As you make your way down a grey corridor you come across a man sitting behind a glass panel staring at a fridge, unable to break eye contact with it. He’s alone, desperate, and afraid. “Oh thank god. I’ve been staring at it since yesterday with no breaks,” he says. “Are you here to take over?” You keep walking, not knowing how to help. “Wait! Don’t leave me here!” If he looks away the fridge could very well kill him.
That’s a scene from Control, a new third-person action-adventure game from Remedy Entertainment, the creators of cult classics including Max Payne. It’s also a creative mixture of SCP-173 and SCP-683, two entries on the SCP Foundation wiki – a vast collaborative fiction project written by hundreds of contributors.
SCP stands for Secure, Contain and Protect. The website is full of hundreds of crowd-sourced entries about objects and strange entities that violate natural law. The SCP Foundation is the organisation tasked with keeping them contained. Entries, which are written in the deadpan style of police reports, include SCP-2598, a large yellow underwing moth that only communicates in American Morse code or SCP-087, an endless, pitch black platform staircase where a distressed child can be heard calling for help. Some entries will cause nightmares, while others are good for a quick laugh.
The SCP Foundation has inspired books, music and even a stage show. There are echoes of it in Annihilation, the book by Jeff VanderMeer that was recently adapted into a Netflix movie. The site played a key role in setting the tone and mechanics of Control, which is released on August 27 on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Windows. “The Secure, Contain, and Protect site was an influence on our game, when you see these altered objects locked away in their cells because they have these strange powers, like the man that has to stare at the fridge or it will deviate,” said Control’s narrative lead Anna Megill in an interview with IGN earlier this year. “Some of our inspiration came from digging through that website. “
Inspiration is putting it lightly. Control takes place in an alternate version of the United States where an organisation called the Federal Bureau of Control deals with supernatural accidents and objects by tracking and containing them. While Control does have a central narrative, it also houses dozens of self contained stories within side quests, collectables, and scenes about how a faceless organise tackles reality defying threats. It feels like a virtual version of the SCP.
On the wiki, SCP-470 is an abandoned seven story office building that houses a dimensional anomaly meaning that rooms shift and change, sometimes leading to locations that were never part of the building in the first place. Control takes this concept to create a labyrinth in form of The Oldest House, a brutalist structure in New York City that constantly shifts and changes so often that employees of the Bureau sometimes go missing in its maze-like hallways.
You play as Jessie Faden, a woman who had a brush with the Bureau when she was only a child, as she navigates the confusing corners The Oldest House after a paranormal force called ‘The Hiss’ invades. The Oldest House acts as the perfect base of operations for the exploration of the creepy and unsettling in Control. As you explore its cavernous offices and cramped blast shelters you’ll uncover mystery after mystery, whether they be in the form of a partially redacted report or a containment unit holding a time-traveling 1968 Chevrolet El Camino. Control pushes you to read every scrap of paper that you find as you won’t know what type of secrets they’ll hold.
What’s interesting about the SCP Foundation, besides the horrifying nature of some reports, is that there is no limit or restriction to the type of story you’ll find due to the large number of contributing authors. Control is no different. Early on you’ll find a short memo that explains how a field agent pawned off a paranormal attack on a small Alaskan town on polar bears who had been forced to migrate by a rapidly changing climate. Another story links a local celebrity in Butte, Montana to a series of disappearances that were actually caused by a dimension bending light switch found in his home. Everyone who pulled the light switch cord were transported to a sealed off room in The Oldest House.
Control builds on the stories from the SCP and lets you actually see how an organisation might actually try and deal and contain with these otherworldly entities. But it doesn’t try and impose any real order or structure to proceedings.
Collaborative projects can easily fall apart without proper guidance from a central power, but the SCP Foundation manages to establish a creepy, yet almost convincing universe. That’s only possible due to its lack of definitive rules, and the same principle applies to Control.
The developers resist the temptation to provide underlying sense of reason or rationality to proceedings, or to build a world that can explain the strange goings on. The game may not have been written by hundreds of anonymous faces online, but it captures the chaotic, random essence of the SCP Foundation. How and why things these things are happening is never explained, but that doesn’t really matter. In Control, it’s bound to be something weird.
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