Sunday, July 12, 2015

Waiting Period, Game Review: Alum, My Interior Interior Designer

Having finished the novel and possibly secured a new publisher for “The Acme Employee Handbook”, I’m officially in between writing projects, and waiting for inspiration to strike me.  I have a red journal full of ideas from writing prompts, but I don’t feel compelled to invest my creative energy into any of them. So I’m still waiting. Three nights ago I dreamt of a turtle, the next night I dreamt of an egg, and last night I dreamt that I was pregnant. I know intuitively these dreams are about my creative process; perhaps about an incubation, a waiting period. So wait I will.

In the meantime, I’m whiling away my weekend hours playing video games. The latest one is “Alum”, a Kickstarter-funded independent game from Crashable Studios, with a heavily-pixelated retro look and feel, and a fascinating story: In the city of Kosmos, everything is seemingly perfect. It’s temperate year-round, there’s no unemployment, and robo-cops maintain perfect order, so crime is non-existent. Nonetheless, an alarming number of its citizens are suffering from The Vague, a depression-like affliction that causes them to shut down emotionally, speak in monosyllables, and lay slumped in a zombie-like daze. Alum, the main character of the game, is desperately seeking a cure for The Vague, as his girlfriend Esther has been stricken with it. In his search for a cure, Alum is banished from Kosmos by its authoritarian overlord. He soon meets a mysterious wise man who gifts him with the cure called a Rushlight, provided by a god-like force known as the Altruist. Alum’s goal is to return to Kosmos to share his Rushlight with Esther in order to cure her. In his quest, he meets a band of rebels of who have been gifted with Rushlights of their own, and are trying to get back into Kosmos to share their lights with its citizens and defeat its Machiavellian leader.

I read one review which posited that “Alum” is a Christian allegory, and I think that may be true. There’s a clear battle between good and evil. The Altruist speaks to Alum throughout the game, telling him that he has plans for him and providing him with direction, which so far Alum is ignoring in his obsession with curing Esther. There are demonic black creatures lurking around who are up to no good, and many of the characters have moral battles with themselves, fighting their sinful natures and suffering from deep shame about their weaknesses. But the story of “Alum” could also be interpreted as a metaphor for enlightenment—the Rushlight provides peace, wisdom, and deep compassion to its bearers. I’m still only about halfway through the game, but so far I’ve found it surprisingly deep and morally complex.

 My sister recently posted a link to the website “Apartment Therapy”, which I have I now become obsessed with. Even with the Tiny House movement being all the rage, there is still a dearth of information about living in and decorating small spaces. At one time, I wanted to be an interior designer, but I was daunted by having to learn the math involved, so I never pursued it. Having joined the Art Committee at work, my latent decorator has burst through in full force, and have discovered my hidden talent for such things. “Apartment Therapy” is feeding the decorating beast within, and I am plotting all sorts things involving re-purposed wood, antique brass candlesticks, and funky woven baskets lined with bright linens. Don’t tell Mr. Typist!

--Kristen McHenry

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