The Absence Of Is [official site] was created for Antholojam – a game jam focused around the theme “Golden Era sci-fi”. It’s a peculiar little thing which prods at the idea of near-death experiences and the afterlife.
As per developers Ice Water Games:
“For the first time in human history, the living are able to make real attempts at studying the afterlife. Lead the first mission into this new frontier as a team of four researchers and scientists—are these visions just random neural firings, or are you really on your way to another world?”
What this means in game terms is that you spend time in a medical research lab alternately administering anaesthetic and adrenaline to participants in order to manipulate their vital signs and collate near-death experience/afterlife data. The data is then made available via a terminal so you can explore these experiences and catch snippets of thought from the study subjects.
For the most part it’s not a subtle game and the near-death experiences/afterlife have more than a touch of dream interpretation and psychoanalysis to them – childhood homes, dreamlike landscapes and symbolic doors feature prominently. That said, there’s a participant – a Greek guy – whose story was more opaque and thus prickled my interest.
The Absense Of Is feels like a teaser for something bigger (perhaps the result of having been adapted from a novel of the same name) and I did end up wanting to know more about the idea, even if the other two participants’ stories didn’t prompt that same curiosity.