E-soterica

Experience Melancholia In Just Two Minutes

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  • With the avalanche of video games releasing every day, it’s virtually impossible to experience them all. E-soterica spotlights the indie darlings Khee Hoon Chan and Alyse Stanley just can’t stand to see players miss, titles that buck convention or brave subjects rarely seen in the industry, or whose inexplicable strangeness begs gamers to stop and gawk. Come join us as we scour the corners of the internet each week to share with you what treasures we find.

    One of the most well-known example of flash fiction—a literary genre renowned for its extreme brevity—came from an anecdote often attributed to author Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” While not expounded on, its implication of a parent’s inconsolable grief was palpable. It’s an exceptionally succinct but heartrending tale, the mental imagery conjured in our heads leaving a greater impression than words can do.

    Hemingway’s six-word novels are an extreme example, since there are plenty of flash fiction that spans as much as (or as little as) 1,000 words. Nonetheless, these are still considered micro-stories that can be devoured within minutes. They subverts the tropes of most written works; without conventional story arches, they start in the middle, and their endings are quickly divulged. The crux of these fiction is often about letting their readers ponder over the actions of their characters, rather than delivering punchlines that quickly dissipate and leave no lasting impact.

    With the advent of simple game-making tools such as Twine and Bitsy Game Maker, translating flash fiction to interactive media such as games feels like an inevitable progression. In the vein of flash fiction, 30 Seconds to Midnight is one title you can finish in less than two minutes. It’s remarkably straightforward in its premise and playthrough: missiles are raining upon us, so how will you spend your last moments on this universe? The end of this world is as abrupt as it’s disconcerting, and this knowledge renders your final actions, whatever they are, hopeless in the grand scheme of things. But as you ruminate over past memories—unveiled as your character interacts with various furnishings—it’s easy to wish that you have a bit more time to know more about the world before the imminent catastrophe takes place.

    30 Seconds to Midnight brings to mind the sublime but sorrowful Lars von Trier film Melancholia, which depicts the world’s end in an unorthodox manner—a inevitable planetary collision, devoid of typical Hollywood bombast. We watch in growing despair as the characters busied themselves with meaningless endeavors, some self-indulgent, others in abject denial. Of course, the developer of 30 Seconds to Midnight didn’t set out to pay homage to this film—they produced the game in just one hour—but it leaves a lump in your throat all the same, all in under two minutes. As one player wrote, “This is the fastest a game has ever given me such a pit in my stomach.

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