This week, while I was driving home from getting food, I passed a serious car accident. One car was completely mangled in the front, and the other was flipped upside down, with people still inside. When I arrived no cops or ambulances were on the scene yet, but a large group of people were around, helping the victims and waiting for the authorities. One person sat on the curb, their head resting in their hands. I suspect this person was in one of the cars. They were completely frozen, shock heavy in their eyes; I could only imagine what they were thinking.
, a game made for the 2018 Global Game Jam, starts similarly with a car accident. After the accident leaves the driver stranded, players must walk around an empty state park to reach a cabin at the top to call for help. The driver’s phone breaks from impact, but she can still receive texts from friends and family.
The game is very short. It took me around ten minutes to complete, but that brevity is powerful.. No Response is about walking through the quiet moments after a tragedy, the reflective looks at someone’s past and the life they had before a traumatic experience. There’s so much emphasis about the calm before the storm, but No Response is more interested in the aftermath—the messages, the waiting, the silence.
The game uses the park as a path down the driver’s memories, reminding her of her time on the lake with family, the events she’s missed, and even the first time she met her husband. It plays on the idea of life instantly flashing before you during a dangerous experience but slows that flash down to a slow walk. The slow walk through the park’s trail was the perfect pace for reflection, letting me linger over the power of the past. I wanted to stop and touch the trees and listen to the birds, taking the story in at my own pace while exulting in the park’s digital recreation of nature.
While the game ends once I reached the cabin, its story lingered in my mind for a while. Games can be so loud and boisterous; No Response is a moment for quiet reflection that I greatly appreciated.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my mortality. Not the fact that I age and will eventually die, but the fact that my death may come not because of natural causes, but by malice, or maybe by accident. When I saw the car wreck on my way home, I thought about my own chances to be in a similar situation. The car accident I saw thankfully was not fatal, but it’s hard not to dwell on what it could have been, and whose lives it could have affected if it were lethal. But No Response reminds me that living with all those “what if’s” isn’t helpful. Loss is inevitable; the best we can do is reflect on our pasts and continue to live through our days with peace.
Shonté Daniels is a poet who occasionally writes about games. Her games writing has appeared in Kill Screen, Motherboard, Waypoint and elsewhere. Her poetry can be seen at Puerto del Sol, Baltimore Review, Phoebe, and others literary journals. Check out Shonte-Daniels.com for a full archive, or follow her for sporadic tweeting.