For almost two weeks, this screenshot and several others popped up in my RSS reader every morning without me having the slightest clue what it was. I couldn’t remember which game it was from, and I didn’t particularly care. The sun glowing over those hard-edged, untextured mountains made me happy. Every morning I’d open the blog post, admire and reflect on the screenshots a little, then mark it unread to enjoy again tomorrow. After a fortnight of blathering about those mountains in the RPS staffroom, today I was nudged into posting them (only partially to shut me up).
I was anxious about looking into them more because games often work better as ideas, things to turn over and dream about in our heads. I didn’t want to ruin the illusion. Luckily, the game they’re from, Into this Wylde Abyss, sounds splendid. It’s a short first-person game described as being “about struggling to survive on a freezing island and what happens in your final hours.”
Frozen Endzone artist Richard Whitelock is behind Into this Wylde Abyss, taking cues from both survival games and “walking simulators.” Listing John Milton’s epic poem (epic, not #epic) Paradise Lost as an inspiration, it’s playing with the sublime–that conflicting feeling of awe, pleasure, and terror the natural world can fill us with.
“If there is no struggle or journey involved in encountering a singularly unique moment then how sublime can it be?” Whitelock said in a splendid interview with Video Game Tourism. After making Don’t Freeze in four hours for Ludum Dare game jam last year, he wanted to experiment with capturing the sublime in a video game. (You can play Don’t Freeze in your browser, though obviously it’s a very prototype.)
Into this Wylde Abyss will drop players into an icy abstract wasteland to die, seeking bonfires for warmth to draw out their life. You’ll have a clunky camera which’ll take photos revealing the world in a new light, so you can lug that around if you fancy. “You may with great difficulty take the camera to a cliff edge and hold an exposure for so long you perish,” Whitelock told the site. You have no idea how much I want to die trying to take a cool photograph.
So it’s a pretty appropriate game to know as sublime visions in my RSS feeds every morning. I will never play most games that are made, given how many there are and how much there is to do in the world, so I was content gazing at Into this Wylde for 30 seconds each day. I had worried that (re)learning what the game was might ruin my dreams by bogging them down with specifics, but they’re only expanded. No release date yet, so we’ll all need to gaze for now.