Electron Dance
2Apr/173

Dabbling with… From Darkness

The fourth episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

from_darkness_rezzed

From Darkness (Gold Extra, 2017) is certainly the type of project you'd expect to see in the Leftfield Collection. The trouble is, as always, the Leftfield Collection is part of a gaming exhibition. Certain games, slow and conteplative experiences, will find it difficult to make an impact in such an environment.

I was having a bad day on Thursday. I'd arrived late at Rezzed and was flustered by some news I'd received on the train. The first game I had sat down in front of turned out to be Jonathan Whiting's Nest, a game I had promised myself never to play, as I saw it as a sort of prank on the player - a very good prank, but not one I wanted to indulge. You know how Bennett Foddy trolls players with painful mechanics? Well, this. If you don't know anything about Nest, then go ahead: download it.

So after that, I was looking for something more rewarding - and sat in front of From Darkness. It wasn't some kind of thriller but an "interactive documentary" about people caught up in the "resource wars" in Eastern and Central Africa, wrapped in a fictional narrative of a woman looking for her daughter.

The first area was quite threadbare, devoid of detail, with white, nondescript models of huts standing in for the fictional narrator's imagined Africa. I walked around, triggered some monologues and saw some short animations. The second area was filled with video interviews that activated as I approached them. My early impression, then, was of moving from hotspot to hotspot and waiting for prerecorded media to run its course. But the third area looked like a colourful mockup of a Nairobi neighbourhood and I was tasked with finding a woman called Fatuma. I stopped at this point because I'd felt I'd been at it for long enough, even though it was clear that the concept was "evolving" with each step of the journey.

From_Darkness_gold_extra_2016-12

Only a small proportion of my time was spent actively doing something and the rest was watching or listening. With a mouse and keyboard in hand, it can seem difficult to let go of these tools and let information wash over you. A certain recent puzzle game challenged its players to do just that; I'm sure a good number of them shook their fists at the screen. Those who are more tuned to interactive fiction or visual novels would probably find From Darkness an easier ride.

It felt like putting a modern interactive art exhibit inside a computer and maybe I would have preferred actually moving around a real space to greet these videos. Then again, when I'm in a museum and I see a small auditorium in which a film is running on an endless loop... I tend to keep my distance.

I'm still not sure what to make of From Darkness. It seemed like the sort of title I should explore at leisure at home rather than in the more pressurized environment of a gaming exhibition. And perhaps I will.

From Darkness can be downloaded for Windows, Mac and Linux for free.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!

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Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I liked Nest. Reached the good ending!

  2. There’s a bad ending separate from giving up while your brain bleeds out?

  3. The good ending is the one where you play long enough to figure out what’s going on, chuckle, play around a couple more turns, and then hit “autoplay” and watch to the end. Not guaranteed not to make your brain bleed out.


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