A ‘Moirai’ Tangent or ‘Alone Together’… with Murderous Farmers
Before jumping back into Oxenfree and affect theory I need to address a game called Moirai.
A quick Wikipedia search will inform you that the term Moirai, also known in English as ‘the Fates’, refers to the figures from Greek mythology who oversaw that every living person’s destiny played out according to plan. Moirai is a game which very much plays with the idea of fate, especially as it is influenced by Karma.
The game opens on a pixelated Minecraftesque township consisting of a few huts and a scattered populace of no more than six or seven people. By walking around and talking to the priest, chef, mother, and random children you learn that there is a woman named Julia who recently lost a husband and baby. With no other choice, you walk to the nearby farm and adjacent cave and learn from a lumberjack that there are moans emanating from within the depths of the cave. Again, with no other choice but to go back to the farm and poke sheep, you venture into the cave with a lantern and knife held out in front of you (the entire game is POV, so all you see of yourself are the tools in your hands). As you twist and turn throughout the tunnels of the cave you suddenly come across a farmer standing in your path — covered in blood. The dialogue box at the bottom of the screen allows you to ask three questions:
- “Why do you have blood on your overalls?”
- “Why do you have a knife?” and
- “I heard moans, what have you done?”
In response to each of these questions the following answers are provided:
- “red paint”
- “I kill a pig”
- “yerk off”
After hearing these responses you are given a choice between letting the farmer pass or attacking them. Once you have decided to either kill or spare the farmer you have to continue on into the cave where you find Julia covered in blood after attempting to kill herself. You then have to decide whether to help Julia kill herself or get her help, either way you have to make your way back out of the cave. On the way out you meet another farmer. This time he asks you the questions you had asked on your way in and you are forced to type a response to each. A dialogue box then appears saying “Let me see what will happen to you…”, and the screen fades to black and shows the message: “And that is where this story shall end. At least for now… It is up to the next player of this game to choose your fate. Just as you chose for the pervious player.” (WOAAAAAHH! Those were other players??)
You are then given the opportunity to submit your email and find out what happened to you.
After playing the game several times and out of mercy, curiosity, and spite changing my reactions several times, I submitted my email to discover my fate and was later sent the following results of my choices:
- “After hearing your answers rrr decided to kill you with the knife received from the wood chopper. Which was unfortunate as you chose to spare the life of the previous farmer, John.”
- “After hearing your answers MARIO decided to let you pass. This was quite a foolish act considering that you were covered in blood from the killing of the previous farmer, Patrick the star.”
- “After hearing your answers Dead Man decided to kill you with the knife received from the wood chopper. Which goes to show that karma is alive and well as you chose to kill the previous farmer, alduin.”
Each of these emails then signed off with, “[a]nd that draws an end to your involvement in this story. Thank you for playing.”
Upon finishing this game for the first time I experienced similar emotions to what I had felt after playing Oxenfree. I was shocked and felt embarrassed for killing a character for no reason but also took solace in the fact that it was likely many people had done the same and were also feeling guilty. What was more surprising to me, was that in the game I had actually been reading real responses from other players as opposed to some script thought up by the creator. The fact that I am constantly shocked by being connected with other people in these is embarrassingly often but also understandable. This is because playing single and multiplayer games are very different experiences and unwittingly being involved in something where you influence or have an affect on others without knowing really forces you to reflect on your actions and relationship to the game.
In her work, Alone Together, Sherry Turkle speaks to our growing intimacy with technology and how it can ultimately sever our ties to real human relationships. She acknowledges how seductive the network seems when it comes to finding a solution to stave off our loneliness. I bring Turkle’s work into conversation with Moirai because it speaks to why the game is so jarring in its sly connection of one person to another. Turkle discusses how, “after an evening of avatar-to-avatar talk in a networked game, we feel, at one moment, in possession of a full social life and, in the next, curiously isolated, in tenuous complicity with strangers” (11). This shift in feeling after playing a game wherein you are aware of your connection to people is surely affecting, but perhaps anticipated and therefore not as jarring. I’d argue that games like Moirai, which delay your knowledge of your proximity to others leave you more lonely than knowingly networked games. This is by virtue of the fact that you are not prepared to deal with feelings of isolation from the offset.
Turkle’s work is also interesting when put in conversation with Morai because she talks about how the proliferation of sociable robots and our tendency to ensure there is a screen between us and whoever we are communicating with speaks to how “we are lonely but fearful of intimacy” (1). This fear of intimacy and the burden of human relationships can be a driving force toward digital gaming and single player experiences because the connections created are with computer programs and fixed characters rather than people.This again, is way games like Moirai have such an impact; they are set up like single player opportunities for escape but in reality force one to face their connectedness with others all the more.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.