Week 10 – Main Post – The Exit 8

The title image / logo of The Exit 8, a video game.

How do you feel about liminal spaces? I for one find them uncomfortable and unsettling – Something about them makes them feel dreamlike and surreal, rather nightmarish. Despite that, I love getting spooked, especially with a group of friends; and this week a group of friends I came across a new game which perfectly evokes that unsettling feeling of being trapped in a liminal space. The Exit 8 is psychological horror / walking simulator in which you’re trapped in an endlessly looping hallway – inspired by the Japanese underground subway – trying to find the exit. Having already been in a Discord call at the time, one of my friends purchased this new release and decided to stream it for us, luckily, the way this game is designed made it perfect for a group play session where us as the spectators became active collaborators.

For context, I haven’t played the demo myself, however, two people in our group compared this concept to PT – the cancelled horror game which was being developed by Hideo Kojima.

The setup is simple, you’re instructed to walk through the looping tunnel section and follow the signs towards the exit, however, there’s as set of simple instructions which you must follow:

Don’t overlook any anomalies.

If you find anomalies, turn back immediately.

If you don’t find anomalies, do not turn back.

To go out from Exit 8.

A screenshot from The Exit 8, a video game. The image depicts a sign titled "Guide" and details instructions on what to do should a player encounter an anomaly.

Essentially, this is a game about observation and paying close attention to your surroundings. The level itself is simple, consisting of two main hallways, one which has a sign pointing to you towards the exit, and another – which is considered the main hallway – where possible anomalies can occur. The walls and floor are all made up of a reflective white tile, aside from the yellow path of tiles depicting a trail towards the exit.

So, we had one player, which I’ll refer to as the controller streaming the game, and three others – myself included – watching and carefully observing the surroundings. Probably not the way this game was meant to be played, four sets of eyes being better than one set; however, who to judge. We were having fun with this setup.

It took us a couple of walk-throughs to understand how the game works. The first – shorter – hallway you encounter has a large yellow poster with “Exit 0” written on it and an arrow pointing you in the right direction. Walking past this section – requiring a quick left turn, then a right turn – leads you to the main section.

A screenshot from The Exit 8, a video game. The image depicts a liminal space. The space is a hallway made of white tiles. There are posters on the walls and a man wearing business casual attire at the end of the hallway.

This longer section features 6 posters on the left wall, three doors on the right wall, a couple “no smoking” posters, some vents, and a man dressed in business casual attire who turns the corner at the end of the hall, making his way towards – and past – you. There is also a sign coming down from the room with the number “8” on it and an arrow pointing in the direction we are already walking.

A screenshot from The Exit 8, a video game. The image depicts a liminal space. The space is a hallway made of white tiles. There are posters on the walls.

So as the instructions state, if you notice an anomaly, turn back, and walk in the other direction. If you don’t, just keep walking straight.

Through our first encounter with the main hallway, we were hypervigilant paying close attention the all the micro details of each poster. We carefully examined the number of signs, and the attire of the man walking past us. We really weren’t sure what to look for – however, we solidified this is the “natural” state of the game containing no anomalies.

We walked past this section, assuming everything was in order, however, upon turning the corner we were once again face-to-face with the “Exit 0” sign. So we walked past and it all repeated. Back into the main hallway. Once more we didn’t notice anything strange, so we strolled past all the posters and turned the corner. To our surprise, the large yellow sign now showed “Exit 1”.

This is where we clued in, if we encounter an anomaly and don’t notice it, the yellow sign will reset back to “Exit 0”, however, with each successful walk through the level the upcoming sign will count up from 0 to 8.

In this case, there truly was no anomaly and we correctly walked forward. I guess the previous walk-through did feature an anomaly which we missed. As we kept looping through, we continued carefully examining the posters and our surroundings, but nothing seemed out of place, so we progressed. “Exit 2”.

The next rendition of the hallway finally struck us. There were two men standing still in the middle of it – almost matrix like, two agents in suits. Already in a heightened sense, conditioned knowing we’re playing a horror game, we all panicked in our voice call and instructed the person playing to INSTANTLY turn back and walk the other direction. Nonetheless, curiosity got the better of us and he wanted to see what would happen if he walked past them. Upon reaching the end of the hallway, we were jumpscared – the two men appeared right in front of us, face to face.

Game over. Back to the beginning.

So, we started a new, made a lap through with nothing out of place and continued forward. “Exit 1”, once more, nothing out of place “Exit 2”, At this point we were still trying to determine what counted as an anomaly and what didn’t. Every once in a while, there was a clicking noise, we made a mental note of when that sound played – and on the next lap, the sound played at a different moment. We decided this was different and instructed the controller to turn back around. Doing so resulted in the yellow sign now showing “Exit 3”. We went through another lap, once more noticing the sound played at a different moment and once again instructed the controller to turn back. This time the sign reset to “Exit 0”.

Alright great, so we made a key determination here. The sound que is a red herring and has nothing to do with anomalies. Coincidentally, the hallway which we first instructed the controller to turn around in just so happened to contain an anomaly – which we didn’t notice and by chance we correctly did a 180.

Once more, back to the beginning. As we got further into the loop, we began losing our sanity. One rendition of the hall everything seemed alright, however, just before we locked in our decision and turned the corner, one person blurted out “WAIT! Look at that blue poster!”. We turned around and notice the face of the man in the illustration was now contorted and demonic. A good catch of a small detail. “Exit 4” It’s at this point we started looking far too deep into the details and questioning our memory. The game essentially started gaslighting us – getting us to argue and question small details.

“How many cameras were there last time? No man, there were always two no-smoking signs. Wait the no smoking sign had a green cigarette this time around, was it always green?”.

We often found ourselves misjudging, losing trust in our own memory, turning back when we shouldn’t have and resetting the loop.

As we kept playing, it was clear – some anomalies were blaringly obvious, while others resided in small details within the environment. At one point, the person streaming encountered visual artifacts due to their own GPU, nonetheless, we considered this an anomaly and accidentally reset our progress.

I don’t want to divulge too many examples should you choose to try the game yourself – so I have been, and will continue to only describe the anomalies that are unquestionable. After encountering eyes which follow us, hallways flooding with bloody water, the power going out and various other anomalies we eventually developed a strategy and got the hand of the game. We kept the camera centered. One person watched the left wall, another person watched the right, a third person watched the ceiling, and the controller paid general attention to the surroundings.

Eventually, with this strategy we made it through and to our relief, saw the light of day. We made it to Exit 8, and subsequently the stairs leading out.

A screenshot from The Exit 8, a video game. The image depicts a liminal space. There is a yellow sign stating "Exit 8" and an arrow point to a set of stairs that go up.

As the developer describes it, Exit 8 is a game which can be completed anywhere between fifteen minutes to an hour. For us, it took roughly forty-five minutes. I guess I’m not too sure what that says about our individual perception and deduction skills.

Ultimately, this game was a clever little experience blending psychological horror and puzzle solving. It’s honestly not too scary so even those faint of heart would have no problem trying it out. It excels in making you question your memory and sanity with such a simple concept. If you’re looking for a unique experience to get through within a relatively short amount of time, I highly recommend trying it out yourself.

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