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Have a fish, November 25, 2015
Fishstomachs. For this concept alone, Summit would have my praise.
The story here is universal. You play as a character dissatisfied with many things. You can see in the distance, both metaphorically and physically, a summit. Climbing this summit might erase your problems. Therefore you set out to climb it.
The game is episodic. You're waylaid beside the road, in cities, in towns, you meet people, you part from them, years pass, and still you are trying to reach the summit. The world is unusual and alien, yet familiar. One sequence involves attending a pseudo-religious function where the participants convulse on the floor after ingesting nano-machines. This echoes our world directly. Just remove the nano-machines.
Fishstomachs are extra stomachs that everyone in this game has, and that are filled with living fish. The fishstomachs eject the fish, the characters eat the fish, and then the fish eat through the characters' normal stomachs to nibble at their internal organs before the fish die and decompose. Eating a fish and having your organs nibbled is an ecstatic experience like taking a potent drug. Everyone is dependent on eating fish, but not like drug addicts are dependent on drugs. You need to eat the fish to stay alive. There's no rehabilitation possible. If you don't tend your fish, your fishstomach will erupt and kill you. If you do keep eating fish, eventually that will kill you too, once they nibble your organs enough and their fishrot infuses your body.
This is a thoroughly nightmarish concept to me. I'm averse to most seafood anyway, but having fish swimming in your body, nibbling your organs, rotting away into toxic slime? Phantom Williams has created a potent metaphor with this fishstomach business. It's not a metaphor for anything in particular. Like the game's summit, it's universal. It resonates on many different levels.
And you totally understand why the protagonist would want to reach the summit and have all their problems wiped away, including their fishstomach.
One curious feature of this game is that "you" is not really "you." Sometimes "I" takes over when "you" gets too tired, and the game addresses this, proclaiming that the "you" in most text games is actually narcissism masked as empathy.
It's interesting, but I don't entirely agree. Although there's some truth here, the "you" in a text game is no more narcissistic than the "she" or "he" in a novel. No matter the narrative viewpoint, the player/reader is always consuming the material, absorbing it to change or reinforce their own perspectives about the world. Whatever pronouns are being used, everything is another fish going down the gullet.
Comparisons to Porpentine will be made, with reason. Summit seems to have studied Porpentine's work for inspiration. But this game stands on its own.
It has a soundtrack that you shouldn't miss.