The night I read this, I would later play an arcade dream in my sleep. So maybe this is the future I saw for myself. Thank you for writing this. It gave me a nice dream. Some 1st person nature trail rail shooter. So it’s like that one dragon-flying post-apocalyptic bullet game of pretty fields and canyons for stages and invasive animals introduced by an exploiting technocracy for bosses. But the dream rail was a nature trail.
And all the enemies were thorns. And shooting the throns consisted of stopping the hike and breaking off the thorns from plants on the trail. And each thorn type had their own note. And breaking thorns created the only musical score of the game.
It had a cel shade style. Like firewatch. There may have been background stuff like long quiet bells for background, but nothing with a melody. But whenever it looked like the person was about to run into a thorn, you just hover your camera in the thorns direction and the closest throns in frame were plucked rapid fire until you looked away. If there were no throns therethe anamation would play but in place of pluck sounds there’s hollow wood and wind sounds. There was a kneeling animation as the person took to plucking thorns and a rising animation with maybe knee popping sounds for continuing to walk. And the bosses were hikers.
The first boss is a demon summoning spread, but it’s accidental? And made of tortilla chips instead of petals and dip instead of gold and a spring instead of a pool of blood. And a tartan blanket instead of animal fur. When you come upon anything in the game, you can inspect it but holding the camera on it and not letting it out of the center of the frame. I did this for the nacho dip, thinking it a type of plant. You get points for inspecting rare plants successfully. It’s hard to keep your focus because the camera wants to pull toward a distracting noise like a bird of prey or wind in the trees or something. And by the time you look back if you get distracted, you are too far away for your character to turn around.
Anyway, I was inspecting the dip and it was those rounds or peperoncini or relish or whatever and a glaze of vinegar and an underwater lake of cheese under the vinegar. Just when I was about to score the points for the flower, someone said “hey” a person. Further up the trail. “You can have some. It’s trail magic” I guessed they didn’t leave it there, because usually you don’t hear people doing trail magic use the words “trail magic” to describe their action — they usually just say just returning a favor or ask where you from or something. But my character kept going and the person got suspicious. There was a cliff in the trail. The person was at the top and I was just about to reach it to start climbing. I think there was a small cliff in the tutorial section of the game, but every time I think back to the tutorial section of this game, I picture a pre-historic themed and prehistoric-looking side scroller.
The side scroller is also a rail shooter. You are perpetually moving forward and there are obstacles enemies and bonus gets in this tutorial that I remember. Somehow, maybe it transitions from this into the game I play now by parallax scrolling away from the side scroll view over to the cliff, and it says “look up to climb” and I look up, but not enough and my person just sits there, the last note of the music fading sadly into a nothing near-ending. And then I look up enough, satisfy a trigger, and my person starts the climb. And the last measure of the song instantly kicks back in with a steel brush on a tom and strings and guitar and orchestral and piano and gong is played loud with force. And the cliff is this like root sticking up with dirt eroded away from my side of it. It is not a cliff at all, is what I mean. It looked more like a thorn than a cliff.
Maybe that’s why the character stops, trying to figure out if it’s a thorn or not. Anyway, my camera had swung over from the Side scrolling angle to the first person. And after the cliff, the person leaves the camera behind. And the whole time it is a black background with magenta trunks and turquoise leaves and Mohave clays with yellow for sprites. So when the camera is left and pans up and the person is walking into a horizon of millions of colors and dawn is breaking and the title screen comes up and says “Walk Away” in clumpedtogther clods of sod and dirt, I get a little stirred and emotional.
And then it sits there as it loads the first stage and you hear the footsteps first and they are right next to you and binaural like that and you think this is one game you’d like to watch the credits just to see if they have a making of sequence built in explaining how they had to build this or that scaffolding to get all the open source modules to play nicely together in the engine they picked to develop in. But so and you know by the foley work you are in first person again and then the camera switches over on one of the footfall crunches and the person is looking at their thumb and theres a thorn jabbed in it.
I see they are about to pull the thorn out, so I move the camera off screen. The devs use a stock free sound for pulling out thorns, some library of 16-bit sword swipes. The person continues walking. The person gets to the thorn in the path ready to slice them and they stop and there’s no instrumentation or footfalls and like 1 cicada. And the person inspects the thorn. It’s like a school kid at a zoo inspecting a snake in a gussied-up fishtank in a solarium. It is the same mechanic as if you were pulling the camera down to inspect a flower.
Eventually, if you wait long enough a button prompt comes up. It says “press 🔴 to break thorn”. And as you do, a finger appears, an arm reaches out, the finger folds down over the side of the thorn and a satisfying plucked cello sound plays. And the person rights themself and keeps walking. Its around this time when I begin my time to start and think about what I’m walking away from. But then there’s more thorns and I pluck them and keep going. I don’t remember ever getting stabbed by a thorn, I was kind of thoroughly enjoying the plucking. So I cannot tell you if there is a health meter that fades when it’s not a changed value or not.
But so eventually it’s the chips and the spring and the other person on top of the cliff? And I remember before I get to the cliff, they are like “you don’t want any? And then they are like, “wait what are you” and then they are like “you’re that ghost everyone talks about, arnt you” and I feel like they might say a name. But then their partner arrives and they are together and the other person tells their hiking partner who they think I am and the partner calls out my name, or her name. But there is no prompt for me and the person just keeps walking and then I am on the cliff and then a thorn hits me while on the cliff and my person falls down. I didn’t notice a thorn but then I see one hit the dirt between the person’s legs. And then I bend the camera up and the other person is reading words off of a scroll and flinging them at my person so I try to move the camera out of the way of the words flight path, but I guess I have to pluck them because the words only miss the head and hit the shoulder of the person.
