How Mad Men Inspired HopBound

HopBound, AppSir's latest game, is a horror platformer in the same vein as DERE EVIL EXE. However, instead of focusing on fourth-wall-breaking meta-horror, HopBound focuses on psychological horror inspired by my experiences watching Matthew Weiner's Mad Men. If you haven't finished HopBound or the Mad Men series, I suggest you close this page right now and experience them for yourself.

Mad Men, a show that ended in 2015, is described as a period drama set in the 60s. It's more than that. I've never experienced true horror until I watched Mad Men. Don Draper, the show's dark protagonist, is the most realistic and unsettling character I've ever seen on TV. He doesn't act like a character in a show too, he evokes the sense that he is a real person. Not a parody, not an act. Real. Flawed. In his own life, he puts on a show for everyone that he is okay, but every day he suffers from regret and guilt. His guilt often manifests in the form of illusions. In one episode, he sees his dead brother mocking him. He sees an illusion of his wife while flirting at a party. He imagines and believes that he killed an old flame. The sad part is that Don doesn't seek out ways to resolve his issues. He believes that always moving forward will make him forget about it all eventually. He's stubborn about this belief for seven seasons even though it never works for him.

Enter Mayumi, HopBound's leading character. Their lives are completely different but their journeys both take a difficult route. Like Don, Mayumi is also tormented by extreme guilt. She had it easier than Don though, as her mind repressed the trauma of her guilt to cope. The deepest and darkest parts of our mind still have a way of creeping into our daily routines, and Mayumi locked herself up in her apartment for a year without fully understanding why.

Mayumi encounters illusions of her own while playing HopBound. Not for the same reason Don sees dead people though, as it has been observed in the latest installments that games and software created in the AppSir Universe can interact with the psyche of its users.

In the finale of Mad Men, Don has a phone conversation with the three most important women in his life then breaks down after listening to a stranger tell a story about feeling unseen. After coming to terms with the losses he took in his life, he seemingly finds peace while meditating on a cliff, then makes a Coca-Cola commercial out of it. As Matthew Weiner described it, Don co-opted his experiences into a product. Viewers have had different interpretations of this ending. Some say that he never did find peace, he was just smiling because he found inspiration for his next commercial. Others argue that he became a new man, finally accepting himself for who he is and then using the Coca-Cola advertisement as a platform to share his realizations to the world.

Mayumi also experiences a similar moment near the end of HopBound. The last level of the game, the Gardens, is more illuminated than the previous levels as the truth of what she did comes into light. Harder challenges face her as she struggles with the truth. She comes to terms with what she did while talking to a pixelated sprite of her late boyfriend and then finally leaves the apartment. She is then shown watching the sun set on the beach as the game comes to a close.

Some people see the ending as tragic since they believe that Mayumi is so desperate for forgiveness that she tricked herself into believing she is forgiven. Some say it's no different from how her mind lied to her at first as a means to cope and that she'll still be alone, just in a different place. Most people view it as an optimistic ending as Mayumi overcomes her demons, achieves catharsis, and takes the first steps to save herself by leaving her apartment. In a way, I wanted more people to view the ending this way. I've written the summary of HopBound to evoke a more positive ending, but the breadcrumbs of doubt are still there. Did she really come to terms with what she did or did she just go out of her apartment to comply with her Eron's request? How long will her inner peace last?

If Mad Men taught me anything, it's that some endings are better left unsaid. It's the feeling viewers get from the ending that's important. Some people have said that AppSir should "show, not tell" and Phase 2 of AppSir games do that. It just so happens that players feel so sure about their version of the ending that they think that the story has been laid out for them. That's what I like about HopBound. Either cynicism or optimism will dictate how you view the ending.

I've always wanted to make HopBound before DERE VENGEANCE. I wanted to get people used to the fact that I'm not going to rely solely on previous game stars such as Kara, Yanna, and Myles to carry the series forward. I want people to be more open to new main characters being introduced in the games and that games without these established characters can be just as good. I've also wanted to create a different tone with a more introspective narrative than the action-packed stories of our previous titles to show that AppSir is not a one-trick pony. AppSir does not rely on one genre, and it will never be formulaic. We don't want to end up like other game studios releasing the same game again and again. Every game will have its own distinct identity, and the quality will always be there.

I knew that one of the games I release before DERE VENGEANCE would be inspired by my feelings while watching Mad Men but I never could figure out what my feelings were. I've made some similar story drafts before for different titles but they never materialized into a game because I knew something was missing.

It was only when I've faced my own torments that I knew how these feelings were going to be commodified into an AppSir game. In a way, I've co-opted my own experiences. Instead of creating a commercial as Don Draper did, a video game was made.

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