Welcome to our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans, nagging questions, and whatever else we feel like talking about. No matter what the topic, we invite everyone in the comments to tell us: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
I’m playing Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, and I’m almost in tears. Unlike intrepid A.V. Club senior editor John Teti, my tears aren’t from frustrated boredom (though I see where he’s coming from). They’re not from the game’s story, either. No, what’s got me is the music. I’m wandering the quotidian wilderness on the edges of this small British village, and while I do, a quiet, choral hymn plays, the sort of thing you’d hear if you leaned in close to the door of a small town church and held your breath. It’s reverent, sincere, and majestic, both contrasting and enhancing the eerie beauty of this empty place. As it turns out, Jessica Curry, the composer for all of The Chinese Room’s games, has found a straight line to my fragile little heart.
It’s not the first time her music has done this to me. I can’t vividly remember her Dear Esther soundtrack when not listening to it, but just the sound of the title track’s first few notes is enough to be transported. For that game, she combined pastoral wistfulness with creeping unease, weaving in hints of electronica and drone to create a dissonance that she then dissolves into triumph with ascendant strings and major chords.
She pulls similar tricks on a grander scale in Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. The music is a centerpiece, heightening and grappling with the narrative and environmental beats the game tries to guide players through. In his review for Kill Screen, Clayton Purdom posits that maybe all games, especially Rapture, are “ambient albums of a sort, and that maybe perhaps a digital landscape was always the proper means to experience ambient audio in the first place.” Curry’s soundtrack, combined with the lush and realistic soundscape of Yaughton, is a compelling test case for that theory. The Chinese Room knows what a gifted composer it has in Curry and often makes her music a rightful focus. At times, it nearly overwhelms the setting itself, restructuring and recontextualizing moments with the force of the score’s grandeur and melancholy.
I finished Rapture a few days ago, and I think I’m a fan. But when I try to remember it a year or two down the road, I expect I won’t see it in my head so much as hear it. How about you, dear readers? Has any game ever started playing a song so pretty that you almost cried? And what games, if any, do you remember largely by ear?