All you do in Little Red Lie is lie. You lie constantly, about everything, to everyone — even yourself.
Think of an adventure-style game like Secret of Monkey Island, creator Will O'Neill told me, except instead of verbs like "Look" or "Pick Up" to interact with the world, instead you get "Lie." Little Red Lie follows two protagonists who never meet and have very different stories, but they're united by a common thread: they live their lives by lying.
"The reasons for [lying] are as varied as the reasons for the lies themselves — because telling the truth would undermine them, open up risks, or just generally keep them from getting what they need or want," said O'Neill, who's looking to put out a demo of the title in August. "Little Red Lie doesn't just take on massive acts of dishonesty; it looks at everything from pretending to listen to people who will flip out if you don't to being kind to people in superior positions to you to everything in between."
The game works by providing players with a sort of internal monologue for the characters to pair with their actual, dishonest responses. You'll get to see the truth, and learn about what the characters are like both from their thoughts and how they spin them.
All that lying underpins Little Red Lie's big theme: it's actually about the idea that O'Neill's generation, people who were born in the mid-1980s and into the 1990s, are facing a rapidly changing world.
Unlike the world of their Baby Boomer parents, many those Gen-Y types, O'Neill says, are staring at a future of imminent financial ruin.
"It's something I really want to talk about, mostly because I think it's something that is so uncomfortable to even acknowledge," he explained. "And the first big 'Lie' of Little Red Lie is the way in which we're all sort of going about life as if it isn't going to happen and really isn't going to be that way."
The interactive short-story-slash-adventure game follows super-successful financial adviser Arthur Fox and unemployed-but-somehow-still-middle-class Sarah Stone. Both are dishonest for different reasons, but the stark contrast between how and why they lie, especially given their different financial conditions, is the crux of the story.
O'Neill's previous game, Actual Sunlight, dealt with elements of love, depression and suicide. It was a bleak story, and Little Red Lie goes into similarly bleak territory, although all that lying leaves plenty of room for comedy as well.
In one instance, for example, Arthur gets "screwed up on coke, steals a car hired to chauffeur him around, drives to a strip club, drives into the strip club, and then has to convince a bouncer that it was somebody else," O'Neill told me.
All of it weaves a story about the ways we deceive ourselves about the world we live in and how we live our lives.
"I feel like the 'Hollywood' narrative of a story like this would be like, 'Yep, things are tough, but you know what? At the end of the day, we're gonna give it our best and things are gonna all work out!'" O'Neill said. "But they won't. People who have no idea how to be very poor are going to become very poor. Quickly. Other people who have no business being very rich are going to become very rich.
"I don't think our generation or the Millenials after us grew up being prepared for the times we're headed into."
Phil Hornshaw is a freelance journalist and co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveller's Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero's Guide to Glory. You can follow him on Twitter at @philhornshaw or contact him at [email protected]