This should be a game review. But it isn’t. But that’s okay, because I Remember the Rain by Jordan Brown isn’t a game. Yeah, it’s another one of those “art games” we’ve talked about before . I’ve some thoughts about it, of course, but I think it would be best if you just go download it (it’s free), play it and come back. Five minutes of your life, you can afford it. You were just going to watch the Lazy Harp Seal song , anyway.
Back? Probably need to go listen to that Harp Seal song, eh? I could make the usual noises here about how I Remember the Rain isn’t a game, it’s a mildly interactive multimedia thing. We’ve been down that road, though.
it’s a mildly interactive multimedia thing.
We know Dear Esther isn’t a game, but it didn’t stop it from doing quite well on Steam It’s about time we started discussing art games on a different level, and stop waddling about in surprised adoration when we run across something that’s got more narrative depth than the average FPS.
Perhaps it’s unfair to games like I Remember the Rain to judge their narrative by a different standard than run of the mill games, but the moment you remove gameplay, narrative and meaning is all that’s left. And that means we end up looking at art games from an artistically critical viewpoint.
I Remember the Rain is something of a clichéd work
Ooooh…look who’s dancing around the point, eh? Guilty as charged, I’m afraid. Well, fine, I’ll get to it. The thing is, quite honestly, I Remember the Rain is something of a clichéd work. Now, it’s certainly worth the time playing, if nothing else for the soundtrack and overall moody feeling alone. But does it bring anything new to the table? Does it say anything about death and grief that we haven’t heard a few thousand times before in other works?
I’m going to do a bit of a personal reveal here: my wife died last year. I was there in her last moments. I’ve done the hospital and memorial routine. And yeah, I’ve been through all the things that the main character in I Remember the Rain goes through. So, go ahead and write off my complaints as the irritable mutterings of someone who’s still grieving. But everything from the hospital scene to the final acceptance could have been lifted from a Lifetime channel special movie. Everything is black, the doctor makes the obligatory “I’m so sorry, sir” comment, then it’s onto the funeral with people saying the usual things people say in made for TV movies. We have our usual survivor guilt, then our character more or less moves on in life, keeping his wife alive in his memories. Yay circle of life, you go.
In other words, another day, another human being deals with death in the Kubler-Ross approved format. I don’t need to burden you with my experiences, but trust me, it’s more complicated than that and it doesn’t play out like it does in the oh so serious dramas.
To be fair, people spout Hallmark sentiments in real life, but that’s real life. No one is expecting originality from people who’ve been hit in the face with the razor-bladed club of happenstance (see, I can use razor metaphors, too!). But at its height, art turns us around and makes us see things in a different light, in surprising ways that we had never thought of before. I suppose we could make an art game about taking out the trash, but what would it tell us that we don’t already know? Who are these people we encounter? For that matter, who are the narrator and his wife? A few details would go a long way towards making them alive. Towards making them unique, in both personality and the way they deal with despair.
Dear Esther had me break down in tears. Really. I Remember the Rain just made me nod in sympathy. Similar subjects, but different executions.
I know. I’m asking a lot from a free game that an up and coming developer put together in a month. And I really hope that Brown continues to make more games like this. There’s a lot to like. After all, I Remember the Rain is a good game, for all that it could have been better. But as art games raise the bar for narrative, audiences are going to expect more.
Maybe that ain’t fair. But neither is life. Or death.
Aw, hell, I think I’ll go watch that Harp Seal again