Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Event was, I fear, a little bit overlooked, partly because of an unwise name and partly because – speculating entirely here – many of us find it too hard to take the concept of chatting to a machine at face value. We know how often Amazon Echos and Apple Siris get it wrong; how could a videogame possibly get it right?
When it did, it really did.
Moment to moment, chatting to the AI who was the sole remaining inhabitant of a Marie Celeste-esque space station showed up plenty of flaws – triggering more on keywords than on meaning, looping some comments, offering a few too many barely-concealed ‘I didn’t understand the question’. But that didn’t matter, because at specific moments there was an eerie sense that this thing was really paying attention to you – and, in fact, toying with you.
One sequence really stuck with me. You’ve just been outside the station, doing a low-g traversal of it its exterior to fix a broken mast, and your oxygen’s almost run out. You get to the airlock, expecting to go back inside and breathe freely – then the AI, Kaizen, refuses to open it.
At which point, a desperate mindgame begins. I had to talk the paranoid, possibly murderous machine-being to let me in, which involved a curious network of promising that I cared about him and praising him. It felt like a hostage negotiation, only I was the hostage.