Wind howls as I open my eyes to the arctic winter's chill. My plane just crashed into the mountains behind me and I was able to escape with some basic supplies. I check in my pack to get a grasp on what I could salvage. A box of matches. A couple energy bars. A can of soda. Some painkillers and bandages. An emergency flare. Beef jerky. Hmm. Not a lot, really. I zip up and start walking. Trees and mountains surround me. Luckily I have warm clothes on; a winter coat, wool socks, and a beanie.
As I walk up to the peak of a little hill, I spot a wolf just 100 feet to my right. It's walking slowly, maybe prowling on a deer or something. I steer clear of it as I head toward an opening in the trees. When I reach the clearing, I realize a frozen lake is right beneath my feet. The aggressive winds die down enough so I can see a little shack right in the middle of the lake, built upon the ice. I'm in the Northern Wilderness, so the ice should be strong enough to walk across. I step out on and slowly walk toward the shack.
Once I reach the shack, I peek inside - there's no door. I notice a hole in the floor; this must be a fishing shack! If only I had some line or a hook. Or something to break apart the ice in the hole. I look up at the table and find a fishing hook! No bait or anything, but it could come in handy. I stash it in my pack and keep looking around. In a metal container on the floor I find a couple more energy bars, a ration, and a canteen! Thank goodness. I unscrew the cap and take a whiff; smells a bit musty, but it's definitely water. I take a chug to try and maintain my hydration. It might be awhile till I have access to running water again.
With the sun past its peak, I figure I should make for a warmer destination. I do have a sleeping bag with me, but this shack is going to be below zero in a matter of hours. I head out, and across the lake.
The Long Walk
After walking for another hour or so, I grab some beef jerky and an energy bar to eat. I'm feeling a little tired at this point. The temperature is seeping down into my skin. Into my bones. I need all the calories I can eat to keep going. After another half hour I see some rabbits jetting around. Somehow they're surviving up here in the cold. Maybe there's a cabin nearby. Or a cave. I'll take anything. I decide to follow the rabbits for awhile. One of them runs into a little bush when I notice a few sticks and wire tied together in what looks like a snare. A snare! This must mean someone's been here recently! I leave the snare, but continue to follow the rabbits. They must know of a warm place.
Another hour passes and the rabbits have long since outrun me. The frost in the wind is making my eyes sting. My vision is getting a little blurry. Or maybe it's the fog. It's hard to tell. Wait, what's the ahead? I can see some straight, geometric lines through the fog. It's...it's a little cabin! My lifesaver!
A Chance at Survival
My pace quickens as I reach the front door. It's locked! Damn! Wait, maybe.....if...there we go. It was just frozen solid. I enter and quickly shut the door. Even though no one is here and there is no heat, it feels 50 degrees warmer to get out of the wind. I immediately notice a wood stove in the corner and run over to it. It's empty, but there's a book of matches right next to it. I grab the matches to find just three matchsticks left. Gotta make these count.
I look around for firewood and can't find much of anything. I did find a few pieces of paper for kindling at least. After searching a bit longer, I decide to break apart a chair to use as heat. Once I get pieces small enough for the furnace, I pile them in with the scraps of paper and light the match. One of the pieces of paper burns hot and fast, then dies. I try again, this time packing the paper tighter, for a slower burn. I get the wood burning a little! But it died again. Only one match remains. Hmm. I should look for better kindling. After some searching (mixed with some heavy panic attacks), I find a small first-aid kit with an alcohol swab in it. This could be used as an accelerant! I put everything into the furnace and strike my last match. Here goes nothing!
The alcohol swab quickly burns down, but a small shard of the chair catches a good burn and the fire slowly grows to full heat! I did it! Hope isn't lost just yet. I sit by the fire for awhile to warm up, then I go outside, grab some snow, and melt it down to drink. It's been hours since I drank the last of my water. I also eat a little more of my food. Still need to stay fueled up.
It's pitch black outside and the wind is howling. I unroll my sleeping bag into the bed in the cabin and slip inside. My eyes quickly give way to the night. I have survived one day out here so far. There will likely be many, many more before I get out of here. I wonder what adventures await.
The Game Itself
The Long Dark is a computer game for Mac, Windows, and Linux. You start by yourself, outside in the freezing cold with just a few supplies. It's up to you to explore the lands and try to survive. If the temperatures or dehydration doesn't get you, the wolves might. The above story I wrote was something that happens in the game every day. You have to be resourceful and use your supplies efficiently to survive.
That's why I wanted to write about the game in The Minimal Minute. This website will never be a video game review site, but The Long Dark is a game with a focus on efficiency and minimalism. You're forced to only bring with you what you can carry. You have to find ways to use tools, repair items, and use energy on things that are important.
The game does an amazing job at making you feel hopeless at times and extremely accomplished other times. One day, I was exploring an abandoned dam when I wolf attacked me from out of the shadows. I was able to stab it a couple times so it ran away. He left me with just 2% health, but I was able to limp out of there and find a cabin to rest in. After a couple days of rest, I had recovered, all the while working on a leather jacket and repairing my worn clothes.
The game is still in development right now, but you can get early access for $20 through Steam. Highly recommended!