In the early 90’s, most of my friends had either a Super Nintendo or a Sega Genesis, and the aesthetic of the 16-bit console game was a fixture of my imagination. Computer games seemed like the domain of wizards who breathed the rarefied air of darkened rooms inaccessible to mortal children. But I was granted entry to this hallowed ground once. I peeked over the shoulder of my friend’s dad. He was playing a game. I remember the player character’s red hair and the otherworldly quality of the setting. But more than anything, I remember how realistic the character looked when he ran away from some sort of shadow beast. For just a moment, we were looking at the future. That game was Another World.
This game has been on my list ever since.
In the final days of my summer break, I finally sat down and played Another World for the first time. The experience felt paradoxically fresh and familiar and foreign. The game feels more like a modern indie game than a 28-year-old curiosity.
I think this is because Another World was such a strange game at the time. Rather than competing with its contemporaries, it seemed to attempt an evolutionary leap by fusing the DNA of disparate genres: the offspring of the action-platformers that were popular on video game consoles and the point-and-click adventure games that were going extinct on personal computers. It was strange and interesting, and people loved it.
In spite of its surprising critical and commercial success, Another World wasn’t followed by an abundance of similar games. I think this is because it wasn’t the sort of game that was about to become popular. It lacked the attitude that would permeate media in the 90’s. And rather than approximating the fast-paced action of the arcade, Another World is a deliberately-paced exploratory adventure that expects you figure out the path forward through trial and error. If the future of video games was flashier and more frenetic… then Another World was evolutionary dead-end.
Another World is also a more thoughtful game than was common at the time. As a game with a single critical path through the story, I think Another World unintentionally makes a statement about the absurdity of existence. From beginning to end, there are dozens of ways to die, and only one way to live.
And that’s just how it is on this Earth.
By the grace of God, I’ve managed to stay alive for the last 12,507 days. Blissfully unaware of all the ways that I’ve narrowly avoided death in that time. In a way, life is like the game where you avoid all of the spike-pits that result in an untimely demise… until the inevitable moment when you don’t. I suppose we all get a “game over” eventually. This somber reality can be either a source of crippling fear or an opportunity to practice gratitude.
That makes gratitude a form of courage. A bold decision to be thankful for today because tomorrow is not guarantee. I want to live a life that is upright… so that when the credits roll at the end of my game, I can be proud of the way I played.
What a time to be alive (for now)!