Adam Dubi, the solo-developer of Adam – Lost Memories, is a survivor of child abuse. Growing up in Hungary, he suffered emotional and sometimes physical abuse from his family. A family he describes as “falling apart.”
Abuse is a difficult thing for a survivor to talk about. The trauma can be so intense a person might block out entire memories or even shut themselves off from the world.
Adam – Lost Memories is Dubi’s way of telling the world what child abuse really is. It is a deeply disturbing game. Not just because of the narrative or the visuals, but because of the themes expressed throughout.
“I talk about real things that happened to me in this game,” Dubi said. “I wanted to be as honest and truthful as I could.”
Dubi did not want to recount exactly what he went through. He could only say his family was mean and hurtful toward him even when he did things he thought he could be proud of.
“I think a lot of children suffer like this,” Dubi said. “It becomes a huge problem when they grow up and have to face the real world.”
At the recommendation of his psychologist, Dubi began to explore his feelings through art. He said he stumbled into making a video game and, at first, had no plans to release it at all.
“As I worked on the project I realized it had an important message,” Dubi said.
Adam – Lost Memories
There are a few other games which address abuse. Curtain, for example, is a visual novel about domestic abuse and shows how an abusive relationship is formed. The Housewife, on the other hand, has you play as a housewife trying everything she can to keep her husband from becoming angry.
These games address terrible situations which are rarely discussed in video games. However, whereas Curtain and The Housewife are reflections of circumstance, Adam – Lost Memories is a reflection of emotion.
Dubi wants the game to show people what child abuse is really like. For him, it can be physical, but it is more emotionally damaging.
“Emotional abuse is more painful than physical harassment”
The game shows the player what Dubi feels through its very design. Dubi says the environment, puzzles and the sound design especially are all meant to terrorize the player. Distant screams and echoing footsteps haunt the player as they explore a dilapidated facility.
“It’s a hard feeling to describe but I wanted the player to experience the fear that I did back then,” Dubi said. “I wanted to tell my story in a way that only the people who understand it will really care about it.”
Adam – Lost Memories is also described as a game about being afraid of life. Dubi wanted his game not to rely heavily on jump scares, but to bring the player true fear.
“This is a game about a child,” Dubi said. “It’s about me. It’s about fear in real life. Everyone was a child, everyone knows a child. It’s scary to think so many children live such painful lives.”
An Outside Perspective
(Note: The author was given a key to Adam- Lost Memories by the developer after the interview. The following paragraphs are his opinions.)
As someone who was fortunate enough to not experience abuse as a child, the world and narrative of Adam – Lost Memories felt unfamiliar and alien. It was not the rusty metal of the facility or even the monsters lurking the halls that proved the most unsettling. It was the cutscenes which take the player into the “real world.”
Almost everyone has felt similar feelings to the ones shown in the cutscenes, such as wanting to run away when angry or hurt, or feeling alone even when surrounded by family. However, these cutscenes take those feelings to a whole different level.
Wanting to run away and be alone for a while is replaced by running and hiding out of necessity. Feeling alone is replaced by being trapped in a cage.
The game features an invisible sanity meter that drains and affects gameplay. The camera blurs and the controls act differently. Dubi said these are the in-game player suffering from a panic attack.
In real life, Dubi said his panic attacks make him feel numb all over his body and he often passed out. The attacks strike out of nowhere and it’s a challenge even going to buy bread because he never knows if he’s going to have an attack.
As a game mechanic, the panic attacks make things a little more difficult. Because the sanity meter is invisible, it’s impossible to tell just how bad things are getting.
As an obstacle in real life, a panic attack turns even a mundane chore into a question of whether or not you can even make it through.
After playing the game and turning off the computer, the true terror of Adam – Lost Memories made itself known. The true terror was knowing that my feelings of dread would eventually pass but there are people, children even, who feel that dread all the time.
A Message of Hope in the Darkness
Dubi began this project as a way to vent his feelings. It was never meant to be seen by anyone but him.
“[When] I released this game I was really afraid,” he said. “I was afraid of what others would say and they would see what I went through. But now, I feel like a new person.”
After working on the game over the years, Dubi realized he was feeling better.
“It’s really helped me release my inner thoughts about my childhood,” he said. “All the textures and all the art is basically about me.”
At the time, Dubi has no other plans to release another game despite Adam – Lost Memories being well-received by players. For now, it will be a solitary opus which Dubi hopes will bring more awareness to child abuse survivors.
“The important message of my game has to tell others who suffered as a child that they are not alone,” Dubi said. “I know it’s hard, but I want them to know they can overcome it without using alcohol and drugs as an imaginary escape.”