Accounting is the game you play when you've played too much VR. Stripped back to its core, Accounting is full of the kind of design choices and gameplay that you'll find in most short VR experiences on the market. It's exactly that familiarity that makes it so jarring — and so hilarious. This is the most fun — and horror — you'll ever experience while doing your accounting. Promise.
It's pretty much how you can expect accounting (the profession, not the game) to be described by Justin Roiland, co-creator and writer of Rick & Morty. Justin is one of the key driving forces behind Accounting, a collaboration between British studio Crows Crows Crows (helmed by William Pugh, the designer behind The Stanley Parable) and Roiland's own VR studio Squanchtendo.
Accounting does start out a little like Job Simulator — another VR game where you do in fact simulate a job that's a vague approximation of accounting. You're standing in an office. There's a phone, and a vaguely insulting British man on the phone giving you instructions. A noisy desk fan and some cluttered binders complete the scene.
But this isn't just accounting. It's accounting in VR. See, Accounting is a little like the Inception of VR games, only with more yelling. You need to go deeper.
The set-up is familiar for anyone who's played a bit of VR by this point. The game plonks you in a small space, restricted enough that you can wander around your room-scale VR set up and not bump into things. While it's the only Vive game I've played so far that doesn't display the controllers in game (in this case your 'hands' are giant mouse cursors), mostly it follows convention.
There are things to pick up and throw around, and other things to interact with. It even uses a similar mechanic to one found in Valve's The Lab, where other scenes are accessed by shoving your face into a glowing orb or, in Accounting's case, a pseudo-VR-headset. And then things start to get weird.
Most VR games are surprisingly serene. Or, at least, they cultivate an environment that draws you in, makes you want to stick around for longer than the headset is actually going to be comfortable. Accounting is not like this.
The game lulls you into a false sense of security, letting you look around, touch things, pick things up until all of a sudden it interrupts you. Suddenly someone is shouting at you, angry as all hell. Then there are two people shouting, then someone else joins in just to really make it confusing and terrifying. They're not inviting you into their pleasant VR world. You're an intruder. And you're fucking everything up.
Accounting isn't a horror game. There are no monsters, except maybe the player, you terrible, terrible person. But it's visceral. Some of the moments in the game really make use of VR's ability to totally situate you in the moment, to do things to you or make you do things that are surprisingly confronting.
Even the characters that don't straight-up despise you will be guaranteed to make you uncomfortable in some way. One thing is constant across all of them — they'll never shut up.
Accounting is really not subtle as it leads you through its 15-20 minute experience. Gameplay cues are obvious, often as obvious as someone literally shouting in your ear. But it's only after you've followed the cues that you're allowed to step back and question why you did what you did, horrified at the actions you took just so you could progress in the game.
I don't want to go into too much detail about the nitty gritty of Accounting's various scenes, as it's something that plays so much better when you go into it blind and unsuspecting. The official trailer for the game sums up its signature madcap chaos quite well, however:
While Accounting is a free game for the HTC Vive, it's the second part of that sentence that makes it a little inaccessible to anyone without a spare $2k to drop on the hardware. Luckily for those of you heading along to PAX this week, Accounting will be one of the games available at the VR Freeplay area. You may have to brave a few lines to get there, but even watching someone else play Accounting is worth the wait. Trust me.
Accounting is the first game from Justin Roiland's Squanchtendo, but it won't be the last. The studio is also planning on putting out "experiences that we would like to be totally immersed in and enjoy for hours at a time," besides the "shorter, crazier experiences" like accounting. I'm looking forward to it.