The other day I sat down and did something I said I was going to do for a while: Play a game. Might sound odd, me saying that given I’m often playing games, but this one was different. It was a little title I stumbled across a year ago, immediately bought on Steam and then left it. A little indie game called To The Moon. A nice, little RPG game with an element of puzzle solving to it, but mostly an interactive story more than a game per se. It was created by a group of people called Freebird Games. (You can learn a bit more about them and their game here )
Without giving too much away, you play as a scientific duo from a company who provide a service for people at the end of their lives. A service where they had a desire or a wish that went unfulfilled for whatever reason during their life which would then be fulfilled before they died. This was achieved via a miracle of technology which created an alternate life within the mind of the individual in which their wish was fulfilled and they lived it out, like a second life. In this case, it concerned a gentleman who wanted to go to the moon, but didn’t.
In order for this machine to work, the scientists had to go through the individual’s mind via memory hops to a time early in life, where they would then implant the wish and then events would unfold and the wish came to pass. This meant exploring and reliving memories, searching for clues, spotting patterns and things of significance in order to create the next memory link to create a bridge to the next significant life memory and progress onwards.
I’m not going to reveal too much more as I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone intrigued enough to go look this game up but various things and themes came up and were explored during the game that resonated with me and I’ll talk about in a while, but after spending an afternoon on this, going through many twists and turns we get to the game’s conclusion. The old man at the centre of this gets his wish and lives out his alternate life and then dies.
Between the plot, being so swept up with the story and the beautiful soundtrack which accompanied it (which I’m listening to while writing this) I was in fits of tears. Rebecca too, as she’d become mesmerised towards the end and had dropped what she was doing at the time to watch. It’s not the first time a game has done this to me and it won’t be the last.
It’s also why I had kinda put off playing it until the other day. I knew it was going to have this kind of effect and would likely unsettle me afterwards. Sure enough, I’ve not felt myself the past couple of days. I’ve felt like I’m on the outside the room looking in in regards to stuff going on around me during the day and my mind has been racing like an overclocked processor, head humming as a result, as I get when I’m in one of my analytical ‘trying to process stuff’ modes. I’ve spent my break times at work reading up more about the game, the story and so on, trying to piece things together and learn all I can about it while jotting down memo notes on my phone.
It’s something I do with anything that really grips me. It’s also why despite the fact I love games, I play relatively few of them. The ones I play grip me so entirely I’m doing all these things on the side that tie in with them, be it reading up on them, watching playthroughs on YouTube or just figuring stuff out. Soundtracks usually end up being hunted down and played a lot if the music is good and sooner or later end up becoming part of an ever expanding repartee I’m often humming or whistling to myself while doing stuff. (That’s often a good indicator of my emotional mood. If I’m relaxed I do this a lot).
In short I become somewhat obsessed, which until recently would draw some snide comments about ‘Why are you wasting time with that?’ and ‘All you ever do is that’ when I do go through one of these phases. I can’t be thankful enough to Rebecca for being the complete opposite to this when I’m working through an obsessional phase. She lets me get on with it, work through it and make sure I’m ok.
In the case of this game, I was trying to link together a few things to do with one of the characters in the game, a woman called River, and things she was doing throughout. It’s heavily implied she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome as an adult ( Asperger wasn’t directly mentioned but the game references Tony Atwood, a man who wrote several books on the subject when her diagnosis came up). I had a shrewd idea she was on the autistic spectrum pretty early on in the game, because of a few things she did, and later on in the game I was finding myself relating a lot to experiences she had while growing up, which is one of several things I’ve been thinking about a lot today.
She pretty well spent her life in her own world, not really caring what people thought and quietly doing her thing, pursuing her choices, hobbies and making a few life choices that had the people around her scratching their heads over. Sounds familiar, huh?
I’ve had a feeling for a few years now I might be somewhere on the spectrum myself. In time I’ll go about taking steps to get that looked at, once the transition stuff is over anyway, but I digress.
Going back to the question of why I put off playing To The Moon for as long as I had and why I’ve felt unsettled. If I’m honest, I get scared by my emotions at times, what they say about me and what others think of me when I express them. As a kid I had a lot of trouble with ADHD influencing my behaviour as well as bullying at school. People would often provoke me into lashing out because seeing me lose it was entertaining. If something upset me to the point of tears, well that was a field day for them. If I was having meltdowns I’d get hassle for that. one that comes to mind is the time someone provoked me at a time when I was using a school laptop for work after
damaging one of my wrists coming off my bike. In among other things I tired to do I was trying to wrap the laptop round their head. Needless to say I got an earful for that, which I really didn’t understand as it wasn’t me who started the altercation.
Another was a memory of dad snapping and shouting at me in an exasperated fashion came to the fore. Usually if I was getting shouted at by a parent it would be mum. If dad was doing the shouting you knew you’d done something really spectacular. Later on in life I’d often get remarks from my ex that were pretty demeaning because of my temper, though looking back now with all that was going on it’s hardly any wonder why I was in a default state of being wound up to snapping point and doing things like shredding a phone book when I boiled over. Any wonder why my emotions terrify me at times when I ended up having the strength do do things like that.
Over the years and after enough digs and prods from people you get to a point where you just bury stuff, repress things and try and fit in, conform and appear normal, which just fucks things up in the long run and leaves me where I am now, struggling to express myself and finding some middle ground in a world of extremes. Most of the time I feel pretty robotic in situations, for the lack of being to feel what the situation calls for. Nine times out of ten I react appropriately, or at least guess right and do what is expected, or at least not get odd comments for it, but it feels like I’m experiencing life through a filter and not feeling connected. I’m not even sure I’ve described that right, it’s the best I can do without telepathy. That feeling of really not being able to express things adequately is one of the reasons why I talk so little, preferring to write things down. I have processing time then, to organise things before feeling able to express what’s on my mind.
If I do let things go, the really go, like they did the other night at the end of the game. Rebecca remarked at the time I don’t cry enough or let things out, but that’s a lifetime of social conditioning for you. Afterwards I’m having to ask her if what I did and how I reacted was normal. That’s how unsure I am and how scrambled my head feels for the most part.
Having spent a large chunk of my life creating various fantasy worlds in my head and using them as an escape from various traumatic events it’s really no surprise why To The Moon and it’s plot and premise has resonated so strongly with me.
Thankfully these days there’s less pressure upon me to keep up a pretence of conformity. I can spend the day at work just getting on with the job, not being expected to or having my arm twisted into interacting with my co-workers beyond anything that’s not work dependant, because believe me, being in my own world whistling away to whatever random music is playing in my mind at the time is a lot less stressful.
As for the gaming? Well I’m aware the makers of To The Moon have recently released a sequel. I just hope I don’t put off playing that for as long as I put off playing this.
(For those interested in giving the game a go To the Moon can be played from Steam, or downloaded into your phone)