Unlike the smug The Stanley Parable, Lakeview Cabin doesn’t hold video games, or average gamers, in contempt. By allowing both the designer and the player to play equally crucial roles, Lakeview Cabin reveals the potential of video games as entertainment and art.
Taken one way, Lakeview Cabin allows you to create your own version of a 1970s horror movie as you interact with numerous items. Some items, like the axe, are easily attained and have obvious uses. Others, like a gasoline canister, require a little fooling around. The way you set up the game becomes your own puzzle.
Appearances can seem important. You can make the protagonist of Lakeview Cabin as deranged as you like, whether that involves becoming a vomiting drunkard or taking off all of your clothes and stirring up a bee’s nest. But when the game’s climax occurs — a climax that never changes — your appearance won’t count as much as how you have set yourself up for success against unspeakable horror.
Whether the developer intended this or not, Lakeview Cabin is a game about heterosexual male fantasy and the consequences of that fantasy. As the lone caretaker of cabins, you can do whatever you want. You can drink alcohol to your content, but it will cost you in terms of control. You can spend your time trying to kill a deer, but what are you really accomplishing? Perhaps the most telling aspect of this male fantasy is the ability to scope out unsuspecting women as a pervert.
The horror that you eventually face speaks directly about the potential consequences of heterosexual relations with women. Some people might view this game as misogynistic. What this perspective misses is the legitimate and very real fear that many men have of creating children. Abstractly, this fear drives the gameplay of Lakeview Cabin.
My thematic suggestions above might be considered absurd, but one thing can’t be denied: Lakeview Cabin gives the gamer several interesting options while leading to a single moment. Developer Roope Tamminen tops the cynicism of The Stanley Parable and offers a strange proxy of human experience with his free horror game.