Adventures in the Real World
Filed Under: Gaming
I had two new experiences last week that were fresh, eye-opening and actually quite inspiring: a journey to an island, and a journey underground…
The Inchcolm Project
Sunday 16th October
I was one of seventy-ish lucky people to take a ferry from South Queensferry out to the small isle of Inchcolm in order to take part in an experience best described simply as ‘Dear Esther in real life’.
With our smartphones in our hands, we roamed the island’s pathways, navigating our way towards the specific geo-tagged areas in which we’d receive a little audio narration from a sad man. Not the same sad man as the one from Dear Esther – this one was bereaved by the loss of a Rachel, and had a Scottish accent rather than an English one. Hearing this guy open his speeches with my name over and over again, I couldn’t help but feel it leant a little something to my experience that made it a bit different to that of non-Rachels on the island. It was hard to take in and digest all the narrative that was there in the time we had, but there was definitely an appreciable level of terror of the sea, which I can relate to. There were symbolic, story-related art installations scattered around the island (some in quite hard to find places), and members of the Mantra Collective playing musical accompaniments to some spaces. You could walk through the pitch-black tunnel that runs through one of the island’s two hills to the sound of a violin, its notes echoing eerily through the darkness, and emerge blinking into the sunlight at the other end, feeling very spectacular indeed.
Inchcolm is a beautiful place. Its ruined abbey is kept company by the bunkers and turrets of the World Wars – almost all the islands in the Firth are encrusted with these concrete barnacles. There are seals in the surrounding waters who swim into the little bay where the boat docks and a thin strip of grassy green land connects the two halves of the island. I think they know people love to spot them and come close just to bask in attention. There is a rock out a bit into the water which has been covered in garden gnomes and christened, yes, ‘Inch-gnome’.
While we were there the weather cleared up a little bit, and warm rays of sunshine poked through to us from the West, lighting up the Forth bridges in the distance. To the South there was a clear view to Edinburgh, looking windswept and small in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, but proud nonetheless.
At the end of our time on the island we went into a darkened room in the abbey to watch Dear Esther being played, projected onto the rough stone wall. Then we were led into another room and played several songs from the game by the whole Mantra Collective. It’s beautiful music, some of my favourite music in all the world, and I’m intensely grateful to have been able to experience it in such a stunning setting.
There’s an article about the project on the Abertay University website, written before the fact, if you’re interested.
Games Are For Everyone, Volume IV
Thursday 20th October
Through a mixture of bad luck and incompetence on my part, this was the first Games Are For Everyone I’ve managed to attend, and oh boy do I feel sad about missing out on all the previous events.
It took place at The Caves, a massive converted whisky cellar in the bowels of the Edinburgh old town (it’s just off Cowgate, beneath South Bridge, to be exact), which was a weird, cool, kinda surreal space to be in.
There were a lot of games there. Some were running on television screens or monitors, while others were set up in these cool faux-arcade cabinets that We Throw Switches have. Among the lineup were:
- Lieve Oma, by Florian Veltman. I played this when it was released, it’s one of my favourites of the year, and I heartily recommend checking it out.
- Manifold Garden: There’s a lot of hype around this extremely gif-able game, and I can’t say it isn’t justified. It looks completely unlike anything else, and every time I see it I can’t help but try to work out how it does its infinitely-repeating-world thing. Unfortunately I didn’t play it while I had the chance.
- Pathfinder: You don’t play this game. Instead, you watch a drummer play it. Using a drumkit. It’s kind of amazing, even if half the time you can’t work out what the hell is going on, and very, very loud. This is the best link I could find for it.
- Gravity Pong, by Amy Parent. This is a neat little twist on Pong, delivered with a lot of polish. There seemed to be people playing it against their friends on more or less non-stop for the whole evening.
And there were a tonne of others, all really cool. To my pleasant surprise Devil Daggers was there and I got to show off my skills. I can only make it up to about 150 seconds, which isn’t as good as I aim to get someday, but still quite impressive to someone who’s only just played the game for the first time. It had a cellar all to itself in which ominous red candles had been lit. The game was being projected onto the bare stones of the cellar wall, just like Dear Esther had been. All very sinister and altar-like, quite suitable for the most Faustian game ever made.
I got to meet lots of new people as well as chat with existing games friends, which is something I seem to thrive on more and more, and I also got to help out a little with running the event, which was rewarding despite the fact I didn’t really get to sit down for the whole evening.
All in all a good time, but I don’t think dragging myself home at 1 in the morning on a workday is something I should repeat often.
Photo credit goes to We Throw Switches and Ellie Morag. Thanks, folks!