Far-reaching and immeasurable…
Video games mean so much to so many. Often offering an escape from the trials and tribulations of the real world, many take solace in the environments created, the characters developed, and the stories that unfold. The impact that this incredible art form has is far-reaching and immeasurable. Although more recognisable among gamers, video games can also provide that same support to the developers themselves. Within ten minutes of my time with ‘Drowning,’ this had never been more apparent to me.
‘Drowning’ tells a story of a teenage boy who discovers he has depression during his years at high school. Told through on-screen text prompts as you walk through a series of ‘low-poly environments,’ the game shares the thoughts of the protagonist as he communicates directly with his depression. The on-screen text is displayed alongside the sound of someone typing on a keyboard, and hints at the main character recalling thoughts and feelings and documenting them.
A medium for expression
Best described as a walking simulator, the aforementioned environments serve as the perfect backdrop to the events that unfold. They provide ample opportunity to interpret the meaning of the surroundings and determine how they are linked to the story. Knowing that what I thought maybe the reason for the path beginning to narrow or the trees towering over me may not be accurately highlighted again the beauty of video games as a medium for expression.
Accompanying the walk through the environments is some beautifully poignant piano music. Between that and the sombre sounds of a violin, there is little more that a game of this nature can include where audio is concerned to produce lasting effects long after the credits roll – in my humble opinion anyway. The music is tastefully done and encourages reflection and contemplation throughout. There are even moments where the music stops and the effect is just as powerful, and these have been well-placed to support the development of the ‘story.’
A reminder of the fragility of life
Representing more than just a game, ‘Drowning’ proves difficult to review. With subject matter that is more pertinent than ever, it serves as a reminder of the fragility of life and the world we live in. The game ends with a personal thank you from the developer to the friends and family that have supported through hard times, and suggests that this game may have been about so much more than dabbling into the games industry and providing a form of entertainment – something also suggested by the rather small retail price.
For those that will look upon this title as little more than a gaming experience, there are a few considerations to think about. First of all, the story wraps up in a little under an hour. I personally recommend completing this in one sitting, with headphones on, and ample time to digest it once you have finished. Unfortunately, I was interrupted on occasion and this led to some of the impact being momentarily lost. The second is that although the main menu suggests that you can stop the playthrough and come back to it later by using ‘Continue,’ each time I tried it resulted in starting again from the beginning.
With the support of the team at Two Beard Gaming, I have chosen not to score ‘Drowning’ using our traditional scoring methods. Sharing such a personal story with a subject matter that so many can relate to, for me, makes ‘Drowning’ so much more than just another game for the back catalogue. It epitomises the power of the video game industry, and as a keen advocate for awareness, change and empowerment, I think that this is a sufficient enough endorsement of this ‘game’ from me.