Larvae Atrocitas

Year Walk and the creation of a digital myth.

By: Joseph Leray

Filed Under: Criticism Horror Mobile Psychological

Find a map of northeast Mississippi. Along the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway is a trio of small towns that constitute the closest thing I have to familial stomping grounds: Amory, Aberdeen, and Okolona form a triangle bisected by Highway 45.

My mom explained to me once that a six-legged woman scuttles up and down the railroads that criss-cross this part of Mississippi, preying on hobos, vagabonds, runaways, and various other gadabouts. The body-horror of a cannibalistic spiderlady was kind of creepy and garish, but it’s not a particularly compelling urban legend — I never met anyone outside my immediate family who’d ever heard of her.

Myth-making is hard work, though, and maybe Anna Leray hasn’t had much practice. Folklore has a way of persevering, of sticking to a place’s collective consciousness like sap. Simogo’s Year Walk is a game imbued with the myths of Simon Flesser and Gordon Gärdeback’s native Sweden, and it exposes something universal about the most effective myths, urban legends, and folklore: they demand a certain realness about them to work.

Year Walk comes, literally and narratively, in two parts — the game and a companion app, both on iOS. The game itself is breathtaking: it’s elegantly designed and superlatively evocative. Its narrative is understated, and the puzzles are well-implemented and play to the strengths of touchscreen gaming. Year Walk’s horror is created by its audio direction and level design in addition to more straightforward signifiers.

The titular year walk is a process by which people can see their own future. During transitional times during the year — solstices, Christmas, New Year’s Eve – those interested in year walking would lock themselves away for a day, deprived of food, light, and company. At midnight, walkers attempt to reach the local church or lichyard, beset upon by creatures and phantasms going bump in the night. Should a walker reach the church he — year walkers are typically men — will be able to see into his future.

Caveat ambulans: those who succeed on their walks are powerless to change or alter the future, only glimpse it.

Structurally, Year Walk is similar to any number of adventure games. The playable space is cordoned off into discrete screens, each with a few entry and exit points. Two-dimensional trees, wagons, and dead children litter the three-dimensional space, and moving between two different areas pulls its flat elements into place like a pop-up storybook.

The stark black-and-white coupled with the stillness of the game’s audio design — the crunch of my steps in the snow is deafening — are enough to set players on edge, and they couple nicely with the game’s uneven geography. Year Walk never establishes a sense of scale or relation when it comes to how each screen connects to another, leaving players lost and disoriented in a constantly shifting world — bloody footsteps appear out of thin air, for example, and the town’s mill turns on its own, independently of the wind.

Year Walk’s ghostly forest notwithstanding, its companion app is more interesting to me. At its most basic, the Year Walk companion is an encyclopedia of Swedish folklore, introducing players to the concept of year walking, as well as the mystical monsters and creatures a walker is likely to encounter: the Huldra, the Brook Horse, the Myling.

This may be a concession to demographics — App Store browsers are notoriously fickle, and a foreign country’s local mythos sounds intimidating  — but it’s also a slick design move. The companion app does all the heavy lifting for establishing the game’s premise, leaving the game unburdened by clunky exposition. Similarly, having more information about the world’s ghastly inhabitants doesn’t make players feel more prepared or confident on their walk — it just adds to the list of things to be afraid of.

But the companion’s app real triumph is the meta-narrative it establishes. Completing Year Walk produces a code that unlocks a hidden section of the companion, ostensibly filled with lead writer Thomas Almsten’s research notes. Almsten is an ethnologist and Lund University, but his research of year walking led him to Vedtorp, where he learned about a series of grisly murders.

These murders form the basis of Year Walk, and eagle-eyed players should spot the connections. In 1894, Daniel Svensson stabbed his lover Stina Nilsson to death. When he went to trial, he told the judge that he had seen himself commit his crimes during his year walk, that the power to change the future was beyond his control. He was found guilty and executed, and his story is the premise of the game.

Year Walk’s second puzzle similarly recreates the murder of four orphaned infants by a woman named Lisa Rasmussen. Almsten’s research gives Year Walk an air of found-footage or documentary horror, like the Blair Witch Project or Cropsey, and players control Daniel for the bulk of the game, even if they don’t find out much about him until they read the supplemental information.

