Ghosts in the Shortwave, by Heather Flowers (2018)
The world we’re in is described not in words, but in the atoms of words–letters–and other symbols humans have derived to structure the same. Their minds, their communication, their connection to each other mediated through a set of 255 electronic symbols. The language of humanity transformed, defined the shape of the world. But humans themselves are nowhere to be found and their words have disasppeared.
Our world is bustling with life. The leaves of trees rustle in the wind, waves of M’s coursing through pound signs. Swaying grass and insects and birds. Against all this activity are features immovable. Equipment unequipped. Monuments to the dead. There’s something alive in their stillness.
Who is that?
Did humans have a language other than words?
What are we? We move fluidly, gracefully. We inhabit the world with everything that entails, our body, of course, rendered in ASCII characters like everything else. But what are we? Are we more of the flowers waving in the breeze or of the unmoving steel beams towering over the valley?
We are compelled onward, from one monument to the next.
A message. Words. Ghosts in the shortwave. Can we receive? Do we connect? Can we understand?
Ghosts in the Shortwave is available to download now as a free game for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can follow Heather Flowers on Twitter and support her on Patreon.
ᗢ, by sentvyr and takorii (2016)
It almost feels perverse to write words about ᗢ, a game that refuses words even in its title. ᗢ is sublime.
You control a little black cat rendered in remarkably efficient pixels (the game is a blown up 64×64 pixel screen). As you might expect, the cat is sleeping when you start the game. Cats love to sleep. The cat will sleep if you leave it alone long enough. As you might not expect, your cat is going to spend a lot of the game swimming. Cats famously don’t love to swim. But this cat finds itself on a tiny little island in the middle of a chain of tiny little islands and the only way to get anywhere is to swim.
You can scurry up trees to see a bit further. You can only swim so far before you need to catch your breath on land.
One of the first things you’ll likely encounter are a few birds hanging out in some bushes. They’ll take flight when you get near. You might wonder what else will react to your presence and how.
There is a strong possibility there is something I don’t know about ᗢ, something someone else might find and think critical to the entire experience. I feel like each time I play it I end up somewhere slightly different. Or I can’t find my way back to somewhere I just was. Often I find myself visiting the same islands and encountering the same things, but that’s where my own particular patterns of curiosity compel me. Curiosity. Like a cat.
There’s the relaxing, repetitive roar of the tide (curl up in a little ball and take a nap on the shore and listen to it). Sometimes there’s music (by mc hepher): playful, melancholy, curious.
Some might call it an exploration game. Some might call it a meditative game. I’d prefer to call it ᗢ.
ᗢ is available for Windows for free or pay what you want from itch.io.