionally speaking, and without telling much about the story, Stay also borrows heavily from a personal experience that I went through in my life. It’s about how the people around me behaved and provided the right guidance and support just by staying there, listening and helping. Sometimes that was with the right words, sometimes with just silent company. Even just knowing there’s someone on the other side of a computer screen can be enough to overcome difficulties such as the ones Quinn will face, hence the on-screen clocks that track your time with Quinn and without him.
Just by reading this post all the way through, you’ve already demonstrated your ability to ‘stay’, which is the single strongest aptitude needed to be a good companion for Quinn. Whether you can fully help him through is predicament is another matter entirely (there are seven different endings and, in traditional Choose Your Own style, many different deadly outcomes for certain choices), but I hope you’ll find the experience rewarding. As for me? I’m just happy Quinn will finally be given the company he needs.