"I've been soliciting player feedback for a few months now and one of the constant bits I've received is 'How do I make her happy?'. That response brought me a considerable amount of joy because I've spent most of my life asking myself that question." says Andrea Ayres of Lemonsucker Games.

Ayres' The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne (Samantha Browne) explores social anxiety through a simple lens: going down into a public dorm's shared kitchen to make some oatmeal. Stand up, walk down a hall, make oatmeal. Sounds easy. Yet all along the way, there are these tiny obstacles in Samantha's mind, possibilities of screw-ups and embarrassment swirling in her head. For the player, every decision also contains a small failure, and the tiniest decision can lead to the culmination of Samatha's fears.

"With anxiety, I've always felt like I was choosing between two terrible situations." says Ayres. For the player to feel that sense of anxiety that the character was going through, each decision had to be a failure, on some level. From Ayres' own experience, this is what social anxiety feels like. It is a sense that all of your options are awful in some way.


Samantha has a stress bar that fills up as players work their way through the game. Every single decision, right or wrong, will add something to this bar. 'Correct' decisions often add less, but they still all contribute to increasing Samantha's anxiety. There is no optimum path through the game where she doesn't feel any stress at all. There is only a slightly better path that still leaves Samantha's stress level on the verge of overwhelming her.

"On the rare occasion I'm at an event that requires my engaging with other people face-to-face, it's a constant battle between two thoughts: running out of the room and hiding in the bathroom, or standing there and trying to make small talk. Neither of which really appeal to me." says Ayres.

"I hate giving into my anxiety, yet I feel equally dissatisfied with my ability to engage in conversation. I just end up saying 'cool beans' over and over again, and it's not even a phrase I use in my day-to-day life. It only comes out when I have to speak to strangers. So it's a choice between various degrees of displeasure and that's what I tried to convey with the game mechanic."


Had Samantha Browne featured an optimum path, it would encourage the thought that people with social anxiety just need to make the right decision in order to get through it. With a stress-free route, it shows a correct way through the game's challenges. From Ayres' own experience, this is not what social anxiety feels like. To her, it manifests as this sense that none of your decisions are correct. They might work, but there was always a better way. In that, there is failure no matter what she does.

"There are numerous ways a player can fail. Some will be obvious, some won't be, and sometimes you'll realize it only too late. My anxiety tends to manifest itself in decision impotence. By the time I've finally made a choice I'm filled with dread that I've made the wrong one. Then I ruminate on the consequences and even if something turns out alright I think 'Yah, but it could have been better if I'd only done this...'." says Ayres.

The constant, minor failures make the player feel the same way. In most games, there are correct and incorrect actions. In an action game, you may survive a fight without taking damage, or make it through having lost a portion of health. A loss of health tells the player that they could have done better had they made better combat decisions. A first time Samantha Browne player is likely to think the same thing - had I chosen a different route, I would not have made Samantha suffer more stress. It gets the player second-guessing what feels like minor decisions, but that is the key to feeling what Ayres wants you to feel.


"I also liked the idea of playing with automatic assumptions people have when they hear the word 'game.' I wanted to toy with the conventional win-loss scenario." says Ayres.

As a player, these tasks seem simple, but for Samantha, they are anything but. She is hungry, but is afraid of what she will run into when she steps outside of her safe space. Will she have to talk to other people if she goes to the public kitchen? What will she say if she does? What if those people talking in their rooms are speaking about her? Are those girls in the kitchen laughing at something she did? Should she speak to them? And is she making her oatmeal right? Should she ask for help, or would people judge her for that? Her mind is a quagmire of ways for life and the people around her to make her feel bad about herself, but hiding would mean starving for the night.

Yet hiding and not feeding herself seems the least stressful. It means she can stay in a safe spot and hide from her fears, but this will lead to harm to her body. As far as the game goes, she just needs to pick some oatmeal, walk down a hall, and make it. For players who've saved the universe or fought ancient evils, this should be easy. How hard is it to make the right decisions and succeed at making a meal?


