Killing Time at Light Speed is a fairly unique text based game. You play Jay on a 29 year journey (at lightspeed) to a new planet. You are given the opportunity to check your social media page, but each time you refresh one year on Earth will have passed. This means that Jay is allowed to interact with and follow the lives of their friends but in a very disconnected, and actually somber, way. Jay’s friends are working through a number of personal, social, and political issues, and Jay is stuck looking on the outside. Many times people mention that events that have been going on for years for them have only been “months” for Jay.
The main focuses of the game are in fact the political issues surrounding technology. Synthetics and extreme modding are becoming part of every day life. The result of this is that there are major clashes over how to react and respond to this. Jay is forced to read updates, and the lives of those left back home are drastically changing in the wake of these political changes. With those events comes more personal experiences as well. People begin to integrate more with synthetics, and even mod themselves, and have very personal reactions to what is happening. On the reverse you read updates from some friends that are never really able to accept the changes, and don’t always believe that things are as bad as others say they are.
It’s a very interesting take on narrative to have the game told through social media updates. It’s effective because you are reading about individual responses, and then getting more of the picture by putting them together. However, you are never able to piece everything together. You may use prompts to ask questions but they won’t always be answered, and news updates and pieces are limited. Beyond that you also see just clear spam and different accounts of stories. Some people have completely different reactions to what is happening than others, and some people are even trying to keep themselves on the outside of it all. It becomes a seemingly realistic look at what a person would see about politics and society if they were to be limited to something like Facebook.
There is a clear leaning to the story, it does after all have something to say about technology, but you aren’t completely confined to that. The game also ends with many pieces of the puzzle never being complete. The truly sad part is as the game continues your connection to these people is slowly being severed. As said every time you refresh a year has passed for the people you are interacting with, as such some of them simply stop. Some of them clearly move on with their lives. Some of them you are never exactly sure. The story remains compelling, and the game got a stronger emotional response from me than I really thought it would be able to.
However, you are very limited on what you can actually respond to and what those responses might be. The game does not shift much despite what you do. You can influence some outcomes but really not that many. This feels slightly limiting especially in a game that has such an interesting premise and again surprising emotional development. I can see the point in that limitation, you wouldn’t have as strong of an influence over these people as time passes. It works from a narrative perspective on that hand, yet I couldn’t help but feel that the game just didn’t seem fully fleshed out.
Anyone interested in more out there “games” should give this a look. It’s an interesting way to tell a story, and a good story at that. Not only that but it does manage to get a pretty solid emotional response despite using “social media” as it’s means for gameplay/narrative. Despite that it fell just a little short for me. I would still say its worth it, just on the cusp of being something more.