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Games

Enjoy a Pointed, Painful Napping Simulator in 'Commute'

I fell asleep on the subway and woke up three stops later in 'Commute'

by Danielle Riendeau
Nov 18 2016, 3:00pm

If you take public transit to work every day, you are privy to a deep set of truths about the human condition. You know what people from every imaginable walk of life look like when they are happy, sad, stressed out, or sick. 

You know the pathos that is the face of a person who has just missed the train, flailing fruitlessly as a door closes rudely on them. You know the triumphs of just making it. You know what your neighbor had for breakfast.

You also, almost certainly, have fallen asleep in an uncomfortable seat, probably touching a person you don't know.

Commute is a small game, described as an "tiny autobiography" on Itch.io user Sean Slebanc​'s page. It's simple: you play as a tired commuter who naps between subway stops. You can make accelerate time by napping: pressing on any arrow key. But be careful! You need to be awake when the train gets to your stop.

The game will run in realtime, if you let it. Sure, you can stare at the little pixel folks riding with you, a menagerie of folks who represent the diversity (age, race, gender and otherwise) of a city's subway riders. But the winning move is to catnap—tapping on the arrow keys gently, only to adroitly spring up when the stop is yours.

All Commute screens by the author

It's a special, learned skill in real life: the ability to get some rest on mass transit, and wake up right on time so that you maximize sleep and minimize wasted time. But it's a dangerous trade: missing your stop, in life as in Commute, is really, really easy.

There's something appealing about the rhythm of Commute. It nails the weird discomfort of being in an enclosed space with strangers. There's even something a little romantic about it, the way the tiny cityscape toots by, all chunky pixels and blue skies. It's familiar, if not exactly comfortable, exactly like an actual commute.

There's a power in these small experiences, of interacting with elements this familiar from a new point of view. This is a game about the way people have basically gamified their own lives (or sleep schedules, at least) for as long as there have been trains taking us to work. And it strikes true: I think I played Commute so much because I have totally been there, drooling on a stranger's shoulder at the end of a long day. We all have.