You haven't played a horror game until you've played Accident. There are no monsters in this car crash investigation sim, just mangled vehicles, unresponsive victims, and about the same level of medical accuracy as someone who once watched Grey's Anatomy drunk.
The ludicrous premise for this weird indie sim is that you’re a journalist investigating car accidents. One can only assume that somewhere in the world, Accident Weekly is still pulling in an impressive number of subscribers. Even better, you’re investigating them in virtual reality. Honestly, don’t think about it too hard or it will all fall apart. Who was turning these incidents into VR experiences? Why, with that sort of cutting edge tech, are you giving the accidents on CDs as if they’re your old Backstreet Boys album? What possible point is there to you entering this simulation of an accident that has already happened and trying to save the virtual people inside it? Who is this game for? It’s not real enough to be of any use as an actual training tool, so who - other than me- would ever play this? What am I doing with my life?
Every scenario you’re sent to follows a set routine: call emergency services, secure the scene, check on the victims and administer first aid. Occasionally the game will try to catch you out with, say, a dead phone or a fire, or a car hanging off a cliff, but as one of those bargain bucket indies they can only afford to throw in assets that are actually useful, so figuring out what to do is never hard. The medical stuff - my favorite part - is basic but sort of satisfying, checking airways, administering CPR, checking bandages. It’s impossible to get upset even when you’re removing a bloody branch from a man’s arm because the victims all look like surprised mannequins, and it really leans into the realism by turning the chest compressions into a mini-game. I was briefly put off my stride when one crash involved a child, but honestly, it looked too much like a sinister puppet to put me in danger of any actual emotional response.
Once the ambulance has arrived to deal with the results of your, let’s face it, amateurish and probably highly dangerous, medical attention. You can get on with investigating the crash. That involves finding five or six clues you can then put in a timeline. Again, these are not scenarios developed by HBO’s finest writing team - in literally the most exciting one a boar has crossed a road - but there’s an oddly satisfying, not too challenging joy to piecing together then smashed up series of events. It’s like having your brain every so gently stroked by a big warm hand. No one is shooting at you, the game is cheaply put together as to be almost a soothing abstract art piece, and there’s zero danger of investing any feelings in it beyond a soft “huh, weird.”
Clearly, the real genius was saved for the little summaries you get at the end of each scenario. No matter how efficiently you administered CPR or rolled that kid into the recovering position, lives have been ruined. Some people turn out to have been dead on impact, others leave behind children, some have psychological damage that never leaves them. And that’s if you win. It’s jaw-dropping, some of the most depressing endings since the Chernobyl mini-series and all delivered in a clunky language that makes it even starker. In any other game, I’d been talking about trigger warnings and worrying about the sensitivity shown to the content, here it feels like worrying about the violence in Tom & Jerry.
I think the reason I delight at this little oddity tucked away on Steam, and you might too, is that it feels like something that Black Mirror warned us about, or at least a fan script that might have been sent in and is now sitting at the bottom of a trash can somewhere. You can almost hear the beloved British character actor delivering some lines about their introverted son who is “obsessed with playing that car crash simulator.” I’m not proud of it, I don’t know why it’s happening beyond a twisted curiosity, but I am that introverted son.
Accident is out now Steam and there’s even a free demo called Accident: The Pilot