Monday, November 2, 2009

A couple of years ago a simple game called Passage by Jason Rohrer made waves in the scene and got written up everywhere. An “art game,” it’s intended to poignantly depict the feeling of one’s passage through a life and the choices one might make using a very lo-fi Atari or NES-era aesthetic: blocky graphics, blippy 8-bit soundtrack. The game takes about five minutes to play through, so go check it out if you haven’t. (Also: it’s free.) It’s a valiant effort at communicating something a bit more poetic than usual via a video game.

One of the things that stuck with me the most about Passage is the depiction of one’s perception of time. At every moment in the game you can see the entirety of the “life” you’re constructing. The moments around you, though, are large and clear (relatively speaking) whereas both the moments far ahead and far in the past are compressed and difficult to make out the further away from you they are. And when you’re young at the beginning of the game you have no past, when you’re old you have no future. I enjoy the symmetry, the idea that we experience our pasts and future in similar ways — both are kind of possibility spaces of stories and interpretations that get foggier the further away from the present we get. I mostly know what I did yesterday. I mostly know what I’ll do tomorrow. Ten years back and forward, though, are more difficult to perceive. Jason Rohrer has a creator’s statement accompanying Passage, if you’d like to hear his take.

I suspect if you’re over a certain age (30s? 40s?) this might all seem sort of obvious. As I age I kind of see that getting older is really only something you can understand by doing. I’ve had a conversation on several occasions with Christin about my 92-year-old Grandmother, how it’s difficult for me to understand what’s going through my Grandmother’s mind sometimes because I live — and have only ever lived — a life where almost everything for me is in the future and she’s living a life, now, where everything is behind her and her future’s on very shaky ground (she’s quite healthy — but there are human limits at play). I wonder sometimes if certain religious feelings or perceptions of things like the afterlife become especially vivid at this point: If when people loose their actual “future” they sort of hallucinate it, like a phantom limb or what Oliver Sacks describes here. She talks about seeing my deceased Grandfather in heaven and about how she wants to spend as much time with the family as she can so she’ll have memories to take with her when she passes over — still planning for a future. It’s very, very hard for me to conceive of what I would even be like if I had no future to plan for and work towards. I suppose if I live a long and healthy life I’ll get to find out for myself someday…

Anyway, this wasn’t intended to be a morbid post. Just kind of free-associating, as I do.