9.03m: A Game About the 2011 Touhoku Tsunami

This evening, I sat down at my computer in a rather somber mood (for reasons I can’t explain) and decided it was a good time of day and the right mood to try a little game called 9.03m.  9.03m is an experimental, indie narrative game which aims to connect the player to the feelings of loss and sadness caused by the 2011 Touhoku Tsunami.  The tsunami caused a devastating blow of 15,884 deaths, 6,147 injured, and 2,636 just plain missing.  I’m not sure what aspect of the tsunami inspired the title 9.03m (perhaps it’s the distance you walk in the game?) but needless to say, I was prepared for an emotional experience going into it.

The opening shot.  A beautiful moonlit beach with particle effect light leading the way.

The opening shot. A beautiful moonlit beach with particle effect light leading the way.

I must admit I was a bit surprised at the minimal scope and quality of the game, but by no means would I say I was disappointed.  Heck, I buy new songs I like on Beatport for 2 dollars, but buying a game like this that you can experience over and over or share with others is already worth the two bucks no matter how you slice it.  I’m just saying the game had a very indie look and feel to it in terms of level layout, modeling, texture, and design.  The interaction method for the clues you pick up was very much like the method used in Gone Home in which you can rotate items to discover information from them.  In 9.03m, each clue you found was connected to the life of a missing person as their silhouette fades away into the moonlit sky.

You walk from shadow to shadow, picking up memories left behind.

You walk from shadow to shadow, picking up memories left behind.

The game structure is quite linear as you move from shadowy figure to shadowy figure and examine the object they left behind as a clue to what once was.  Each item is stamped with a butterfly symbol that you must find to cue the ‘memory’ and then the beautiful, flowing piano soundtrack kicks back in to encourage periods of reflection between each beat.

Although it didn’t quite hit the emotional notes I think it was shooting for, this heart wrenching homage to the victims of the 2011 Tsunami in Japan is a worthwhile experience for your two dollars. The game’s setting, using the peaceful moonlit ocean and quiet beaches, urges you to reflect on nature and how at times it can be indescribably peaceful or mercilessly cruel.

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