Professor Carolyn Jong
ENGL 255 B – Video Games and/as Literature
February 17th, 2017
The Acoustic Space Between Life and Death
While playing the computer game The Graveyard by Tale of Tales, I am forced to rely on my sense of hearing in order to fully understand the scene laid out before me. This micro essay will argue that the greyscale game, The Graveyard, removes visual comfort in order to lure players into the acoustic space between life and death. In this context, visual comfort refers to the mechanics of colour and limited character movement within this virtual world. I want to stress that this is my interpretation and analysis of the game.
In experiencing the world of The Graveyard through shades of grey, I found myself trying to imagine the lush greens and blues of the trees and skies surrounding my character. The scraping sound of gravel beneath the old lady’s feet makes me want to venture between the Christian Gothic styled monuments that appear as though they stem from the medieval era (Stern,2002). Lack of colour forces me to analyse aspects of the game that I usually take for granted. In relying on sound, I recognise that the surrounding acoustics are soothing and lively, pulling me toward the bench where my character will inevitably sit to listen to a song about death. As I sit on the bench, I have no control over my character, further showcasing how sound can be taken for granted but is the most important yet confining aspect of this virtual reality.
Limited game play also has a role in isolating my sense of hearing. The old lady that I control is very slow and I can’t navigate around the map without the game zooming out. Which ultimately discourages any venture away from the pre-rendered destination. Limited movement invites me to listen carefully to the encompassing life; crows, dogs and distant sirens gently guide me toward the bench. The acoustics of The Graveyard shine an unexpected light upon the space of the cemetery, in which life continues to thrive outside of this Gothic setting. Eddo Stern, author of the article “A Touch of Medieval: Narrative, Magic and Computer Technology in Massively Multiplayer Computer Role-Playing Games,” defines the term of gameplayer artifacts as “elements of game play that are a result of unanticipated and unsanctioned player participation (5).” This contextual definition supports my claim as the game forces me down a specific path in order to listen to an entire song without my approval. I have no control over my character while she sits on the bench, which means that this game wants me to listen before I can win by simply exiting the graveyard .
Finally, a key element of the game, The Graveyard, is that it also offers a version that can be purchased with one fundamental difference, the character can die as she listens to the song. Which can perhaps reveal that sound is the most important sign of life regardless of the game’s final outcome.
Stern, Eddo. “A Touch of Medieval: Narrative, Magic and Computer Technology in Massively Multiplayer Computer RolePlaying Games.” In Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference Proceedings, ed. Frans Mayra. Tampre University Press, 2002. p 5.
The Graveyard (Tale of Tales, 2008).