You know that scene in Interstellar, when Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper receives all the messages left by his daughter, but it’s been almost an entire lifetime for those back on Earth compared to what feels like minutes to the crew of the ship? I don’t know about you, but the tears shed as he finally sees his now mid 30’s (or thereabouts) daughter on screen pushed my emotions to the edge.
Now, picture yourself in that same captain’s chair, but instead of being in hyper sleep you’re awake the entire time and spend the long journey browsing through your social media feed. That’s the premise behind Killing Time At Lightspeed, a former Australian Game Developer Awards finalist that received the ‘enhanced edition’ treatment on Steam last week.
You’d be forgiven for thinking developer Gritfish have come up with but a simple text-based adventure, but delve a little deeper and you’ll quickly notice how emotion plays an important part, as you read about the lives of those left behind. Time moves a lot faster while you’re in hyperspace, so the theory goes, so as messages appear in your feed (by refreshing the page), the time back home has jumped along a lot further than just a few seconds of your own existence.
Twenty nine years will pass during your trip, so every refresh of the page will jump forward in time and present strange, dark and sometimes tragic moments in history. All you can do is read and interact with pre-determined prompts. You probably won’t read everything in one sitting, as the game can alter what you see depending on what you click on or browse through, as well as how you respond (or not respond, as the case may be). I won’t spoil anything here, but essentially you’re watching an entire planet go through an era in what seems like minutes. It’s probably not going to end well.
Having said that, there’s some humour hidden amongst the doom and gloom, with amusing news posts to read through and prompts from various other programs reminding you of interesting trivia. But at its heart, Killing Time At Lightspeed follows that notion of love lost and friendship strained, in a similar fashion to Cooper’s difficult choice of leaving his daughter behind. Except here, there’s no weird twists about time travel.
Killing Time At Lightspeed came about through Antholojam, an experimental game jam run by Zoe Quinn & Alex Lifschitz that brought together a number of indie devs and games under one common theme. It’s an impressive achievement from the Sydney studio, with its visual call back to 80’s style computer layouts and a story that will no doubt leave you thinking long after the last page refresh. It’s in complete contrast to their other work in progress, the colourful puzzle/platformer, Mallow Drops.
This re-release on Steam provides a little extra spit and polish to the former web game, with Steam achievements and more stories added, meaning those who have already played the game online can expect a lot more once it releases very soon on the PC game distributor. If you can’t wait that long, the original web version is still available to play online for free, so why not give it a go. It’s a short game, but well worth reading and taking in the possibilities of life.
Mark Isaacson is a freelance journalist and editor of PN2, who always wonders what’s really out there. Go say hi and talk about aliens via Twitter @Mark_D_Isaacson