I don’t know how to deal with loss; I sometimes wonder if anyone does. When my grandfather passed away a few years ago I’d have expected tears, depression, the sort of symptoms you see in others that seem required to properly grieve. They didn’t come to me, or at least not how I would have assumed them to. There was just this feeling of something suddenly missing, having been taken away with no way to get it back. I found myself more angry than sad, wondering if that made me a bad person and then getting more angry of myself as a result.
When my pets died growing up it was often my family that appeared more upset than myself, as I sat in solitude trying to block out the realities of the world with easy distractions. At the time I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with myself, failing to find the emotions others were clearly expressing in myself, like I was somehow defective or simply didn’t care about the person or animal that had disappeared from my life as much as I thought I did. It’s terrifying and disorienting, maybe more so than if I had just been able to open up and bawl my eyes out like everyone else.
I didn’t expect to see this part of me in Gravity Ghost, or in any game for that matter. It’s a surreal space platformer, full of interesting mechanics, gorgeous artwork and a masterful soundtrack, but it’s the side of it that it never told you about that hit me like a train into a brick wall.
Flying through the stars and landing on planets, you become wrapped up in a world full of analogies to one less abstract and impossible; a lighthearted blanket over the much more real and unfair reality underneath. Seeing this story unfold is a slow series of vignettes, often out of order and incomprehensible by themselves, asking you to draw the lines and outline the narrative underneath.
When Gravity Ghost finally comes into focus it does so with alarming emotion and sincerity. It isn’t trying to manipulate you into feeling the way its characters do, it manages that by writing them as human and flawed the way we all are. Characters reactions and dialogues with and between each other are awkward and raw, but in a way that connected with me the way a articulated, perfectly timed script couldn’t have. People often aren’t eloquent, or tactful, and Gravity Ghost presents that side of us that often comes out during times of grief in a way that really resonated with me.
Gravity Ghost is a great game, certainly a more mechanically robust and sophisticated one than I would have expected, and you could play it for that side and come away impressed. You could play it because it’s beautiful and inspired, bursting with creativity and this sort of creepy but endearing sensibility to its extraterrestrial character designs. Or you could play it for its most unexpected and impressive side: a narrative that’s struck me emotionally for what it was, and for how it managed to show that this part of me I’d chosen to ignore wasn’t something I needed to feel ashamed about. I’m not sure what Gravity Ghost will be for others who play it, but if it has anywhere near the same effect on them as it did me, that’s something worth experiencing however it might manifest.