This month, we bring you an excerpt from Savegames by Andy Connor. This is the second of four excerpts from our book, AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief, coming in April 2018. The story is a personal essay about processing grief, and how video games offer an option that doesn’t exist in real life.
by Andy Connor
Most video games are power fantasies. But the most significant power-fantasy afforded by video games isn’t the ability to kill monsters with fireballs from your hands, or direct the rise and fall of civilizations, or assassinate your way to world peace. It’s not saving a princess, or saving the world, or saving the universe. It’s just saving. The most important power fantasy afforded by most video games is the ability to save and load your game.
It’s a colossal power, when you think about it. Saving and loading gives you the power to make a mistake, and then go back in time and do it better. It empowers you to be imperfect, but also, where it matters, perfect. It lets you live every possible iteration of yourself, while still being yourself, both inside and comfortably outside of the pull of time. It allows you to experience death while remaining immortal.
When I was a kid, having savegames in real life was my most persistent fantasy. Even now, when I’m anxious or depressed, I’ll often find myself trying to mentally “load a savegame.” It’s a tic that doesn’t involve any outward expression, but I just try to click on where I think the menu might be hidden in my mind. The hope is that one of these times, the menu will simply unfurl, and I’ll realize it’s been autosaving for me this whole time, and I’ll finally be able to load up July of 2015 and get to work.
In Life is Strange, the fantasy of saving is turned into the game’s core mechanic. While the thematic point of the game ends up being that this kind of perfection is unattainable—that some losses are unavoidable—the experience of playing it tells you the opposite. Every time you fuck something up, you can hop back in time and reverse it. Every time you’re curious how someone would react to a different rhetorical strategy, you can zip back and test it out. The whole thing is about re-experiencing situations, folding a single life over itself again and again in the pursuit of better outcomes.
Until the roof. Then you’re on your own, stripped of your powers through a convenient plot contrivance. Then you’re watching your friend teeter closer to killing herself, with only one chance to avoid saying the wrong thing. In that situation, you’re a pianist whose hands have fallen off. Every sinking platitude you say is like the klumpf of your handless arms smashing against the keys. To be fair, this is realistic. This is what it feels like to try to convince someone not to kill themselves. An atonal jumble of helpless notes that never quite makes the chord.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Connor is a writer, drummer, and philosophy postgrad who lives in Melbourne, Australia. They’ve been published in such places as Going Down Swinging, The Lifted Brow, and Voiceworks, and blog at http://becausegoodbye.tumblr.com.
If you enjoyed this excerpt, we hope you will purchase the book to read the story in its entirety. And check back next month for another excerpt!