Compulsion Games

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Compulsion Games Inc.
IndustryVideo game industry
Founded2009; 10 years ago (2009)
FounderGuillaume Provost
HeadquartersSaint-Henri, ,
Key people
Guillaume Provost (creative director)
ProductsContrast, We Happy Few
Number of employees
40 (2018)
ParentXbox Game Studios (2018–present)

Compulsion Games Inc. is a Canadian video game developer known for Contrast and We Happy Few. The studio is located in a former gramophone factory in the Saint-Henri district of Montreal.[1] In 2018, Compulsion Games was acquired by Microsoft and became part of Microsoft Studios (now known as Xbox Game Studios).


Compulsion Games was founded in Montreal in 2009 by Guillaume Provost, who had previously worked for Arkane Studios.[2] To raise funds for their first game, the team of Compulsion Games worked on external projects, including Darksiders, Dungeon & Dragons: Daggerdale and Arthur Christmas: Elf Run.[3]

At E3 2018, Microsoft announced they entered into an agreement to acquire Compulsion Games, which would become part of Microsoft Studios (now known as Xbox Game Studios).[4] At the time of the acquisition, Compulsion Games had 40 employees.[1]

Games developed[edit]

Contrast (2013)[edit]

Contrast is a twilight adventure suspended in Belle Époque magics and Art Nouveau esthetics, with a film noir atmosphere and haunting soundtrack (Shadow Music: A Soundtrack to Contrast). Contrast is set in the 1920s, blending influences from the 1920s Burlesque and Vaudeville era with some more classic film-noir elements from the 1940s.[5] The player controls Dawn, the imaginary friend of a little girl, Didi, who has the power to turn into her own shadow. She can do this any time, provided there is a lit area where Dawn's shadow can be seen. The original gameplay is based on the interplay of shadows and lights; Dawn has the ability to transit from the colourful 3D world of the streets of Paris into the two-dimensional world of shadows, flattening herself on the walls of buildings or rooms. The player can face unusual 2D platform levels, provided the presence of favourable sources of light that can be moved to solve the puzzles. Provost worked with Valve around the time that the original video game Portal was released, and was inspired by how the Portal series encouraged people to think about space in different ways. The idea of 2D shadow/3D world interaction came to him in a coffee shop in France, and seemed to be a great way of exploring new puzzle mechanics. The film noir world, and the narrative, flowed from this concept.

We Happy Few (2018)[edit]

We Happy Few is a "cheerful" dystopia set in a fictional English city, Wellington Wells, which is inspired by the psychedelic London of the '60s. It is about a retrofuturistic-fashioned society formed following an alternate timeline of events within World War II, which is on the verge of collapse in the mid-1960s. The residents of the city, seeking to forget an unspeakable horror they committed, began taking a hallucinogenic drug called "Joy" that brings them euphoria, but also leaves them easily controlled and lacking morality and understanding. Players control one of three characters, who becomes dubbed as a "Downer" after choosing to stop using Joy, and must try to survive long enough to complete something important and personal to themselves, all while trying to escape the city before the impending social collapse. Played from a first-person perspective, the game combines role-playing, survival, and light roguelike elements, with the developers focused on creating a story with strong narratives, gameplay underlined by a sense of paranoia, and decisions having moral grey areas and weight that influence and affect later parts of the game. This peculiar mix of laughter and dystopia, another "contrast" after the lights and shadows of the previous title, is inspired by the film Brazil by Terry Gilliam, in turn inspired by the quintessential dystopian novel, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the first trailers, traces of Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange can be recognized. The esthetic style resembles BioShock Infinite because Compulsion Games seems particularly linked to the Art Deco style, also present in Contrast. The world of We Happy Few is procedurally generated.[6]


  1. ^ a b Romano, Sal (10 June 2018). "Microsoft acquires Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, and Compulsion Games". Gematsu. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  2. ^ Gilbert, Henry (14 August 2013). "8 rising indie developers to watch". GamesRadar+. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  3. ^ Pavlovic, Uros (24 May 2018). "We Happy Few Slapped With Aussie Classification Board Ban". PlayStation LifeStyle. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  4. ^ Grubb, Jeff (10 June 2018). "Microsoft Game Studios just added five new studios including Ninja Theory". Archived from the original on 10 June 2018. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  5. ^ Reeves, Ben (4 April 2013). "Contrast: Diving In And Out Of Shadows". Game Informer. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  6. ^ Clayton, Whitney (2017). "You Look Smashing: Procedural Art Direction of 'We Happy Few'". GDC Vault. Retrieved 5 July 2019.

External links[edit]