Violence, shooting and fast-moving characters are a must to keep players interested in most video games today. A plot isn’t necessary. Nor is character development — or really any point at all. Just aim and shoot, right? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those types of games as much as the next guy. Sometimes it’s nice just to turn off the brain. But occasionally a game comes along that challenges us to think, not just about what the top score is, but about life, death, happiness and sorrow.
Presentable Liberty is a first-person game that takes place in an area not much bigger than a medium-sized closet, only lasts an hour or two, and is somewhat characterless (because you never actually see a character, including your own). Presentable Liberty made me stop and consider the people who have affected me as well as people I have affected.
But for someone engaged in a long-distance relationship, be it romantic or friendship, I can understand how this game could take a mental toll. Imagine being in jail or somewhere where you can receive letters from someone but you are unable to respond. You are constantly receiving letters from an old friend, a girl from across the street, a man whose life depends on your happiness and the warden of the jail that you are in. That’s the premise of Presentable Liberty, and letter by letter, the game unfolds.
These letters give you a back story as to what has happened and keep you informed as to what is going on outside the jail with the people who are mailing you. That group includes Dr. Money, the organ-harvesting antagonist of the game; Salvador, apparently an old friend of yours; Mr. Smiley, a quota-driven “friend” who tries to cheer you up; and Charlotte, a love interest in the game who the player will likely respond the most to.
Throughout the game your character receives presents that these individuals give you, such as a pet bug — which I duly dubbed Simon — or a poster that reads “Money Survives All Hardships.” You hear of your friends’ thoughts, hopes and dreams, but when they ask you how your life is, you are unable to respond. You may find yourself yelling at the screen as you read your friends doubting your existence. “You might be dead,” one writes. How are they to know? The disease has killed countless people, you hear, so what makes you an exception? You wait in anticipation for your release, hoping that you won’t be too late for your friends.
It’s tough to capture the emotion that this game invokes, leaving the player calling some distant friend to tell them that they love them. It leaves the player reeling, astounded by the effect that our everyday life can have on friends or simply total strangers. And maybe that isn’t such a bad thing for us to realize.
Tommy Miller is a junior at Capital High School. Contact him at email@example.com.