Almsten journal documents a period of about six months: he continues his research, sending scripts and drafts to Simogo, giving lectures at Lund, and drinking copious amounts of whiskey as he descends into madness. His journals end the night of his own year walk, compelled to find a way to help long-dead Daniel Svensson by an otherworldly force he calls “the Watchers.”

The companion app is subtle — not so subtle that I didn’t realize that it was becoming part of the game’s larger narrative frame, but enough that the process by which I came to that conclusion was unsettling and unnerving. I got goosebumps reading it again just now, even though I already know its not real. It’s not that the companion app is scary, it’s that the not-knowing is psychologically and emotionally draining.

While Lund University exists in fact, Thomas Almsten is not a real person, nor is there a town in Sweden called Vedtorp. It actually means “wood shed” in Swedish, the traditional place to begins one’s year walk. Year walking, incidentally, seems to be a product of Simogo’s own invention, as opposed to the other fantastical elements of the game which have well-documented roots in Scandinavian folklore.

Almsten’s story handles year walking concept in two ways. One of the first journal entries explains that the oral tradition chronicling the year walk myth has died out, which explains the dearth of information on the subject. And Almsten’s own year walk at the end of the story is framed as a manifestation of mental illness or paranoia. Not only does the companion story to Year Walk purport to be non-fiction, it finds ways to rationalize and explain away the metaphysical, time-bending aspects of the game. Almsten’s diary is presented as both “real” and realistic.

It’s this relative groundedness that makes the companion app compelling reading, though. That the demarcation between fact and fiction is so messy and malleable makes sussing out the Year Walk companion disorienting, which is how it achieves its suspense. By the time it becomes perfectly clear that the companion app isn’t just an elaborate peek into the writer’s life, but an integral part of Year Walk’s metafiction, it’s too late — the Watchers have taken over and Almsten’s walk, like Svensson’s, is inevitable.

It’s important to remember, though, that while Thomas Almsten (and Daniel Svensson, Stina Nilsson, and Lisa Rasmussen and her four dead orphans) is not a real person, Simogo presents his story with all the trappings of empirical truth. Almsten does research, reads courts transcriptions, and cites contemporary newspapers. The companion app itself is largely a just a list of Scandinavian folk-monsters, and by presenting a fair amount of true information, Simogo encourages players to read the rest as similarly factual.

The companion app’s purported realness stands in contrast to Year Walk’s obvious fantasy. The companion app rationalizes the mystical, but the Year Walk game takes it at face value and makes it literal. At the end of the game, Almsten eventually bridges that gap.

Armed with new information about year walking and Stina’s murder, players are encouraged to play the game again, to re-do the crucial parts of Daniel’s life. By the time the connection between the two layers of the game is made, the companion app’s “real” quality has bled over into Year Walk proper. If we can believe part of Almsten’s story, then we have to believe in its connection to Daniel’s life in Year Walk. How far readers are willing to stretch before they break has a kind of transitive property, and its this process that elevates Year Walk from a creepy puzzle game to an artifact of digital urban legend.

If you say “Bloody Mary” three times in a mirror, she will slit your throat on the spot. If you walk to a church at midnight, you’ll meet the Grim, and he’ll show you your future, but you’ll be forced to kill your lover afterward. How do I know? A person from Lund went to Vedtorp and did it and kept a journal about it.

The thematic thrust of the game is that the spiritual and paranormal aren’t bound by sharply-defined categories. Furthermore, Year Walk tells us, these things are dangerous.

The narrative frame skips freely between fact and fiction, the world is geographically incoherent, and Almsten’s greatest insight is that year walking shakes off linear time. The entire project exists in an in-between state, between one app and the other. It’s as easy to get lost in the game’s fantasy as it is the game’s explorable forest.

“My friend Jonas Tarestad presented a short movie script called Årsgång to me early 2012,” Simogo’s Simon Flesser told Touch Arcade when asked about how the Year Walk project got started. “It was odd and fascinating, and seemed to have an almost game-like structure. Things just snowballed from there and we decided to work together to re-work into a game.”

I never understood what he meant, until just now. “This would make a great game!” is an oft-repeated line from game developers: when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. But Almsten’s ability to reach back in time, to allow Daniel Svensson a do-over, is the great promise of video games: the chance to right wrongs and mend regrets. That the game — even at it’s most fantastical — is presented as a series of true events makes it all the more effective.

