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the writings of a mind

The Longest Journey - Long Play

"Mystery is important. To know everything, to know the whole truth, is dull. There is no magic in that. Magic is not knowing, magic is wondering about what and how and where."

The Longest Journey almost vanished away unnoticed, almost became another obscurity ranted about by a lonesome few. In the mire of millennial adventure gaming, it could so easily have been drowned by the density of its peers, ignored by pessimism, never given the chance it so strongly deserved. How it came to be that it was joyously liberated from this fate is mysterious. And in mystery, there is magic. In The Longest Journey, there is magic.

Sceptical, sarcastic and sassy art student, April Ryan, provides perfect eyes through which to witness this tale. At eighteen, she speaks in Whedon-esque Ameriteenisms, managing to balance chirpy one-liners with traumatic pathos, without ever becoming irritating. She has faults and failings, but she has these because she is real. You always forgive her - you realise that she's /important/. You trust her.

Future Shock

A good horror manages to scare effectively by blurring two worlds - the normal and the horrific. It lets one element leak into the other, shaking the stability of the known, and allowing fear to drip in. Where horror shows you fear in the every day, The Longest Journey shows you magic. In April Ryan's life, it is the fantastic that begins to disturb the normality of her existence, the world of dreams invading the world of rationale and science.

Set 200 years in the future, April's world is enough like our own to allow us to identify, but distant enough to create its status as a metaphor. The meta-narrative tells of how, long ago, the united Earth was divided into two: Science and Magic, Stark and Arcadia. It is Stark's Bladerunner-inspired future version of our world that allows the effects of this satiric severance to be demonstrated more prominently. Wars have increased global apartheid, Capitalism's punishments are more prevalent, and people get on with being people while it happens all around them. It is unavoidably our future.

In contrast, Arcadia refers back to so many fantasy lands, simplicity bolstered by magic, thus creating seismic instability and inevitable fracture. But Arcadia at least possesses hope. Stark's worldview is blind, eyes gouged out by its people's own hands. It allows the coming destruction of Chaos without even the consciousness to question. And so it is through April's dreams, through her powerful imagination, that she is drawn to 'shift' out of that world, and to learn her part in the shaping of the future.

Just My Imagination

I am strongly aware of how the ideology of this game is lodged deeply inside me. This is partly because I so strongly identify with the message I take from it, and partly because that message is so powerfully told: Imagination is how we can change the monotony of the world we've built.

It is always a point and click adventure. There are always daft clicking the rubber duck on the clamp and tying it to the string puzzles. And it works /with/ these elements, not despite them. Not every voice is perfectly cast, but most are. Yes, there is swearing, but there is swearing where real people swear. And oh wow, are the conversations long. But they are telling you a story like no other.

The opening quote, said to April by her mentor when she is pestering him for answers, speaks for the whole game. The Longest Journey is epic and magnificent, but completion makes you aware that this is only a tiny fraction of a created world. Indeed, these are only /weeks/ in the whole of April Ryan's lifetime. So much remains unknown. But to know the whole truth is dull. Magic is in not knowing, magic is wondering about what and how and when.