Some memories aren’t meant to stay. We are our memories and our experiences. What happens if you delete some of them? If you change your past and, thus, your future?
I discovered the indie video game Will Die Alone by pure chance one day zoom-scrolling Twitter: A brand new game from Arianna Ravioli, a Game Design Masters student at IULM Italy. I was immediately pulled in by the trailer – call it morbid fascination at the title or just a sense of “wow this is different”, and couldn’t hit the download button fast enough.
Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders…
Will Die Alone is a little bit like stepping into the sci-fi world of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a world where people can choose to erase certain memories from their lives – harmful ones, such as after a breakup, or forgetting a particularly rough childhood. This time you’re playing as the corporation that performs these procedures, but with riots at your doorstep things aren’t as peachy as the marketing would have it.
You play a lowly employee logging into their computer each day to perform the tiring task of erasing your customer’s memories. In this way, the experience was a little bit like Routes (a performance from Bath Theatre that premiered last month). You play via a computer screen, with the following:
- The Daily News Bulletin
- Memos from your boss (ugh leave me alone!)
- A calendar counting down the days until you can quit (haha nice!)
- Each day’s case file
Right or Wrong Choice?
With just a few days of ‘work’ to tell the story, Arianna does a wonderful job. Each day a new news bulletin sets the scene of the world, and periodic messages from your boss in increasing levels of emotion tell a counterpart story of the company itself. You’re trying to keep your head down and finish your work, but your character cannot shy from the truth that with each memory deleted a life is irreversibly changed forever.
Whilst you can see a projection into your client’s futures to find out if you made the right choice, often there is no right choice. A client is doomed from the start and no amount of deleted memories will change that. Forcing you to question the procedure entirely! What good does it do?
On my first playthrough, I’m confident I chose the ‘correct’ choices, but the ending was no less painful, in a different way, than on my second where I decided to make all the wrong choices and see what difference it made.
Powerful Storytelling Through Simple Graphics
One of the best things about Will Die Alone is it’s storytelling with such a simple user interface. You don’t need the flashiest of graphics, and this game does wonders with simple illustrations and a computer screen.
From start to finish Will Die Alone was a joy to play. A powerful short story from an extremely creative and talented game designer. The game also had a special magic for me, it’s no secret I’ve got a large tattoo from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on my right arm, and logging into my Dewitt Corp console to erase memories felt like being at the centre of a similar story.
Whilst not the typical ‘escape room’ style of video game we typically cover on this website, Will Die Alone is a game full of surprises and choices that will stay in your mind for a very long time after.
Mairi is the editor-in-chief and covers escape rooms/immersive theatre in London, play at home games, and video games.