Description of Bientôt l’été, attempt #1

Michaël Samyn, August 13, 2012

You are on a space station far away from earth. You are all alone. To while away the time and forget about your loneliness, you entertain yourself on the station’s holodeck. Your favorite program is a simulation of a French North-Atlantic beach.

You sometimes play a woman, sometimes a man. With this avatar you stroll along the seaside. Waves roll in and bring thoughts of desire, togetherness, complications in relationships, love. You remember these thoughts when you enter the only building on the dike.

In the café your avatar meets the avatar of another player, another lonely soul in the vastness of space fleeing their desperate realities in the arms of a digital Morpheus. The phrases from the beach come back to you. You speak them. So does your partner. A sort of conversation unfolds, a sort of contact, a connection. You drink, you smoke, you listen together to old Earth music.

And then it is time to go. You have nothing more to say. The virtual contact begins to frustrate. You want more but you cannot have it. So you run away to the calm of the ocean, the comfort of the wind and the hysteric shrieking of seagulls.

Should I add to this that Bientôt l’été is a videogame? I don’t think it is mentioned on the back of a novel, or a DVD. “This is a book about” or “To experience this film, you sit down and watch.” Of course, videogames have vastly different ways of experiencing them. But maybe that’s something that players can find out while playing.

Should I warn people that Bientôt l’été is not a conventional game? Should I allude somewhere to its artistic ambitions?

Do they need to be told explicitly and beforehand that it’s a two-player game? And how do I describe that it is only partially two-player? And not necessarily so, since there is a “simulation” mode?

What I like about this description is that it firmly states the space station and holodeck context as very concrete aspects of the game, even if during the actual playing, this may still feel a bit vague. But perhaps describing the game as such will direct players towards an interesting interpretation, an engaging experience.

Oddly, Marguerite Duras is not mentioned at all. Is this a problem? Given that I don’t expect many people in the potential audience for Bientôt l’été to be familiar with her work, does it matter at all? Maybe some people might find it interesting that part of the inspiration came from modern literature, even if they don’t know Marguerite Duras specifically.

The description neither mentions the minimalistic aesthetics of Bientôt l’été. Maybe people imagine a realistic looking beach when reading the text, or explicit depictions of sci-fi space craft. This may not be a problem if I manage to refine the aesthetics so much that it is a welcome surprise that they don’t look as expected.

There’s no mention of the music either, which is an important contributor to the atmosphere.
And there’s no mention of chess. It’s an obvious link to games, but frankly not so important to experience.

Maybe the missing aspects can go in a features list.

  • experimental videogame
  • work of art
  • two-player mode
  • quotes by contemporary French author Marguerite Duras
  • unique stylized aesthetics
  • atmospheric music by Walter Hus
  • chess-like interface to romantic conversation

Only a little bit silly.
I should probably try to not think of Bientôt l’été as so insanely different from other videogames. Maybe it’s smarter to pretend that it’s not so different at all. Maybe it isn’t.

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