When I stated that I’d start the year nearly 365 days ago with a promise to blog about every game in the Rami Ismail-led, 350+ developer initiative that was the Meditation Games project, I had some idea of how it might go, but no clue as to how playing 365 or so little bite-sized games was going to turn out. I didn’t really know if I could keep up with a unique project that only made the games available for at most a day, or, as I can confess more readily now, if I could even accomplish doing it, especially with a self-imposed restriction of spending no more time on a post than the games experiences I was writing about (5-6 minutes). But here, at the end of the year, I am proud to say that I was able to do so, and I’m glad I decided to do it, because I learned so much more about games, about writing, and about my own style of thinking and communicating.
As a New Year approaches, most people enter a reflective state in which they take a look back at the year in question, try to figure out where they were in relation to where they are, and move forward from there. It’s a practice that is as old as perhaps any one of us remembers, and is our window to new things happening with a new year approaching. But there are some that look back even further than a year, looking at the year almost-spent as an overall next step in the progression of longer term goals, and when that progression is the result of refocusing or changing oneself, it becomes even more important to do so – and that’s what impression I got when I was taking a look at this last entry in the Meditation Games project.
We’ve seen quite a few eulogies in game form for this year’s Meditations Games project, and many of them have tugged a bit at my heartstrings as far as being able to convey the emotional pain and missing feeling that the developers have seen for loved ones and people that are otherwise no longer in their lives any more. In many of them, there’s a bit of a bleakness to the presentation, a kind of emptiness that gets shown to us that tries to get to the source of the developer’s loss. Here, however, I think we see that in stark detail, as you’re not just seeing or feeling the bleak mood being presented but also taking an active role in running through the bittersweet memories and objects that make up the lost loved one.
One of the most dreadful things that I feel like I experience when playing games is being very much conscious of something I’m doing within it being a grind. All the gamers I know who have some kind of experience with any kind of long-term investment with particular games know what I’m talking about – that slog that makes it feel like it’s more work than play, the feeling that you’re only incrementally getting someplace even despite putting in many hours of effort, and perhaps, worst of all, the awful surrender of potentially having to look up efficiency guides for something that shouldn’t be so painful.
At their core, I’ve always kind of made fun of fetch quests in the RPG games that I’ve played. There’s an old comic out there that probably encapsulates exactly how I feel about them – an NPC, literally 20 feet away, wanting you to grab an object that the PC is utterly confused about being asked to retrieve for them. It’s the kind of timesink that, done frequently and in mostly the same way, is ultimately a timewaster or a level builder.
When you lose someone you love, it sometimes isn’t the big, grand gestures or big life events that often pop to the top in your memory (although those are certainly important in any kind of eulogizing or remembrance). There are often the small, seemingly trivial and normal things that seem to take on a sense of significance and identity, that become an indelible mark of what was left as far as a person’s impact. In this case, it’s the simple act of feeding ducks in a pond, and watching them get the food that you’re providing them.
We’re on the home stretch with a catch-up for all of December!
Overthinking is a big problem sometimes with my own method of trying to create content. I try to think about something that might seem like its appealing, then take a huge amount of time trying to pile ideas on to it, sometimes drafting and re-drafting things that I didn’t find appealing the first time around, and trying to proceed slowly but deliberately. This might work a lot of the time, but for some instances, like trying to determine the best Boxing Day sale item, it’s better, according to the developer, to use natural momentum to try to propel yourself forward, so you don’t get bogged down in a sea of self-doubt and second-guessing.
A lot of times when you see games or events or media that surround Christmas, it’s all about the actual moment of Christmas arriving – whether that is Santa Claus arriving with gifts, of children enjoying gifts being opened and things being given to them, of the family sitting around on Christmas Day enjoying one another’s company while appreciating what they have, and other such heartwarming moments. Rarely is the aftermath the focus of such an event, but that’s exactly what the developer did with this Christmas entry, and the result is a refreshing and realistic insight into Christmas Day.
When trying to communicate unique experiences such as firsts, it’s not uncommon in my experience for developers to draw on their own personal experiences to do so. Oftentimes the challenge in depicting these sorts of firsts is the fact that you need to evoke the sense of wonder, freshness, and newness that accompanies such a beginning that makes it not contrived and at the same time accurately portrays what that first feels like or looks like. And there’s definitely an exponential increase in difficulty when it comes to firsts of a romantic nature, such as first kisses.