Ghost Town: Spirits Rising
A few weeks ago, I was put in touch with Tour de Moon who were looking to commission some games as a part of their festival this year - a festival happening now as I type, over one lunar cycle. They were looking for 4 game developers under 25 to create games that each responded to typical game tropes; TdM are interested in reflecting on things in this way so that we might be able to think through them + imagine new worlds and new futures to come. I was tasked with finding the developers and then standing by for critical input while they made the games over a very tight turnaround. Over a few blog posts over the course of this festival, I’ll be looking at the results. And I would also like to encourage you to play them! You don’t have to be a gamer to play games, these are all really cool experiences that I think are worth spending time with.
‘Ghost Town: Spirits Rising is a 2D, browser-based, mixed media game that explores tropes introduced into game design via the money making strategies of arcade games. Inspired by one of the world’s best known games (Pac-Man, 1980) it asks what would be different if there was a similar world where it’s ghostly inhabitants didn’t have the adversity of an arcade challenge pressing down on them, and suggests how it got that way.’
I’m glad this came is coming out the same week as the jubilee. In a time when no one normal can afford to do anything special, let alone put the heating on or pay for dentist bills, it is winding me up to see people excited to celebrate the monarchy. I just watched a news clip of crowds — royalists with a probably good chunk of tories amongst them — booing Boris Johnson as he walked into some church thing for the queen. There is something very pure about a boo, isn’t there. It’s nice when everyone stops couching their words and just says it as it is. Symbols are a step too far away from the truth; I really appreciate a big bad noise in the air as a crowd of people tell Boris Johnson he is hated, not loved. So anyway, that’s what is on my mind as I sit to write this blog post today about Oma Keeling’s game Ghost Town: Spirits Rising. Because just as soon as the game begins, just as soon as all the symbols are set up, the conversation cuts straight to the chase: capitalism is violent and there is more to life than work. Again, I appreciate it. The game is quick and generous about the point it is trying to make. You’re not playing as pac-man destroying the ghosts, in this version you’re playing as one of the ghosts and you’re not destroying anything. You’re talking about teaming up with the other ghosts to salvage materials and creating things instead. When the big bad boss pac-man tries to give you the means to become a boss yourself, you talk about salvaging the key to the factory as well. You don’t wanna be a boss, and you think that you could make an instrument out of the metal instead. Same! I wanna do that. Fuck all of this bullshit. Fuck feeling bad for not making enough money when the system is rigged; fuck not being able to afford housing when we shouldn’t have to pay in the first place. I want to climb inside the game and run away with the ghosts. They’re free.