Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
I’ve a love/not-hate-but-something-gentler-in-the-general-ballpark-of-disappointment relationship with Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, The Chinese Room’s follow-up to Dear Esther.
I lost myself to its setting – not merely the beautiful, floral countryside, but its light-dark heart, a well-to-do British village that simultaneously screamed kindness and intolerance for anything that was not just like it. I have visited these places, I have lived in these places and I have left these places in favour of the less idyllic but the far more cosmopolitan.
To revisit its painstaking recreation of a certain set of values, to admire its prettiness and its gentleness and its smallness and its time-lost perpetuity, was wonderful. And, best of all, I could do it without risking being drawn into an enthusiastic conversation about fox hunting or scorn about the ethnic make-up of the nearest city, which was a near-constant risk during my own time in the countryside. I like people, but it’s always a gamble – as such, getting to see a place without people is a rare and precious privilege.
But, of course, there was a story. It was not a bad story and it didn’t get in my way too often, and it too had a few things to say about the mutated Christian values of the people who live forever in these places, but it was still there, forcing the strange mix of memory and imagination that was born of wandering a silent, unpeopled village down one particular path. I preferred the more dissociative storytelling of Dear Esther, though it shares with Rapture a not always natural fusion of the lyrical and overly-literal.
But I’m so glad this thing exists – the idea of a highish-budget walking semi-simulator set in a small English village is effectively unthinkable now, as we seem to have left the age of more contemplative and experimental breakout hits, for the time being at least. I do not need to chase the flying lights and hear their stories: I can just go to the pub, wander the church grounds, traipse through rapeflower fields and revisist places I miss but would never again wish to live in.