Today I Die: Ponderings

GURGLE GURGLE KASPOOOSH!

That’s me rinsing the nasty taste of Edmund from my mouth. And what better mouthwash than the tender, poignant indie game Today I Die? You should go play it. Right now, if you please. It’ll only take a minute or two (hint: move everything, especially the words).

I’m a little late to the party with this one. It’s close to a year old, and was selected as a finalist at the IGF (Independent Games Festival) at the start of this year. But if there’s anyone yet to sample this little novelty I feel it’s my duty to say to you: do it. DOOO IT.

I don’t want to spend long on this; I’ve got other work to do and it’s Friday night and I’m half a glass of wine shy of being pished. But in short, Today I Die is one of the reasons I still feel enthusiastic about the games industry. It is small and breathtaking and ego-less. In the week that the Gears of War 3 trailer (no link for you) has got gruff dudes who like calling their friends “bro” all hot and bothered, it’s nice to remember that, while most AAA titles cost bazillions of yankee dollars and my only response to them is “meh”, or occasionally “huh?”, something as fresh and pared down as Today I Die can come along and move me so much.

It made my nose ache. You know, like when Littlefoot’s mum dies in The Land Before Time. Your nose aches and your eyes water and there’s this repressed sobbing noise back of your throat. But you’re not crying, because you’re too gruff and macho for that. Hells yeah, bro!

Today I Die made my nose ache a lot.

The game was created by Daniel Benmergui, author of a number of other experimental oddities such as I Wish I Were The Moon and Storyteller (all available on his website). His willingness to break rules and scout out new gameplay terrain in the name of Emotion is invigorating. His aim: “to make other realities in which you can find yourself.” The results of his efforts are much less pretentious than I’m making them sound. The central poem manipulation dynamic of Today I Die is strong, clear and touching. The music (by Hernan Rozenwasser) is elegant and luminous. The character design is affecting. Considering the brevity and abstraction of the game, the narrative is surprisingly powerful. Metaphors are rich and captivating; the theme of inner strength providing a light that shines in the darkest of moments is breathtaking in its gradual unveiling.

There will be many people who get nothing from this game. That’s cool. But if you’re like me — someone who finds the homoerotic bloodshed of Gears of War (still no link!) and its manly brothers boring in the extreme (and not that there’s anything wrong with guys loving guys, obviously, but it’d be better if they dropped the act and had a hug, rather than shooting the crap out of each other all the time) … and my sentence structure has broken down entirely here, but I’m over half a glass of wine heavier since last count, so it’s all good. If you’re tired of galactic shooty-fests, and comfortable enough with yourself to know it’s okay to get an achey nose now and again, I suggest you have a look at Today I Die. It’s really rather lovely.

(P.S. The Gears of War 3 trailer was released this week. Just thought you should know.)

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