Monday, August 20, 2012

Thirty Flights of Loving, by Brendon Chung.

The first time it happened was in late 2004.

It was 4 AM and I had just completed the "Cradle" level of Thief 3 -- and its complete conceptual brilliance, a ghost story where you must become a ghost, through narrative, through puzzles, through death, through hiding seamlessly from NPCs or "ghosting" in Thief community parlance -- it overwhelmed me and I started laughing uncontrollably, rocking back and forth in my bed. The only sensible response to staring directly into the face of genius was utter insanity.

The second time it happened was a few months ago.

It was noon and I had just completed Brendon Chung's new release, Thirty Flights of Loving.

For about ten minutes, I just sat there, staring at the end screen, silent. Then I started pounding the desk and screaming uncontrollably and curling into a fetal position, for the only sensible response to staring directly into the face of genius is utter insanity. Nearby classmates stared at me but I didn't care. I couldn't get any work done for the rest of the day. I was inconsolable.

(You may think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. I had no control over my mind nor body.)

This must be how addicts feel. I've never been addicted to anything, but I imagine it resembles something like this -- an experience, a high, and the sudden realization and fear that it may very well be a long time before you feel this way ever again.

Then I thought to myself, what was the point of me, making anything ever again, trying to express something in futility, when Brendon Chung can make something so brilliant, novel, and continually surprising within a few months -- using a 15 year old game engine to tell a narrative better than any game designer has ever done in the history of this planet?

Months later, I'm still grappling with the existential dread. Every few weeks, I start it up again, and I always notice something new and beautiful. I always find some new significance in it; the ending keeps changing. Sometimes it's about inevitable mortality. Other times, it's about doomed love. Yesterday, it was about the value of optimism and perseverance.

Basically, Thirty Flights of Loving is one of the most important video games made in the last 500 years, and if you do not play it then you are a fool.

And I didn't raise you to be no fool.

Thirty Flights of Loving is available direct from Mr. Chung and it is also on Steam.

(DISCLOSURE: I beta-tested this game.)