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Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With an Alice, hand in hand

Let's be Among Trees

I find myself alone. I am the only person left in the treehouse right now. I think it's the first time this has happened. It is interesting to consider that I could try to wipe the website, delete loads of articles, do something to burn down my job. I don't particularly want to, but the coiled potential to do it exists, because I am unsupervised. There is no other member of staff between me and all of you. The great filter is removed. Any typos are on purpose. How you doin'?

This gives me a great opportunity, because I get to have, in a sense, the final word on RPS this year. There are a lot of posts coming up (if we include the Advent Calendar posts that have already gone, we have 50-ish bits of hashtag seasonal hashtag content this year, which I think is the most I've had to schedule for a Christmas break yet), but almost everything after this point is a scheduled post, made of time travel words written days or weeks ago. I'm live and uncensored, baby. I'm going to fire up Among Trees. Let's go and be alone together. But don't worry, I take my responisbility seriously, so I'll make sure the final word is a joke.

It's been a weird old year for me. I moved to a new country, and it's a nice place to live, but I don't have many friends here yet. I have felt increasingly isolated from work and games and people in general, even though I have to interact with increasing numbers of people day-to-day online. Sometimes it makes me sad, but equally as sometimes it makes me want to be even more alone. I like being by myself. There is no pressure to be anyone else when you're by yourself, y'know what I mean?

Among Trees has been in early access for a bit now. It's a survival game about living in a little hut in the woods, foraging for mushrooms and sticks and eventually building more bits of your little house. I haven't played it for a while, and the first thing I noticed today is that it opens with a Byron quote, which I'm pretty sure it didn't before.

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more
A shot of Reed Lake in Among Trees, early at dawn

Unfortunately I fucking hate Byron. I suppose if you want to open your game with a quote from the most famous poet to ever possibly fuck his sister then that's the one to go with. Among Trees always makes me think more of the W.B. Yeats poem The Stolen Child. The world's more full of weeping than you can understand. It's tempting, isn't it, to leave the world behind, and put enough distance between you and it that you can't hear the weeping any more.

I wouldn't actually like to live in an unheated pine hut in the woods in real life, because I get very tied and I do not like mushrooms. Having to hike around every day to find mushrooms to eat would not be ideal. But I like doing it in Among Trees. Two years of early access has added more berries, and a little notebook where you sketch key locations you find. Turns out they have names! What I thought of as "Big Pond To Right-Ish Of My Front Door" is actually called Reed Lake. I think there's more mist in the air now. I think there are more animals. I don't remember seeing rabbit ears in the distance when I walked down to Right-Ish Pond in the morning, or ducks. Maybe I did, and have forgotten because it's been a while since I was here.

The notebook in Among Trees showing some sketched key locations - a waterfall and a lake

When I was younger my parents used to get very annoyed with me because I didn't like going on walks (I grew up in the country, where Going For A Walk was a principle form of entertainment). Things were said about the risks of not going for a walk with my parents. The thing is, I do not like going for a walk with anyone. They will insist on making conversation, when I would quite like to concentrate on not concentrating. I don't feel like I can breathe loudly when I am walking with a person. I cannot tell if I'm going too fast or too slow. I can't stop and stare at things for a disconcerting amount of time. I can't jump around or hide behind a tree imagining I'm a spy, or an elf on a quest through a forest. I still do all these things now, obviously. But only when I'm alone. And in Among Trees you are alone, and you can jump up and down along the shore of the river while you look for driftwood, and nobody can see.

Towards the end of this year I made new friends, started talking to new people - online still, but it's good. No man is an island, but they might actually be like trees, because a tree is alone, but a lot of trees together is a forest, and forests are connected in a vast, invisible undergound network of roots and fungus. They communicate, sort of, and share nutrients. Let's go now, you and I, and eat Walnut Whips and crisps and watch the films we watched when we were kids, and cry, because the world's weeping doesn't stop when you can't hear it. I forgot there were hostile animals in Among Trees.

A bear attacking the player in Among Trees
The player lies dying on the floor, attacked by a bear, in Among Trees

Exit, pursued by a bear.

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About the Author
Alice Bell avatar

Alice Bell

Deputy Editor

Small person powered by tea and books; RPS's dep ed since 2018. Send her etymological facts and cool horror or puzzle games.

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