If you were to ask anyone who knew me well if I played videogames, the answer would be “not really”. Once in a while, though, a game will come along that hooks me and I don’t stop – can’t stop – playing it until I’ve completed it. I suppose it could be a form of addiction, but it only lasts as long as I play the game.
The last game to hook me was The Silent Age. (The name is taken from the David Bowie song “Sons of the Silent Age”.) It’s been around for a while, but I only learned of it last month. Set in the 1970s (the present, in the game) and the future (2012, our sort-of present) the protagonist is Average Joe: a lowly janitor who works at a big government building, whose life is suddenly changed when he tries to help a dying old man, who gives him a time travel device. Joe is tasked with the mission to save humankind from an inexplicable disaster, which is glimpsed when he travels to the future.
What made me download the game was the description in the App Store, which I found highly entertaining in addition to being well-written. A small sample: (though you really must read the whole thing)
It’s 1972. Love is free. Flipflops, English leather and bandanas are the height of fashion. Meanwhile the Cold War is more than lukewarm and a real one is going on overseas. Movements are happening. Environmentalists, the female liberties movement, and on the dance floors an entirely different kind of movement is overtaking the underground clubs. The winds of change are certainly blowing over the country.
Somewhere in the big city, in a tall, faceless government building someone left a window open. All the winds of change are doing here is blowing leaves all over Joe’s newly-swept floor. He’s been there for two years now. Working a dead-end attendant job making sure the building is as spotless as the suits walking the hall. It’s been like this for years, going from soul-devouring job to the next.
When you start the app, there is a recommendation to wear headphones so that you are fully immersed in the game. The music affects the mood of the game and heightens the feeling of Joe’s helplessness when he is “promoted” to the unsettling undertones throughout. I don’t usually like dystopias but for some reason I was unable to stop playing.
So far, only the first chapter is released. The developers are currently accepting donations to help fund the building of the second chapter. For the most part, the game could be described as a mystery. The gameplay is fairly intuitive (although I did eventually succumb to looking up online tutorials for some of the episodes) and you can jump back and forth from the future to the present as required. You only know as much as Joe does and learn along with him as you go through the levels or episodes of the game.
While playing the game, I also thought that it could also be great as a movie. Plot-wise, it has the right ingredients.
The Silent Age is available for FREE in the App Store for the iPad and iPhone/iPod touch. Whether you play videogames or app games regularly, or only once in a blue moon, I recommend checking it out. It is also available on Android. Visit the app’s website here.