A story about a Mississippi spider-woman who eats children up and down the railroad system could have been a keeper: Northeast Mississippi is covered in rail, the development of which led to a series of timber booms and, more recently, the establishment of a furniture manufacturing hub. April in Amory, Mississippi invariably brings the Railroad Festival with it, a local holiday that in theory celebrates the crucial role the KCM&B Railroad played in the town’s establishment. In practice, it’s a weekend devoted to eating Bethel Apostolic Church’s apple fritters, the first sunburn of my home state’s preternaturally hot summers, and — for young men and women of a certain age — sparking and quashing middle-school romances.

It makes sense that there should be some sort of folklore that takes the railroad into account, but the the six-legged lady gets too weird, too fast. It’s too easy to summarily reject her as fake. Year Walk is fictional, but it’s real enough in all the ways that matter. Truth is stranger than fiction, but it’s scarier and more poignant, too.

Filed Under: Criticism Horror Mobile Psychological

About the Author:
Joseph Leray is an associate editor at Destructoid. His work can also be found at Touch Arcade and MTV Multiplayer.

243 Responses to “Larvae Atrocitas”

  1. hey

    Taxi moto line
    128 Rue la Boétie
    75008 Paris
    +33 6 51 612 712  

    Taxi moto paris

    Right here is the right website for anybody who really wants to find out
    about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost hard
    to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject which has been written about for many years.
    Wonderful stuff, just excellent!

  2. cheap flights

    I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is
    written by him as no one else know such detailed about my trouble.
    You are amazing! Thanks!

  3. cheap flights

    Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you could be a great author.
    I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will come back later on. I
    want to encourage one to continue your great work, have a nice weekend!

  4. cheap flights

    Fine way of explaining, and fastidious paragraph to
    take information concerning my presentation topic,
    which i am going to convey in college.

  5. cheap flights

    I want to to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it.
    I have got you bookmarked to check out new things you post…


    Hey just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you
    know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

  7. web hosting

    Excellent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just too great.
    I really like what you’ve acquired here, really like what
    you’re stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to
    keep it sensible. I can’t wait to read far more from you.
    This is actually a tremendous website.

  8. gamefly

    Hi colleagues, how is all, and what you want to say concerning this paragraph,
    in my view its in fact amazing for me.

  9. ps4 games

    Hi, yeah this paragraph is truly fastidious and I have learned lot of
    things from it about blogging. thanks.


    I have read so many posts on the topic of the blogger lovers however this
    post is actually a fastidious paragraph, keep it up.

  11. web hosting

    Currently it appears like Movable Type is the best blogging platform
    out there right now. (from what I’ve read)
    Is that what you’re using on your blog?


    Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any
    trouble with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked
    and I ended up losing many months of hard work due to no
    backup. Do you have any solutions to stop hackers?

  13. web hosting

    Every weekend i used to visit this web site, for the reason that i wish for enjoyment,
    for the reason that this this website conations actually nice funny stuff too.

  14. 0mniartist

    Hello, I believe your web site may be having browser compatibility issues.

    Whenever I look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however, if
    opening in Internet Explorer, it’s got some overlapping issues.
    I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other than that, excellent website! asmr 0mniartist


    If you are going for finest contents like myself, just visit this web site every day
    since it presents quality contents, thanks 0mniartist asmr


    Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how can we communicate?
    asmr 0mniartist


    If some one desires expert view regarding blogging and site-building
    afterward i propose him/her to pay a quick visit this webpage, Keep up the good job.

    asmr 0mniartist

  18. gamefly for

    I just like the valuable info you supply for your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and check once more right here
    frequently. I am relatively certain I’ll be informed many new stuff proper right here!
    Good luck for the next!

  19. asmr an

    Hello, i think that i noticed you visited my site thus i came to return the
    desire?.I’m trying to find issues to improve my website!I
    assume its ok to make use of some of your ideas!!

  20. where asmr

    Howdy, I do think your website may be having web browser compatibility problems.
    When I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however,
    when opening in IE, it has some overlapping issues. I merely wanted
    to give you a quick heads up! Apart from that,
    wonderful site!

  21. asmr my

    It’s great that you are getting ideas from this
    post as well as from our argument made at this place.