So then I start aiming the camera up to pluck words and then back to the cliff to pluck thorns. And the thorn plucking is rapid fire, too. I think I failed to mention that. The thorns sound off at the rate of struck keys on a keyboard. They might even be translated notes set in a key using some public domain book for the transcript or corpus or “sheet music” or whatever. So I’m looking at the cliff and up at the spells and I’m walking up or climbing up the cliff and when I get to the top, the hikers run away up the hill. And then that’s it for the excitement for a a while, during the cliff scene. It seems as though there is loading happening in the background to render the next bit of trail because as soon as I am up they are gone and I am moving.
This is when the dog starts to whine for me to let them out, so I don’t remember anything more after this. But I do remember I was walking through a big city before this. I had just given my sibling directions and told them some rules I picked up for living on the street and then to take care. And we parted there. And I walked past shopping stalls and corner malls before reaching a big open gutted-out bell tower. It was like a skyscraper playground with a skylight at the top. So the eiffle tower with more metal sheeting.
And there’s arcades to the left and some bars to eat food court food and some tables, with one of them with friends I know. So I sit with m0them and I unload my pack and star to dry out my gear and someone asks to borrow something and I give them some coins and say that’s all I got and to get to it meaning to busk, though he doesn’t look the part, just a scrawny kid with better luck selling braided stone. So he just sits there.
Then there’s more talk and eventually I get to the bottom of the bag right before their bus is supposed to swing by here and I find some folded up 1s 20s and 200s at the bottom of my pack And I tell everyone I swear I don’t remember getting this and I give the a 20 and a 10 and I say they better hurry and they run of to the ticket desk. I think greyhound you have to be there at a certain time to buy a ticket for a coming bus or to claim yours or something, how you can’t just buy and board, but I guess that’s not the case here. I then remember the scores of candies I found it a rusted out set of quarter lockers and how I pawned them off. I think maybe candy is a controlled substance in this world. But yeah, they were fun sized caramels in wrappers.
I pocket them andsee they don’t crush and sell them. Anyway, back at the surveillance of play tower, I say I’m going to go check out what they have at the arcade and if the other person wanted anything. They say they are good in a way that means hold onto it I will ask again later and I say a laugh, which comes out as an entertained hmm and is recieved as such. When I get to the arcades, there is a partition of plastic balls between me and the north face. I feel like I am in the center of a city with nothing around but this building and a park for block after block.
I turn back away from the kids diving into a pool of petrol byproduct and just as rainbow, I turn toward Walk Away. I think put in my coin, but I can’t say. Maybe this whole tower is you-are-the-product and steeply discounted and cameras are sold off by the month from the city’s server farm to corporations to allow them to watch people play and do whatever math from that gets them the social inequality they need to feel makes their dads proud or makes them feel like they deserve their lot or makes them feel powerful or I guess I just wouldn’t understand.
All I know is I’m doing elder care in the middle of nowhere bible belt for someone who watches torture porn and crime drama, sells human-in-the-loop-genetically modified, individually caged rabbits and uses the money to buy rabbit food and hay and plaster village pieces. I’m just saying I think life used to boil down to being a keeper of something and passing as that. But this generation, every old person I hear of has a wild shopping spree before they go out. Our elders have gone from keepers to deniers telling themselves “if I just had this, I’d be able to do all the things I was doing at the pace I was doing them before that last doctor visit.” The arcade, right.
So the arcade starts up. With or without the coin, I don’t remember. The arcade game on the screen, they ask for a ticket. I look down where the arrow is pointing and I see a place for people to swipe their phone or insert a data card. I say no. They ask if I would like the tutorial, I say yes, and the game starts up.
I can imagine other bosses now, but I’m hungry, so later, which I guess is never because I’m not really into this I just liked it some. I can imagine the nerdy Ghostbusters trying to catch me. And then 13 ghosts person. And haunt on hill house all the ghost catchers throughout cinema. And influencers and camera crews and ghost rights activists appropriating sacred sites dialogue for their own discussion but it’s just nice to see anyone talk about that sort of thing. And then a Dear Esther reference, like a light or a monologue and it’s the only monologue and it’s in some nowhere part of the trail and it’s flagged as played in some deep part of the game such that you’d have to reinstall the game and start a fresh file in order for it to trigger again and idk the yokai kid shows up and does a yokai battle and you can say lose to them and say sorry and say bye in menus made solely for that section. And ginko shows up and says hello and then says wait, but then you are gone.
And eventually you get to the end of the hiking trail and there’s a crab there and a thumbnail sized piece of a skull and the tide is moving in and a big wave breaks sneaker style over the person and the camera shorts out and the audio cuts mid-wave, some high c#, and then black and lyrics and production staff and sound library credits and nature trail maintainer groups thanks and national parks thanks and the lyrics stop and I guess theres the ambiance music of the trail through the rest of the credits. And there’s probably something at the end but I can’t think of anything.
A drone shot of ocean and if you stare at the green thing in the ocean, the camera moves in. And if you can withstand the bird pass, it continues to move in. Otherwise, the camera cuts out as the bird passes. And if you can withstand the boat, and then the free-floating shipping container, and then the breaching whale, and then the ocean waves and the fish. And then then you reach the lilypad and the lily opens. And you zoom out and you’re at the edge of a pond and there a windmill and your person gets up and turns from the pond toward a bamboo forest and when they start walking, on their first step, it cuts to black and theres the audio of a footfall and then nothing. And then the title screen. There’s a thanks for playing on the screen.
Anyway, thank you for you and for the game(s). Have a good day.