[The following post is Abhishek K.’s runners-up entry for the 2022 Blog article writing competition organized by DiGRA India]
Is time a chain? Bound by its physicality, its inevitable aches and sorrows, not having time to rest, or more crucially, play. A shame, and seemingly, there’s nothing to be done about it. Time’s there to haunt, to remind; constantly. About mistakes, faults, and games are always out there to bend, twist these facts and immerse ourselves into a distorted form of time. And once out of the game world, time is instantly reared into action, albeit a different form of time.
I wonder why it is this way, why is the change so abrupt and time feel so uncanny later then? Is it because games are essentially a safe space? Time is held to standstill, no, time is transformed. Dilated, contorted, and enriching, mistakes and longing are in full swing. Some aspects of time cease to exist, or in some cases make its presence painfully known. It endures and it beats, introducing love both inside and outside of the game world. A depiction of love enduring centuries as in the case of The House in Fata Morgana showcasing its triumphs and attachments, does it purely exist in the game world?
I think not, my time spent with it comes to soothe or pang my soul, creating a deep found appreciation for its creators and the feelings that it leaves me behind with. It keeps me floating seamlessly and lovingly through time, and other game’s do just the same in their own way. Moving through time as I strike with a blade in Bloodborne, I find that I am in that moment, a picture perfect recreation of the gothic horrors that prevail, and most notably making sense of the madness through my ludic (and serious) actions. Or that I glide, through and through in a platformer like Celeste, acutely aware of the weight of my movements and at the same time, being absolutely free with that weight. A carefully crafted leap, by both the designer and the player, it is now time that is the observer.
Whether time is a construct, begging to be reexamined with its implications on a larger front is no longer in the frame when playing. Instead, all that remains is what is. And in that exists the player’s imagination; pure and unfiltered, with the influence of its creators. A bond is forged, and the supposed pros or cons of perceiving time a certain way is not in conversation. Sure, time is a facilitator (thank you time), and the past, present and the future are in harmony, begging to be explored. Explored through the lens of emotions invoked while playing, and you’re left with a raw and yet controlled headspace, where understanding flows through your being. From there, options are weighed, truths are being uncovered, gratefulness is being discovered, new relationships and its intricate dances are being observed. The ebbs do not infuriate anymore, they create and they expand, and they revisit and…
The knit of finely strung connections is put on display, its spectators behest to its beauty.
Abhishek is an undergraduate student at MIT, Manipal. His interests lie in mental health, speaking, writing, kickboxing, poetry, and literature portrayed in games. While not having an academic background in Games, he has experience writing for and being involved in the development of games. Some of his favourite games include Disco Elysium, The House in Fata Morgana, Pyre and so many more which will not be mentioned here, lest this goes on forever.