Our Stage

Moirai presents a simple situation: a woman is missing from a small village. Despite being a 3D game, there are no mouse controls. The arrow (or WASD) keys rotate the camera and move the player forward or backward. The unfamiliar scheme combined with the low resolution makes the game feel oddly claustrophobic. After conversing with a few denizens and poking some sheep, I grab a lamp and go searching for the woman in a cave. A character suggests I take their knife for protection, who knows what could happen. My lamp and knife hanging over the camera draw out an uncomfortable dread of what might come. My character rotates too slow to comfortably traverse the winding paths of the cave. Around a corner I’m surprised by a farmer covered in blood and holding a knife and lamp.

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me: “Why are you bloody?”

farmer: “i kill a woman”

m: “Why do you have a knife?”

f: “for protection”

m: “What did you do?”

f: “nothing”

Suspicious to say the least. I’m allowed to kill them or let them pass. I uneasily choose the latter. Behind them in the cave I find the missing woman covered in blood. She explains that she came here to kill herself and asks for me to help finish her suicide attempt. I can comply or leave to get help, either way I am covered in her blood. On my way out, I am surprised again by a farmer with a knife and lamp. I am asked three simple questions: “Why are you bloody?,” “Why do you have a knife?,” “What did you do?” Being of simple mind, I type in as I was answered to previously: “i kill a woman,” “for protection,” “nothing.”

I am prompted for my first name and email address where the next player of the game will either execute me, or allow me to leave, as I did for my predecessor. Only now do I realize that the knife-wielding farmers represented other players. Presumably due to some bug, I am never sent an email informing me of my fate. Armed with my new knowledge, I play through the game again. The farmer I confront claims they “fucked my bitch.” My own answers become sarcastic. I answer: “im you from the future there’s no time to explain,” “cutting stuff,” “i don’t ever do anything.” This time I receive my email of fate. An excerpt:

After hearing your answers John Cena 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, xXx_pussyslayer_xXx.

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I guess I got what I deserved. A death cycle for meme-lovers. I can’t help but feel like I’ve taken part in an inevitable corruption. Moirai, once a small, humble game, exploited by the greater internet of memes. It’s like we took this art and reduced it to a joke. That can’t be entirely true though, Moirai being thrown to the whims of the internet is half of why it’s so interesting. If it wasn’t, a similar effect could have been simulated with a few pre-written lines and some random number generation. Players would still be just as surprised by the conceit of judging only to become that who they just judged. The fact that it can, and does, get reinterpreted by its players distinguishes it from a stereotypical literary twist.

Anything with multiple player input becomes collaborative, it becomes a performance. xXx_pussyslayer_xXx, myself, and John Cena all looking to impress someone with our humor. Really this can be found in any gathering online, a dissolving of intended purpose in favor of jokes and memes. Since you only communicate one way (until given an email update, still a one-sided conclusion), Moirai is much more of a stage than a conversation. That makes the game especially susceptible to jokes: players put on a show and then wait for their audience’s vague reception.

I’ve felt traces of this dynamic in other online spaces too. Look no farther than twitter to find people dancing for faceless masses. Jokes awkwardly crafted to please a certain sense of humor. Opinions presented like a seminar for others to find and read. A box to talk at people. When I used to play League of Legends I would often open a match with a joke or some small chat. Sometimes others would respond with a joke of their own, sometimes a conversation would spark and everyone would jump in, or sometimes nothing at all. It didn’t really matter to me, I was just presenting from my stage. After seeing their reaction, there honestly wasn’t much else to say. After all, we were just strangers playing a game together, inadvertently at that.

Of course, Moirai is not without sincerity. On many more playthroughs, I’m given answers from players honestly answering the questions, each spinning it with their own wit and personality, without memes or vulgarity. A new player encountering somebody acting like John Cena or whatever would be confused, but it’s not like it’s an inauthentic, “ruined,” experience. Moirai is a whirlwind of newcomers, replayers, and jokesters caught in the same gathering space. But it’s only so interesting because of the setup, the uniqueness of becoming your own victim, in the hands of a stranger.

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