The Dark Forest

The Dark Forest

Online Vulnerarbility in a Monster Filled Forest

March 2023

Enter a Dark Forest of social media monsters… Chirp your thoughts into the environment around you to build rapport with its strange denizens. Choose your words wisely; different associations will endear you to or see you shunned by different communities that inhabit the forest. Your allegiances will light-up, or snuff-out, different paths in this open-world labyrinth.

Dark Forest is a single-player game based on the dark forest theory of the internet.

This describes that the internet is like a dark forest of potential predators at night and has become a place where users tread carefully and curate what they say and present publicly in order to navigate safely and maximise their participation.

In Dark Forest, players navigate a dark forest using a smartphone-like device. They combine words on the device into sentences that ‘ping’ the forest around them. Different communities of monsters lurking in the forest respond to different phrases and words differently, lighting up like bioluminescent creatures and opening up different pathways and sections based on the player’s implicit associations based on the words they choose. Dark Forest is based on the three pillars of vulnerability, spatial exploration and language mastery. Players first feel vulnerable, then learn to master a language that opens up explorable space while they engage.

Dark Forest is built in Unreal Engine and features artworks and monster designs from high-fidelity 3D scanned plasticine models inspired by Jim Henson’s 80s movies Dark Crystal and The Labyrinth.