It’s kind of hard for me to write about Clannad in a coherent way. A lot of what it means to me has nothing to do with the game itself. The shame that masculine culture embedded into me, the fear of intimacy, the patheticism of virtual romance; that the act of playing would be my failure. That’s what overwhelmed me when I turned on the game. It felt deviant. A hyperbolic reaction to things that were later affirmed by my dad’s teasing: I’m here because of a personal failing.
What an awful narrative.
I participated in it without reproach, because my shortcomings have always seemed the root cause of everything. It’s great that Clannad is not about the individual. Clannad isn’t clean fulfillment. Everyone in Clannad has individual pain, burdens that they can’t hope to, or believe they can share. People aren’t defined by their failings or their shortcomings, but, in how they handle them, in how they help others, and get help for themselves. Personal failings are not personal shame.
36 Questions, the game, is predicated on a psychology study that postured a set of 36 questions could make anybody fall in love. Participants take turns asking the questions, then both answer each question. At the end, they stare into each others eyes for four minutes. Supposedly, they will have fallen in love. In the game I interface with a pre-written and fictional representation of Squinky as we exchange answers. Behind the questions there’s a mini-narrative of apocalypse and assault on disprivileged videogame developers.
The first question starts almost immediately: “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?” Squinky starts strong with a several paragraph answer about previous experiences in videogame development conferences. A mouse click later and it’s my turn. I fidget as the page opens to a blank box in front of me. It’s so much easier to select from multiple choice, or fill in a few blanks. And what kind of question is that, it feels really obscure to answer out of nowhere. I think for a moment, and type: “cool rappers” imagining how fun that dinner table might be. Not a great engagement, but a sincere one nonetheless.
Influence can be stringent and it can be traced. When I play a game I form imaginary lineages, a drafted patchwork of which and what canonical works, and even otherwise obscure designs, inspired the videogame in my hands. I know, I deeply know, that these roadmaps I make are more than likely not true. They are a way to contextualize, to reference, and to understand constructs at a rapid pace. I immediately understand a videogame as a predicated machine in conversation, a new chapter in a sprawling infinite, but I don’t believe important works of culture are as ubiquitously canonized as they are rather a product of effect. A canon, a monolith, is formed to promote certain values, many of which are maybe intuitively, or tacitly understood. Canons can be pushed and molded to reflect unfortunate power dynamics; still emotion is at capital, the immediacy of interpersonality cannot be overstated.
I believe that culture, that is especially human drama, is imitatiable. There is a common, rather ignorant argument, that gets casually passed around on these days. An expression: there are no new stories to tell, there are no new combinations of notes to play. An argument mired in pop detritus, a realization that only specific kinds of experiences are supported. Yet it is often set behind a complacency with the everlasting reinterpretations, an admission people are content with the same stories. Such declarations fall apart by virtue of experiments in art, but I find a little truth in the common perception. The demographics and targets of fascination run their course over a certain amount of time, and still, people are motivated by these broad, immediate interpretations and emotions. The binding factor is always that we are human.
I think concession is a beautiful word when applied to art and communication. To concede, to back down: normally I wouldn’t think of that sort of thing when considering my preference for ideal expression. I’d want something that takes no compromises, that delivers fully as intended. That’s what I think I want, and of course, what I’ll say I want. Ultimately, that’s a simplified thought, because every work makes concessions. This very work has already given up things in who can read it and why. Rather than mire in games culture, I can say that, if someone did not have a well-enough grasp on the English language to engage with my work, then I’ve already conceded this experience to English literate people. Obviously, a lot of the assumptions I could continue to make are seeped in, and are results of, neighboring culture. They may not really be conscious choices, but can be boiled down to a necessity. Since we believe in this necessity, or even concede as much, my writing is not equipped to teach and give the tools necessary to understand it on a surface, universal level.
T H E V O I D
M E C H A N I C S
A character states “Color is life. It is our food, our strength, our hope. It is the essence and meaning of our suffering. And now yours.” Indeed, the player’s entrance to The Void makes them an inhabitant of The Void. The game’s mechanics revolve around securing and using color. Color operates as the character’s stats, resources, and health. Everything that the player does involves color in some way; it’s paramount to survival.
The Void takes place in a world of the same name. It dimly exists as a medium between life and death, a kind of purgatory. Here people experience an undying, yet unliving existence. Aptly named, it is one drained of color. Everything in this realm feeds on color, bleeds color, and yet color dwindles into non-existence. The Void’s denizens are starving to death and many have already succumbed. The Void is often called The Sleeper. That is to say, The Void is a living being, in an eternal slumber. The Void itself, is dying. The player character’s entry marks a sudden, but miniscule growth of color.