About "...But That Was Yesterday," a Short But Powerful Flash Game
Evoking emotion in games can be a tricky task. It's bizarre to think that a relatively simple Flash game can provide one of the best gaming experiences I've yet seen in regards to emotion, but with "...But That Was Yesterday," I believe it. The simple yet evocative platformer is part of the Casual Gameplay Design Competition; more details about the competition and the other games entered can be found here. Created by Michael Molinari, "...But That Was Yesterday" gives me hope for aspects of gaming — both regarding creativity coming from independent developers and the ability of games to be an emotionally touching medium.
Go play the game. Go ahead, take the 20 minutes or so needed to play it. We'll talk when you get back.
Fair warning: I'm going to spoil the hell out of a short Flash game from here on in. Just go play it. Seriously.
Everyone done their required reading? Good. Because I think this game is a perfect example of how gameplay and themes can help drive emotion in gaming. This is an incredibly spartan game — simple 2D graphics partner perfectly with three-button gameplay — but that allows you to focus not on the mechanics, but on what they mean, and the symbolism that can be drawn from your character's actions. Once you've bashed your head into the bubbling liquid wall of bad memories a few times, you realize the way forward is by turning away from them. The simple act of turning on past troubles, and the significance of putting the past behind in order to move forward, came through to me as meaningful.
Experiencing the relationships the character has in the form of platforming was a fantastic, subtle move, allowing the narrative to build on its own. After you've gone through the different acts — learning to run, to jump, and to swing — the character returns to a screen similar to previous. However, the subtle shadowing of a ghost behind the character was a touch that stood out; referring to friends and lovers now gone, it's as if the message of the game is, "don't mourn the loss of loved ones, but remember what they've taught you." No matter how often that boiling wall of memories begs you to jump in, it's futile; suffering because of the past is not relevant for the future.
Regardless of whether you agree with my reading into the game or not, at the very least, playing through it has caused me to pause and think about life, relationships, and lessons learned. Feel free to disagree with my assessment of the symbolism, but I hope you played the game and stopped to think, too.
The nature of this game and its content lends itself to discussion — so please, leave a comment and tell me what you think!