Got this from some sale and left it unplayed for much too long like most games bought in truckloads for cheap, which is the fashionable way of purchasing fresh electronic entertainment, at the very least for the PC.

In a way, it’s quite incredible that this piece of work managed to become as famous as it has. It was declared indie RPG of 2011 (released exactly three years ago, hm), won Gamespot’s Award for Best Story of the same year, has appeared in Humble Bundle, GoG and other services and generally… it’s been talked about a lot.

Why is it incredible? The game has the feeling it could have been a university project made by an undergraduate in game design. It’s very indie, and not in the hipster sense, as is for example Sword and Sworcery EP–it’s the b-movie kind of indie. The characters are indie. The story is indie. The gameplay is… yep, indie, in the sense that there’s very little of it, which seems to be a respectable, if not slightly self-defeating, trend within the bounds of the independent gaming scene. To be honest, this game is not an RPG in any way, even if it was made in RPG Maker XP and somehow won the award for the genre in 2011. Scratch that: To The Moon is hardly a game at all. That said, perhaps the mere fact is its greatest strength.

What I enjoyed:

the plot reminded me of and was obviously inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which happens to be one of my favourite movies ever: one part science fiction, two parts emotion, half a part (or so) quirk;
it was short: in a world where story-driven games are typically much longer than your average novel but rarely pack even half the punch, To The Moon kept it short and sweet;
the original soundtrack: probably what
To The Moon became most well-known for, this game is quite a unique case in that one of the composers was its director as well (Kan Gao)–that’s some auteurship right there (music sample);
that 16-bit style reminded me of all the similar games I never finished–looking at you, FF6 and Chrono Trigger… will I ever know if their endings were any good?
“Every star is a lighthouse…” That was a beautiful image.



What I didn’t enjoy:

the humour! Too millennially, too redditty.  Don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy my lolcats, sure, but you can actually be funny without resorting to memes and gaming pop culture all the time;
gimmicky gameplay, or what little there is of it: maybe it would have been better as a visual novel;
the plot was basically animé melodrama; okay, it’s an interesting foray for the medium, but really… I mean [SPOILERS], only in anime do you have these life-long relationships that begin in early childhood;
the characters: they didn’t do it for me; it was more about the situations;
ending: see above. I can’t think of a single anime movie or series that a had a satisfying ending. Yes, it was sad and apparently it made a lot of grown men cry, but… but!


What I will remember:

how it made me feel about my own childhood and lack of… well…
the portrayal of memory links: it was annoying to play through but it was an interesting idea;

Age timeline: an interesting pseudo-mechanic

I would recommend it to everyone who:

is interested in what else games can be today, what the next frontier for the medium could be. In other words, a game doesn’t need to be a game. Hell, we don’t even have the necessary vocabulary for all this yet!
thinks that one has to be a genius at programming and/or art to make his or her own game; no, people: all it takes is an idea or a message one feels the need to express, a basic tool and dedication; then it might go on to become a success out of nowhere, who knows? Again, this could have been a university project!


Review: We All Need Heroes: Stories of the Brave and Foolish by Simon Zingerman

We All Need Heroes: Stories of the Brave and FoolishWe All Need Heroes: Stories of the Brave and Foolish by Simon Zingerman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One day, maybe a month or so ago, Simon Zingerman contacted me here on Goodreads and asked me to review a .pdf edition of his new book in exchange for a paperback copy of it. I had a look at it and it seemed interesting so I accepted.

In hindsight, his sending the book to me for free was a purposeful move: We All Need Heroes is basically a very optimistic collection of around 120 stories of people who made it or became famous either through extreme luck, fantastic ideas, dedication to their beliefs or pure, simple “stupidity” (quoting because their supposed stupidity ultimately worked to their advantage). Some of these accounts are exactly about how you can create buzz about your work in the very same “guerilla” way the author contacted me and many other users of Goodreads also. Apart from that, the stories themselves were in general quite interesting and my picks -the ones I felt could be significant for me personally- made up a good chunk of the book. That said, I can see how the next time I read it my favourites will have changed along with me, just like Simon Zingerman predicts -and even hopes- will happen in his introduction to the book.

The work unfortunately has its little problems. I didn’t particularly care for the “happy ending”, “risky/illegal”, “disturbed/crazy” etc. 0-100% statistics at the bottom of every story. By what standard is one story a 50% and another an 80%? The assessment would make sense if there was a “Top 10 happiest endings” chart at the end of the book or something similar, but there was nothing of the sort. After the first few pages, I started hungrily devouring one story after another, skipping these gauges entirely. The keywords under the title of each story were met with the same fate. Zingerman’s graphic design touches seem to have worked well in many aspects but not so much in others.

But I won’t be too critical of the details. This book has given me food for thought and inspiration and I will be sure to read it again, this time taking notes.

View all my reviews

Facebook Timeline

I understand that Facebook has this idea that people should have a way to show off their complete personal history and past achievements. It’s a fairly natural expansion to what their modus operandi has been thus far.

The very notion of having a version of the past to which you can add anything and everything you like, quietly shoving under the carpet ignoring the things that do not go that well with your timeline, fits perfectly with how Facebook has evolved into this kitsch (I really like using this word lately) personal shrine of  admiration each and every one of us has erected to ourselves. I assume readers are on facebook, of course; pardon me if you remain one of those shining beacons of exception and keep in mind that you have made a new friend; not on Facebook of course, but in this case, for a change, it shouldn’t matter.

I was shocked when Facebook announced to me almost a week ago that I had 7 days to prepare my profile before they would be imposing Timeline on it. I put a pretty cover photo. That’s about all I did to it.

But it’s OK, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg… whoever had this idea anyway. It really is. I can understand why you felt the need to impose Timeline on everyone. As the guilt, control-freak and addiction machine Facebook really is, the Now couldn’t have ever been quite enough to keep it going — besides, no guilt or addiction would ever be possible if all there was was the Now because guilt resides in the past and addiction nests in the future; the Now is all there is, there IS no past or future. If we only understood this simple thing we would be free… but I digress.

Countless hours of spying on others, adjusting your profile, being careful about what you would post or like and where, decorating your shrine with the right number of friends, the Goldylocks Zone of interestes (not too obscure nor too mainstream, just right), wasting huge amounts of Now by cheerfully immersing ourselves in even larger amounts of nonsense…

No, Facebook couldn’t have been satisfied for long with merely the Now to feed on; it was only a matter of time before it would claim a piece of everyone’s past as well to sink its teeth in. Ooh! Now that’s a juicy piece of social anxiety and collective inferiorioty complexes.

I understand perfectly and I’m not angry. I can look behind your petty novelties, Facebook. I can see the ways in which you’re trying to trap me further, not in your own system, formidable a menace as it is, mind you, but in the belief that my past is valuable, that it is something to show off to others and base my current identity on. That it is my “story”. The beautified events you would like me to decorate my shrine with are not my story. You are feeding this collective hallucination at the same time you’re feeding from it yourself.

As far as I am concerned, the only thing you achieved by removing my choice to not have Timeline was to further confirm what I already knew about you:

that you are dangerous.

The story of your life, complete with your graduation, your old job and how you were fired because your boss found out things about you off of facebook that, well, he shouldn’t have, that super awesome trip you had with your girlfriend and how you couldn’t wait to return home during it, old pictures, even the ones from when you had taken on 20kg in just 6 months back in 2007, all the different places you used to live in on your parents’ money