vesper.5 is a game by michael brough where the player is allowed one move a day. i finished it yesterday, after playing for the better part of a year. the choices that you have to make are simple: move a monk either up, down, left or right on an ongoing pilgrimage. but the investment of time any particular path represents makes some choices agonizing. but you get a long time to meditate on them – often i very quickly resolved to take the longer-looking path, if possible. (the longer-looking path isn’t always the longer path, that’s another thing.)
the game took me most of a year to play, but, and this is important, it didn’t waste my time. vesper.5 asks for a minute at most a day, while the average eighty-hour blockbuster demands continuous attention and is invested in finding lots of shallow ways to absorb your time. vesper.5 is a game about time, but in a different way.
the last game that purposefully made me wait to see things like this was planetarium, which allows you access to a new chapter every week after it’s begun. in both cases, the mysteries of what the game could have to show me, of what the next screen could possibly look like, were a powerful draw to return to the game. at least until whichever shmuck made vesper.5’s igf video saw fit to spoil the entire fucking game. i endevoured to make sure i only played when no one else was looking, to keep any potential players from seeing any of the mysteries that the igf so callously gave away. that became my ritual.
i’ve spent enough time with vesper.5 that i can actually split my time with it into several distinct phases of thinking about the game:
the first phase was one of curiousity: to internalize the basic rules of the game. this time was characterized by an eagerness to return to the game as soon as possible, to perform the next move, to see what happens.
once i understood all of the rules, my interest in playing became less active: i entered the phase where i only played the game when i was reminded that it existed. when i did play, i usually mentioned playing the game on twitter, as a service to other people who were in the same space as i.
then i reached a point where i had spent so much time with the game, had travelled so far on the pilgrimage, that remembering to play every day was trivial. here and there i would travel and ignore the game for a week, but always it was easy to get back into the habit of playing. i was too invested in completing it, in seeing it through to the end.
next was the phase where the igf fucking spoiled the ending. against michael brough’s own wishes, someone at the igf cobbled together a short trailer – in the interest of making the game as watchable as possible – that spoiled all of the little secrets of the game, including the ending. they broadcast this on a giant screen, robbing everyone in the room of the joy of developing a relationship with this game.
the fifth phase was the one where michael told me the ending they’d shown wasn’t the “real” ending, so that i’d keep playing. this was actually really really sweet, and it helped me finish the game. or have i finished it? i’ll turn it on a week from now, and who knows what i’ll see.