These pieces seem to skim over the surface of the brain, much like a silk pillow case skims your head as you lie down at night. But that is where the comfort stops. With those We Love Alive and Icarus Needs are strange, mysterious, and weird– veritable bits and bytes of unreality.
With Those We Love Alive
I was stupidly excited for this piece. The introduction said that players got to draw sigils on their bodies. I saw some of the great images that people drew on their arms and legs. I was set to go with my ballpoint pen. What did I miss? I didn’t get a prompt to draw anything on myself. Was I supposed to draw the pink and purple words on me? But that doesn’t seem possible. It wasn’t in sync with what other players experienced!
Perhaps I was led into a different, non-drawing labyrinth because of my birth month, which was that of the “Broken Coffin.” The prompt told me that my real name was Sparna Umdof. I got to the agent of the Skull Empress and she told me that I was an artificer: “You make things. You were noted perhaps from your showings and sometimes victories, in the festivals and now you are going somewhere.” I was seriously thrilled. I’m an artist and I’m taking a journey? Let’s go, creepy Skull Empress and all!
Before proceeding, I’d like to underscore that the Empress was very disturbing. I got a sense of what was supposed to be female empowerment, but it was ugly and strange. If the Empress were a fruit, she’d be a rotting peach, strangely sweet-smelling, yet still revolting. She was still irresistible to behold, like the colorful, but old candy in Coraline. If the Empress were a person, she would most definitely be the haunting Miss Havisham of Dickens’ Great Expectations– a sweetly rotting human confection that is dangerous.
On to the journey! Oh the claustrophobia, literally, when I picked a choice that indicated that I was having trouble breathing! When I was offered the different breathing exercises, it was quiet uncomfortable because the sense of breathless confusion continued.
Honestly, I felt trapped during the entire game. I kept looping back to the same choices. True, the music was hauntingly beautiful and the ombre colors were a treat, but I didn’t get a resolution! Is that the point? I felt rather depressed, like I was circling the drain of the abyss somehow, despite the bright colors of the interface. The palace grounds took me to some dark places where there was a promise of renewal, yet a hard to describe wrong turn of events. Something happened that led the paths and cities to be barren. It made me very uncomfortable. It was almost as if I were visiting the barren remains of an apocalypse of a sort.
It was as if a dream were being deferred as I went through the piece. The Skull Empress had her palace grounds, but they did not really symbolize positive growth. It was just like going down a well, darker and darker and more unfamiliar as I continued to click.
Icarus’ wings were plucked off before he came alive in this game, chopped up and put in the lovely container above to melt. I just did not get it. He was in search of Kit and they were both in a dream. That was good surrealism. I liked it. But what really happened during the game? I did not feel like my clicking resulted in anything whatsoever. Is Icarus just the gaming embodiment of a fait accompli? What was I supposed to learn? That video games can melt your consciousness and leave you feeling like you are in a fugue state? Let me be clear, I was not mad at the simplistic interface. But I wanted the game to go somewhere. It was over in a flash. Icarus really needed a long, restful nap. I think that this game was his hallucination. Perhaps the fact that I did not have an android to download the proper elements had something to do with the difficulty with the game.
Icarus definitely seemed to be in a labyrinth of some sort, as I believe he was wandering around his apartment in the dream.