The second episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2019.
I heard the birth of Doggerland Radio three years ago.
Under the comments of Into the Black: The Movie, Amy Godliman picked up on my criticism of TheRaptureIsHereAndYouWillBeForciblyRemovedFromYourHome (Connor Sherlock, 2013). She wrote:
I’m glad you bought up TheRaptureIsHereAndYouWillBeForciblyRemovedFromYourHome as I had an interesting experience with that myself: I started playing not knowing exactly what it was so I found the spoken excepts fascinating, little surreal snippets of narrative with no beginning or end that added really well to the game’s atmosphere and gave this really well suited feeling of everything being suddenly interrupted. Then I realised I recognised one of the stories, and that they could all be collected one bit at a time by following the right colours, and all that atmosphere just evaporated.
Anyway, great video essay, and in my case useful video essay too as this subject is pretty much exactly what I’m exploring for my MA at the moment, so I’ll probably be re-watching this quite a few times over the next two years. Thanks.
I highlighted the key phrase. Two years later, Godliman hits me up on Twitter about her mysterious Doggerland Radio, produced for her MA degree, referencing our brief comment exchange:
It took a little longer than two years, but I’m done now.
You’re welcome to attend the opening this Friday, or any of the five days the show is running. Though I’ll be carrying it about to any games event that’ll have me from here on.
I couldn’t make it.
Fast forward to Rezzed this week. I’m talking to Alan Hazelden in the Leftfield Collection and, over his shoulder, I see a desk in a darkened corner. There’s a radio squatting on it. My eyes spied the title above the table: Doggerland Radio. Oh my GOD. This is IT.
Okay, so I was excited because I knew what kind of project Doggerland Radio was. It was what Godliman wanted TheRaptureIsHereAndYouWillBeForciblyRemovedFromYourHome to be.
Power up the radio, slide on the headphones and turn that dial carefully like a safecracker to find broadcasts orphaned in the static. Maybe you’ll catch a little opera, the sound of a steam train pulling into the station… or maybe even the shipping forecast.
On a purely personal level, it reminds me of childhood. In the UK, radio is now digital, and I’m not sure how many children these days play with radios. I had no television and certainly no computer when I was young, but I did have a tape recorder with a radio. I spent a lot of time twiddling with the radio, trying to find a station I hadn’t heard before. Hiding underneath the crackle, I’d occasionally catch the semblance of something unfamiliar and, if I turned the dial just right, I might be able to make it out…
Godliman revealed, to my surprise, that the Doggerland Radio stations are always running regardless of whether you’re listening. I expected the software behind the box to trigger audio files as you hit the right spot on the dial. No, it is much smarter than that, so it always feels like you’re tuning into the middle of something, conveying a fragmented impression of the fictional Doggerland. (There is a real Doggerland but don’t expect to find clues from a submerged landmass.)
There’s more. On the table is a map, some stones – and an old novel. I ignored the novel initially and, as I was ready to leave Doggerland Radio behind, I opened the book. It was out on loan from the Doggerland Library and… had passages censored. Wait, what’s this? An envelope tucked in its pages? I half-expected it to contain some love letter from a dead age, “Dear Joan, My heart is bereft without you…” blah blah. Now there was something inside, but it wasn’t a letter. If you happen to drive through Rezzed this weekend, I’ll let you find out for yourself.
While I was a little sad that the radio needle did not move as I turned the dial, the work done by Paul Hayes on the engineering and coding here is superb. It effortlessly evokes the sensation of fiddling with an old radio; you come across these little spots where the static hums and roars violently – for no apparent reason. Wonderful touches.
Look, I don’t know what I participated in but I loved it. And I’m afraid you won’t be able to grab Doggerland Radio in the shops or even download it from Steam. All you can do is hope Godliman brings it to a games expo near you.
Interested in other games I’ve dabbled with? Check out the series index!