I am a lonely little probe, sent deep into space because there is a looming anomaly on the spacetime horizon and I must investigate it. I have traveled for hundreds of years. Are my creators still alive, is their civilization still alive? Because I exist outside of their life cycles and their experiences of time. I last. That’s why I was sent here. I drift, listen and scan the planets to hear what they have to say. And sometimes they fight back.
It’s the concept of opening a very small, very short, Free Itch.io game called Lone Signal. It’s a game that doesn’t do much, it’s mostly text, but what it does do is ask you to consider death and how we deal with it, and it’s poignant in that regard. .
But it was not so much the reflection on death that gripped me as the meaningful passage of time. All of a sudden I was told that I had – my probe had – ‘slept’ for 400 years and something shook something inside me. It’s probably because I can’t, as a human, comprehend time passing on that scale – it’s so beyond what I’m going to experience that I can only try to imagine. . That’s why it was so striking to be told, in fact, that I had already shattered a fundamental truth about who I am and what I can do.
Solitary signal. It’s a simple game, but sometimes simple games leave room for powerful ideas to come to fruition.
And that made me wonder: why don’t games play more over time? We don’t have to be human in them. We don’t have to be constrained by the deadlines we live in every day. Yet even when we present players as fictional beings we created to explore these ideas of immortality – beings like elves and vampires – we are still, it seems, chained to telling stories over the course of the game. of human lives. Why?
Incidentally, I know there are many great strategy games where hundreds of years go by, games like Total War and Crusader Kings, but it’s not really the same thing. They are not as close and personal as the experiences I think of.
The closest game to something like this I can think of is Xbox 360 JRPG Lost Odyssey. The main character, Kaim, was one of the few immortals who lived a thousand years. He had lost his memory though, obviously, so he had these memory dream sequences where his thoughts kept coming back. And they’re the stars of the game. They really lent themselves to the philosophical exploration of immortality and what it would be like to live for a thousand years.
One of those dream sequences from Lost Odyssey.
What I wouldn’t give to see something like this done with an elf in Lord of the Rings, or with a vampire in any number of vampire games. It’s the kind of stuff that Anne Rice relies on all the time in her vampire stories – Interview with a Vampire is almost all about Louis reflecting on his nature and immortality.
Although I would also like the games to go further than just having the characters remember their many years. I would really like to see them. I would like us as players to experience what we cannot as humans and see this vast passage of time. We’ve seen glimpses of time transfer mechanics in games like Dragon Age 2, which is something I talk about a lot, but when it works so well for a game of choice and consequence, as RPGs so often are , so why not ? !
But it’s not necessarily an RPG. It should not be limited to one person or one being. You could be a probe. The thing is, games can get bigger and wider than humans. We should not be limited to being like ourselves in them. Why not show us something completely new instead?
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Article source https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2022-02-01-why-dont-games-play-around-with-time-more