  22. my asmr

    Thanks for the marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading
    it, you can be a great author. I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will often come back
    in the foreseeable future. I want to encourage continue your great
    job, have a nice evening!

  23. this asmr

    Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you have any
    tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but
    I never seem to get there! Many thanks

  24. the asmr

    It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it’s time
    to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I desire
    to suggest you few interesting things or advice. Maybe you could write next
    articles referring to this article. I desire to read more
    things about it!


    Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful article.
    Thank you for supplying these details. scoliosis


    Hello friends, its fantastic piece of writing regarding teachingand entirely explained, keep it up
    all the time. scoliosis


    Hello there, You’ve done a fantastic job.
    I will definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
    I am sure they will be benefited from this site. scoliosis


    dating sites
    Hello, Neat post. There is an issue together with your
    website in web explorer, might test this? IE still is the market chief and a big
    section of other people will omit your wonderful writing
    due to this problem. dating sites

  29. my asmr

    I’m impressed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog
    that’s both equally educative and engaging, and let me tell you,
    you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which too
    few people are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy I came across this in my hunt for something concerning this.

  30. PfOEwaHQ

    530103 237857Hmm is anyone else having issues with the images on this blog loading? Im trying to figure out if its a issue on my end or if its the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated. 76391

  31. free dating sites this

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I to
    find It really useful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to provide something back and aid others like you
    helped me.

  32. free dating sites in

    Hi there! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from
    an established blog. Is it hard to set up your own blog?
    I’m not very techincal but I can figure
    things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any points or suggestions?
    Many thanks

  33. are scoliosis surgery

    Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers?

    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing many months of hard work due to no back up.
    Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?

  34. scoliosis surgery on

    Your style is unique compared to other people I have read stuff from.

    Many thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity,
    Guess I’ll just book mark this page.

  35. free dating sites was

    I blog quite often and I seriously thank you for
    your content. This article has really peaked
    my interest. I will bookmark your website and keep checking for new information about once a week.
    I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

  36. dating sites the

    It’s in fact very complex in this active life to listen news on TV, therefore
    I simply use internet for that purpose, and get the
    newest information.


    Hey very cool website!! Guy .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your web
    site and take the feeds additionally? I am happy to seek out
    a lot of helpful info right here within the post, we’d like develop more techniques on this regard, thank you for sharing.
    . . . . .


    Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to more added agreeable from you!
    By the way, how can we communicate?

  39. Darknet Linkverzeichnis

    221995 137884Hi, Neat post. Theres a difficulty together with your website in internet explorer, would test this IE nonetheless will be the market leader and a big portion of people will miss your great writing because of this difficulty. 375976

  40. linh tiên song đằng tố

    931529 22752I want to thank you for the excellent post!! I surely liked every bit of it. Ive bookmarked your web site so I can take a appear at the latest articles you post later on. 724122

  41. eBay music coupon

    739110 4349Do folks nonetheless use these? Personally I enjoy gadgets but I do prefer something a bit more up to date. Still, nicely written piece thanks. 480399


    820999 484950As I web-site possessor I believe the content matter here is rattling wonderful , appreciate it for your efforts. You must maintain it up forever! Greatest of luck. 717836

  43. Gladis

    Hurrah! In the end I got a web site from where I can really take
    helpful facts regarding my study and knowledge.

  44. credit dumps

    23832 29339It is difficult to get knowledgeable people within this subject, even so, you appear to be guess what happens youre dealing with! Thanks 958235

  45. white house market

    10641 579310You could certainly see your enthusiasm within the function you write. The world hopes for much more passionate writers like you who arent afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart. 407362

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

The Latest:

  • Originals

    Swan Song

    This is a tough one to write. For those of you who know me, in person, by my writing, or…

  • Originals

    The Fool and the Villain, Part II

    (Warning: In Second Life, pixelated tits and dicks abound. Abandon all hope, all ye who enter this article at work.)…

  • Commentary

    The Edge Of The Ocean

    The problem is to plot the map. My sense of geography is spotted with black holes. There’s the Chinatown and…

  • Originals

    Play Everything

    Play everything. No, I’m serious, play everything. Play that game of hopscotch those kids drew up on the sidewalk with…

  • Commentary

    Genre In Question

    Why are there so few video game comedies? At least twice in the past year I’ve bumped into conversations trying…