The idea for this struck me some weeks ago now. It had been bubbling away, slowly taking form, as ideas are sometimes wont to do. But now that I’m here — I’m struck by a new problem I hadn’t properly considered. How does one explain the power and craft behind To the Moon’s storytelling without it coming across as overblown hype?
I’m not sure I have an adequate answer to that yet — so I’ll start with the much easier portion first.
What is a ‘Play-Along’ and how does it work?
It’s another idea I’ve borrowed. Been doing that a bit lately. This time, from the book blogger world, with the original idea being a Group Read. I even (co)hosted one waaaaay back in the distant past for Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Warbreaker’.
The original idea being that the book in question is split into manageable chunks to read for a week. To read and discuss — sort of virtualisation of the even older still book club discussion, I would imagine. The host (or hosts) would set a series of questions each week that all participants would put their answers to in a post of their own.
Looking back at how the group read / read-along runs of the time were done — they were pretty regimented! With set dates to read, the questions sent in advance via email to the registered participants and a set day for the posts to go live. I’m up for doing all of that if people are keen — there were certainly some benefits!
But I think the only real key elements that I feel strongly about are:
- Determining the ‘stop’ points in the game in advance, so that we can have a common point of discussion in the game — whatever form that discussion takes.
- Having a common set of questions — not to say we couldn’t go off script, but answering a common set of questions and then being able to discuss the differences in predictions, opinions and thoughts was always an incredibly insightful and fun part of the setup.
On the rest?
I’ll take your guidance.
I certainly don’t want this to be a high pressure event. Although I should note that even with the past read-alongs, it was fairly common practice for people to sign-up late or post behind the curve as their circumstances warranted. The benefit I suppose in having a largely aligned time-table was the community discussion aspect from one week to the next. A shared understanding of where everyone else is at, and the differences in interpretation of where that place is and what’s coming next being an incredibly fun part.
A fact that was true whether it was your first time experiencing the book (now game) in question or whether you were experiencing it all over again.
So what I’m thinking at the moment to meet in the middle is to have the game breakpoints (i.e., where you would stop playing, to then write your post before continuing) all announced in advance in a post.
Each of those break points could link to their own page with the questions outlined, so that you could see them (without spoiling the whole set) at your leisure.
On top of that, there would be a suggested schedule — but everyone would be free to lag behind (or even race ahead) at their leisure. As long as each post clearly marks out which ‘part’ you’re writing about, it should be easy enough to avoid unintentional spoilers.
To the Moon is a pretty short game — about 4-hours from start to completion. I’m thinking at this stage therefore, of four roughly hour long blocks, with one block and one post per week. But perhaps this is a little too drawn out? Perhaps two blocks of 2-hours over two weeks would be better?
Like I said — I’m open to being guided by your preferences on this.
Why ‘To the Moon’?
I’m still not sure I’m up to the task on convincing you of the fact that To the Moon is something you need to play (whether or not it is part of this play-along).
After all, it is a 9-year old RPGMaker game that on modern resolutions plays in teeny-tiny li’l window. You can full-screen it with alt-enter — but if you have a widescreen that will cause it to stretch. Technologically speaking… It hasn’t aged well. And heck, even if we were right back at the time of its release in 2011 — the gameplay elements are, at most, light puzzles.
But for all that… The story it tells and the way it tells it; layering detail and understanding as you traverse the memories of an old-man in reverse, stepping backward through his life with the ultimate goal of granting his dying wish… At least in the form of overwriting the memories of his life with the ‘corrected’ versions. It could have come right from Inception — and possibly did given it came out the year prior.1
It’s certainly complicated with a lot of morally grey area.
A lot of room for interesting discussion and opinions.
Kim noted it as one of the few games that defines her. It was in fact this post that solidified for me that if I were to progress with the idea of a play along, that it should be To the Moon which goes first up. Because all this time later — it is one of the very few game stories — no, stories full stop — that have stuck with me through the years.
I could think of no better story to share and talk about with you all.
If you’d like to participate…
Please just leave a comment and let me know below — nothing more to it than that.
If you have any thoughts or preferences on how we run this (number of splits or the schedule in general, for example) or even better yet — if you’d like to co-host come up with some of the question sets, let me know that too!
Depending on whether we go with two or four chunks of the game, and how many people might be interested in that — there might not be enough for everyone… But… Don’t let that stop you.
Because… To the Moon has a sequel. Finding Paradise. And later this year? The third major part — Imposter Factory — will come out.
We could even look at the Sigmund Corp minisodes (free with To the Moon) which I’ve actually not touched yet so their content would be all new to me. They’re only about 20 minutes each and while I believe the first one is a fairly light-hearted holiday story, the second is a bit more substantial with an insight into the company offering this second-chance at life service.
So perhaps we put the two minisodes into another chunk as a bit of a bonus. :)
I’m thinking we’d kick this all off in the next week or two (but also open to input here). I’m going to need til at least this weekend to identify potential break points in the game though. While there are a number of Acts, Act 1 is by far the longest if I remember correctly. So I’m doing a bit of a play through to see what would make sense for us.