This is the fourth time I have tried to write this. I started initially with an approach that covered my own sleeplessness over the last week and the personal trials I am facing. It went through the last couple days and some decisions I have had to make recently in relation to my future in academia. It ran for a few hundred words before I finally decided against it and deleted what I wrote.
The second and third versions were based in trying to compose some clever poetry to convey the idea of negative space. It’s something Bientôt l’été does exceptionally well with its relative distances and layering of text over player movement. Other than parts in El Shaddai, which undercuts most of its themes by refusing to acknowledge the reliance on inter-character violence, Bientôt l’été consistently achieves the delicate act of merging character movement with story progression. The space through which the character moves is both literal and figurative simultaneously — and both have separate meanings.
It’s not a journey through fixed content, but a narrative created through player interaction and self-constructed context. It’s much closer to a center between the two poles of Dear Esther’s use of fixed paths and Proteus’ procedural island. There are arranged objects in Bientôt l’été, yes, but their relationship to the player is based in a series of generated juxtapositions of text, character positioning, and player interpretation. Their meaning and relevance comes not exclusively from an authored experience, but a curated collection of phrases and objects left up to the player to discover and make sense of within its world.
It is both as simple as a woman standing on a beach with the words “Are we alone?” overlaid on the screen and as complex as questioning the interdependence of humans on software-generated worlds for companionship. Even the screen itself complicates this. Nothing is ever completely in focus, nor is there a straightforward explanation of some sights. There is always the lurking sense of some purposeful obscurity, but never quite enough to break the game’s instruction toward meditation on its world, to “Just be.”