Thinking About “Morning Coffee”

A short-form game asking us to think about our morning routines.

Melos Han-Tani


Play Morning Coffee. It is short.

Morning Coffee looks at the daily morning routine most humans have. Morning tasks are done with a variety of motivations: for your health, to help in accomplishing tasks later in the day, and sometimes for less productive reasons — occasionally done with a stressful awareness of time passing.

Morning Coffee requires the player to perform three interactions, the first two happening immediately. Drink the coffee to wake up. Check the time on your phone to make sure you aren’t late. These actions are simple and relatable, which has an effect of changing the player mindset from one of “I am playing a game” to one partially of “…and now I am doing my morning routine, but I am still playing a game” — which lends itself to an increased awareness of the tasks that are being done. If you don’t drink coffee in the morning, you probably know someone who does. Checking your phone for the time is an action anyone owning a cellphone can relate to. The same goes with the later (optional) gesture of picking up keys — if you don’t drive or live in an apartment by yourself where remembering the keys is often required, then you’ve probably experienced semi-regularly a parent or guardian getting keys before leaving the home.

In addition to being relatable, within the context of a morning routine, these tasks contribute to a sense of urgency. When do we drink coffee? To wake up, when we need to be awake for doing something later. Why do we check our phone in the morning? To make sure we’re still on schedule. We pick up the keys and leave when we believe we are ready and prepared for the point-of-no-return action of leaving home for the day — which can occasionally be stressful in the context of a rushed morning routine.

To additionally activate our memories and increase our ability to relate to the actions, in place of music, the game uses the prominent sound of a heavy rain onto a house — waking up to this noise can be occasionally calming, until remembering the need to deal with rain once leaving the comfort of the home. Choosing this single sound works well, because it is almost universally present to humans. Contrast this with the effect of ambient music, which may be able to shift the mood more specifically, but doesn’t have the power of memory that the rain does. Other sound cues are cleverly used: setting a mug down, sipping coffee, picking up keys.

Pick up the keys, notice the common household objects and minimal texturing

You can walk around the room a bit. The living-room/apartment architecture of the space, as well as visual cues in the 3D objects, remind us of what we use to feel more comfortable living: books to read, a laptop to work or entertain, couch to lay on, coffee makers, etc. Minimal 3D texturing and the inability to interact with such objects works well in contributing to the idea that we need to leave the room. It’s 7:41 AM, we need to leave, no time for play. I’ve felt similarly when leaving for high school, passing by various game consoles while making sure I had all of my schoolwork. In the context of Morning Coffee, we reflect on how these objects are for a different time, and how they play roles in our lives.

There’s nothing left but to leave the house now, with or without keys in hand.

Morning Coffee creates enough thinking about the morning routine through its actions and design alone, but the ending tries to increase that awareness through a contrast. The ending zooms out from Earth, the solar system, then the galaxy. This action now gives us something to think more about with respect to the morning routine: the existence of the universe.

Let’s look at the artist’s description:

“Morning Coffee the daily ritual
the little things
the big things

A short-form video game ‘poem’ which attempts to link contexts between our small daily activities and … bigger things.”

The game establishes relating the player to the morning actions, which is then needed to put the morning routine in context with something else…in this case, the universe. What point exactly the game makes with that is left somewhat unknown, to the detriment of the game: the ending leaves you wondering: am I supposed to feel nihilistic? hopeful? upset? etc. There’s a variety of directions it could go, unproductive or productive for the player. Most people will be confused.

A slight bit of text would do very well for Morning Coffee, both in the ending and the gameplay. Everyone might not feel rushed in the morning, but the ending seems to want to be putting whatever you just did in context with the universe, and it seems like that comparison only has effectiveness if the player was caring or stressed about what they were doing in the gameplay — the phone saying “Work: 8:30" , for example, and the phone’s clock slowly passing time. It builds stress, which is good, because the game wants us to reflect on that stress.

The ending is vague. I could see some players taking things the Wrong Way and feeling like their actions are pointless because the World Is So Big! Which is a horrible thing to make a player feel: nihilistic feelings are almost always counterproductive — everyone has them anyways, so there’s no point (I feel) in making someone feel more nihilistic.

A smaller space of interpretation for the ending would work well.

Perhaps short sentences in the zoom-out from Earth in the ending would be nice too: “I left home/Forgot my keys../but Work went well today.” To remind the player of the existence of the player-character within this universe being zoomed out from, as having importance, maybe in a small degree, but still important to some people — just like our everyday lives. We think about how stressed we felt even though it was okay in the end. This could lead to more self-reflection in a larger number of players, without a didactic sense from the text: The text serves the same role as the objects around the house: reminders of certain times or feelings throughout the day.

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(detour: abstract games are great for various reasons, but when there’s the opportunity to also do something that can lead to a more concrete takeaway for the player without hurting the underlying game too much, I think it’s OK to step in that direction: it initially feels purer to keep a game abstract in narrative, but in reality maybe 95% of players will be confused or hazy about what’s happened, and 5% will find meaning no matter what, so making the game more accessible, even slightly, is there to help out everyone. Your game will likely still have plenty to interpret, but it will have at least a backbone of something accessible that the common player can learn from. )