Shh is a game by Norman Ritter and Christiaan Janssen can be found at time of writing at this page for “pay-what-you-want”.
The worst part of taking in publicly preformed art is that you can’t selfishly consume it on your own. I’m the kind of person that finds himself sitting in cinemas during other people’s lunch hours to ensure that I don’t have to have anyone else even existing in my headspace during a film. And yes I’m well aware of how that might make me seem a little elitist, but I’m certainly not the only one guilty of this.
Shh (2016) is a game that makes fun of people like me. In it you play a cultured gentlemen partaking in grand performance of some revelatory new Bach compositions in 1721. Or you would be if it wasn’t for philistines coughing, snoring and sneezing. These other patrons are ruining the historic concert for the knowledgeable listeners like your self. As any gentleman who considers himself wiser than his peers, you take it upon yourself to shush those polluting the hall with their unwanted noise. That shushing is the game’s sole input and your only task.
What makes this game so great is that the player doesn’t quite realize at first that they are in fact the asshole. Shushing might seem like the noble act at first, as no one should have to have the concert interrupted. But as the player continues to shush the other patrons they themselves quickly become the single individual making the most noise, causing the greatest disturbance. Once the player grasps this, there is a moment of personal embarrassment. The player is the one interrupting his own concert, he’s the one running his own evening in an attempt to characterize himself as the sole mannered concertgoer.
Once that player makes this realization, the game’s satire comes into focus. The only visual in the game is a still frame photograph of an incredibly ornate 18th century painting. The player/concertgoer isn’t actually at the concert but a facsimile of one. The other noisy patrons weren’t actually interrupting a historical concert of note, and the player’s need to correct their actions seems even more pretentious. Shh is a game about making the player realize aware of their assholeness. Especially when they realize that none of the sounds were even really voluntary. There is no talking or other overly disrespectful behaviour. The player can only shush sounds that the perpetrators likely wish they had not made.
At the end of the concert all the other patrons give a large round of applause for the well-preformed pieces. They all got to enjoy some great music, but the player spent the length of the concert more concerned with those around them instead of the music itself. As the painting fades to black the player is left with a feeling of disappointment in the self, and the bitter taste of missed opportunity to partake in great art.
I for one, immediately restarted Shh and did not shush once.