"I wanted to create a task that people wouldn't normally associate with feeling anxious. If the main task of the game was giving a speech in front of a crowd, there's a certain amount of anxiety that's expected. Making oatmeal doesn't feel inherently anxiety-producing and that felt like a great jumping off point to me." says Ayres. "It also helped to keep the game focused on a task which seemed accomplishable. The game really isn't so much about succeeding at making oatmeal as it is about exploring the possibilities of how you could fail at it."

One of the important aspects of what Ayres wanted players to experience with Samantha Browne was the simple ways in which social anxiety affects people. It's not the same as being afraid of being in front of a crowd or being nervous about blowing a big project before important investors. It is something more than regular nervousness, and affects every aspect of a person's life when they have to interact with others. A grand moment might have helped players instantly connect with the fear, but it is the disorder that Ayres wanted players to experience.

With a task as mundane as making oatmeal, Ayres breaks down how social anxiety works its way into every decision and interaction that will take the character out of her safe space. Every interaction is loaded with ways for it to fail or harm her. Samantha's mind works at every possible angle, and when something goes wrong, even slightly, she reads it as evidence that her fearful thoughts were correct. It might be just a walk down the hall, but there are so many different ways for it to create an uncomfortable, negative experience for her.


Samantha Browne catalogues these failures in various ways, showing the player through increasing the stress bar, Samantha's inner monologue, and her movements and pauses. Samantha stops to ask the player what to do often, which is useful for keeping them engaged, but also shows how often she has to halt her actions and think them over. Every step to the door and through the hallway asks the player to consider what they are asking her to do, as she runs through every possibility that can go wrong.

This can stir up several emotions surrounding the character. It can make players frustrated that they have to navigate something that seems to be so simple to them, mirroring Ayres' own frustrations with social anxiety. It can also show the player just how the mind works in these situations, drowning every decisions in a torrent of ways it can go wrong. No matter what, these decisions make the player feel something along with Samantha, giving them a little sense of what it is like for her.

"It's a story about a girl who is learning about herself and the player is alongside her to witness and partner with Samantha as this unfolds. Whether or not people like Samantha depends on their own experience, but hopefully her character is strong enough that they have a reaction one way or the other."

All of this was meant to happen under a sheen of normalcy. The world of Samantha Browne isn't subdued or dark, but is filled with bright colors and vibrant characters. It looks cute and happy, at a glance, but stresses lurk underneath that exterior.


"I wanted the outer wrapping of this story to be cute, innocent, and polished. In my mind, Samantha puts a lot of effort into making sure she appears this way to strangers. As the story unfolds you get to know someone who isn't nearly as okay as they pretend to be."

Part of social anxiety is in hiding it. It's in acting like you're fine and that none of this is bothering you, even though your mind is a raging storm of horrible possibilities. In that, Samantha's Browne's exterior works best when it appears happy and fun. The art style tells the player that this will be a lighthearted romp, and in its action, it can be. There is still that awful stress that runs beneath everything, though. The game says that your loved ones, happy as they may appear, can be hiding some pain within them that makes their lives extremely difficult. It tells us to look deeper in our own lives.

The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne lets the player know that this is what every day, and every decision, is like for a person suffering from social anxiety. Although it may be hidden beneath a bubbly exterior, it is still there, making every step difficult. It loads every decision with this sense that you are failing constantly, and only a single screw-up from something terrible. Ayres' work captured these emotions through the game's visuals, decision-making, and mechanics, all working to make the player feel something as they step into Samantha's life.

"Our emotions can sometimes feel like these huge unexplored chasms within us and I wanted this story about oatmeal to be the player peering over that chasm and being like 'Well, f***.'."

The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne Trailer from Andrea Ayres on Vimeo.

The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne is available to play for free on Steam,, and the App Store. For more information on the game and Lemonsucker Games, you can head to the developer's site, the game's site, or follow them on Twitter.