In Space, Nobody Can Hear You 'Like': Killing Time at Lightspeed
Yesterday I was reading Pierre's article on how useless current gaming genres are at describing games. I was very "pish posh, no need to change the status quo" in the comments... but then I started playing Killing Time at Lightspeed.
This game is a... text-based game? But not really, because you don't type. It's a... social media simulator? No, that doesn't cut it either. It's more like a visual nov- Wait! Come back! It's not a visual novel. It's a game. It's a good game. Let me tell you about it.
In Killing Time at Lightspeed the year is 2042 and you have just boarded an interstellar transport ship. It will take approximately 29 years for you to reach your destination at near-light-speed travel. Due to the joys of a "singularity drive", you won't be put in suspended animation but rather left to your own devices for the apparent half hour it takes for you to complete this journey. So what's a body to do to kill such a short amount of time? Why not check out your Facebook FriendPage?
The entirely of the game interface is this text-based newsfeed. You can like and reply to friends' posts and also skim the day's news. These actions in themselves sound pretty dull; it's the extended time frame that makes the game so interesting.
During your half an hour of interstellar travel you observe, through a window of 128 characters or less, almost three decades of technological and social change. Witness future social media grapple with the development of consumer implants, sentient AI, and the subsequent push for non-human sentient rights.
And yet, at the same time, some things never change.
Gameplay consists of choosing from different options to reply to certain comments and it seems like your choices affect future options. For instance, if you are supportive of friend's foray into the world of human-synthetic romance you get a friend request from your friend's silicon lover.
There's very basic graphics in this game, no sound, and no resolution as it simply ends when you arrive at your destination. The game takes as long or as little as you like to play, with time only progressing when you hit the 'refresh feed' button on your FriendPage. I guess what you get out Killing Time at Lightspeed depends entirely on how to choose to play.
This game will bore the pants off some people, but personally I loved it. I really enjoy games that comment on society, for better or worse. The choice of a Facebook-style friend feed to explore how technology influences society is a great choice as it's so familiar, relevant, and the mechanics don't need to be explained to the player. But it's also quite tongue in cheek: I can't think of anything that's changed life more in the past few decades than ubiquitous social media technology.
My life is in peril! Must post status update!
I give Killing Time at Lightspeed a rating of 6 on the GameSkinny scale. It left me really longing for more. When a character posts "hey, check out this video" I want to be able to watch it. I want to read the articles in the news feed, no matter how inane, not just the headlines. It would also be amazing to see your friend's profile pictures change and age and the game progresses. Being a game jam game product, I understand why there isn't more content, but damn I really wish there was! Ultimately, this game left me hungry for more. Maybe that's a good thing? I'm still not sure.