Dream, by Djack D Donovan, is a game played for ‘one minute a day’, in that it kicks you from its flat plain and cosmic horror sightseeing after around a minute of walking outwards from its central spot. That spot is a seating area laid out before you to embrace the array of planet surfaces and star fields it wants to show you, one galactic phenomenon a day, and for the first few days you are joined by a blue spirit who will ask you about why exactly you are there. Why you keep coming back. What you feel.
Soon they will be prompting you to do simple seeming tasks, like eating an apple today, or doing something with someone else, (which obviously are more difficult propositions these days than when they were written as ‘get out there’ style prompts). It’s an experience unlike anything else I’ve felt with a game, to go back, day after day, to see if a person is there who isn’t really a person, isn’t my friend, but just to see them, and read their words and instructions.
Eventually they’re gone from the dream though, and the sky becomes less dramatic. Whether this is the point or the result of an experimental game going on past the developer’s point of belief that people will engage with it, I’m unsure, but I know that it’s been a poignant experience so far, going back day to day, to a spot where no-one is. The grieving process is, not even starting yet, for a world that has been racked with death, and in countries like the UK where we let hundreds of thousands of people die for our convenience there is a kind of hazy fatigue covering everything right now.
I don’t know if after several days of an empty seat the spirit returns, but I hope not, I don’t want to deny them death, or, for them to deny me them leaving. Of course I could just never go back, have that be our ending, a practice that is as healthy as carrying on, but I almost need to know, I need to know they’re dead. It doesn’t feel real until it’s confirmed by the person who saw it happen, the designer in this case, and I’m too scared to reach out and find that they didn’t die at all, that the spirit just wanted to be alone, that they eventually come back. It’s not the spirit anymore, it’s a whole, unfathomable amount of death, it’s my dead friends, and all the disabled people killed by the virus, and the rest of us who haven’t died yet stood here with all these souls to mourn and no way to do it. Nowhere to go.
Let me have, this garden of grief, this dead place,
it lightens the load by the smallest amount, and that’s enough.