External Links

There are no known download links for this game.

Have you played this game?

You can rate this game, record that you've played it, or put it on your wish list after you log in.

Playlists and Wishlists

RSS Feeds

New member reviews
Updates to external links
All updates to this page

In a dream I told my mother

by Milo van Mesdag


Web Site

(based on 5 ratings)
1 review

About the Story

An oil platform worker takes a journey to the bottom of the ocean, where he loses everything but his past.

Content warning in game.

A game for Seedcomp! 2023

Game Details


Entrant, All Games - SeedComp! - 2023


- View the most common tags (What's a tag?)

(Log in to add your own tags)
Tags you added are shown below with checkmarks. To remove one of your tags, simply un-check it.

Enter new tags here (use commas to separate tags):

Member Reviews

5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 1
Write a review

SeedComp 2023: In a dream I told my mother by Milo van Mesdag, March 25, 2023
by kaemi
Related reviews: Seedcomp 2023

A yearning for prelapsarian childhood: seethefrozen destruction twisting all roads to the impossibility of return: “Boulders litter the path, fractures of rock splintered and spat out of the gulf when the shock waves ripped backwards and rent this land apart … Now, finally, he crawls. He knows his fingers would be ripped and bloody, his knees scraped, but the suit holds him. He uses the rings, then the fine china, the kitchen utensils, the bed sheets embedded in the rock as handholds as he slides up and down. He trips; his visor is left scratched where he lands on it … And then all of a sudden he feels the heat, sees the light, hears the sounds. Cracking, snapping, orange, hot. The gulf is as wide here as it has always been, but up ahead something spans it … A burning house.” Landscape both a ruin and a reminder of the familiarities that lie beneath it taunts us with the pervasive symbol to which all the burned bridges cannot lead back. Through a dream sequence of inhospitably liminal vaults, the narrator seeks to navigate a return from the waylays of seedy squalor that have collapsed his sense of self to the pseudosecurity of being imposed a fixed compass through childhood: “Beyond the crater he sees the house, still burning, still straddling the gulf, long cooled. / Beyond are the other places. The car part mines. The collapsed church, where his father lies. The forest they walked through before. The house where he once thought his family was whole. The altar of Aphrodite, desecrated and left to dust.” In the gap between desecrated Aphrodite and a collapsed church, the narrator shivers: “Naked and alone, he pulls himself up into whatever awaits.”

Animating this gap are sequences that are not so much metaphor as ballet. Each grotesque left turn induces a likewise sway, until the dreamspell slips us under its sway: “It is the sea, the world, that moves, not the entranceway. He touches it, moves his hand along the wall, smooth in a world of natural curves and jabs.” This dreamspell allows the game to approach material from just the right askew to slide under its surface, rendering literal the conflicted, indefinable emotions encased in memories we wish not to communicate. In some of these sequences, the narrator is just conscious enough to think along its contours, coursing a train of thought that can power through the terrain: “There are things his mind cannot easily hold, unconscious instincts that need to be overridden so that they can, consciously, become quite different unconscious instincts. / For example: every night of his life he has looked up and seen black. The black has never hurt him. He would lie in the top bunk, the blind of the VELUX up, and know that, if all he did was look up, everything that he needed was below him. East, south, north and west the earth curved away and nothing came from above. / Things, fears, hopes: at any time he could climb onto his bunk and be above all of them, like a dragon on top of its horde. / Above him is black. His instincts tell him he is safe, but he must forget them. He must force himself to remember that he is not.” The unknowable distance that, as a child confined at home, we romanticize, becomes dangerously alive with the irreversible as we step tenuously into its hold. Imaginary figments of fears and hopes immersioncrush: “A thousand engines, a hundred million gears, all seven of the seas rushing through uncountable pipes. The sound is ahead of him, beside him, behind him, above him, below him.” Everywhere you turn is turning around you, including you in its processes.

Processes which feed on youth seeking adulthood from neon flashes in the dark present us with sexual precarity: “The music would be deafening if it wasn’t muffled by his helmet. Lights strobe and flash, all red. The dance floor is made of plastic panels over block LED lights, each a different shade of white: baby blue, baby pink, artificial lavender. Some of the panels are cracked, some chipped, but all still comfortably bear his weight and the weight of the speakers. / They litter the floor, some loose, most grouped. They throb up and down and back and forth on their own, some off-beat but most not. They’re little black boxes, just small enough to be held in a single hand. Most shout or whoop: he hears the word’s ‘DJ’ and ‘Love’ and ‘Fuck’ many times. Some sit and tremble silently. At least one, somewhere in the mass, cries, at least one screams.” Compulsion of the rhythmic pulse of music, of the illogic of crowds, simultaneously tempts, taunts, and terrifies. Increasingly, it simply tyrannizes, lubricates the gears to override your frictions: “The floor grips his boots with layers of spilled fluid. / The bar is lit with clear white lights, the bottles behind it framed: the headline act. He walks to the bar to read the sign, a little pyramid of paper sitting at a coy angle next to the flask, the only other item on the bar. / “The first one is free.””

Into the resulting mire howls the game’s primary revulsive energy, a nightmare staging “Hundreds, shrouded in the filth of their own bodies. They lie and crouch and sit and huddle, thin beings with only each other to feed on.” In its orgiastic glut of disgust, the more elegant if vague ballet gives way to filth as a reliable substitute for emotive pull. Take this image, which on its own has a certain vogue of pose that stylizes the uninflected selfevidence of its symbology: “A line of bodies snakes along the pipe and he must walk perilously close to the edge to make it past them. Each holds a syringe, stabbing it into a black, bruised hole in their neighbour, squeezing, pulling out and refilling it from their own blood.” Stopping here, the image is effective, but the game doesn’t choose to stop there, instead incessantly emphasizing the uninflected selfevidence until it fizzles to schlock grime: “Yet the man ahead of her does not react when she jabs the inch wide tip of the needle into his blood-caked buttocks. When she pushes, the liquid holds inside his body for just a moment, and then drips, pours, gushes out of his mouth, his urethra, his anus. It runs off quickly, flowing across the curvature of the pipe to drip off into the open mouths of others waiting hundreds of feet below.” Hmm, yes, quite. The game asks if you want to drink some of it, of course.

This tendency to maximize gutwrench flattens some of the emotional import into cartoonish flourish. Indeed, the game seems to actively choose this, twice hinting towards the sexual assault scene that’s been cringeloaded by the mire, then retreating, deciding that it doesn’t quite want to go that dark, choosing to lounge instead in the aesthetics of horrorgrime, which is fine, possibly for the best, but it leaves the game’s revulsive intensity somewhat aimless, as when a scene of an intentionally puerile male dominance fantasy becomes only more puerile by its blithe commitment to the bit, a tastelessness that doesn’t become more tasteful just because we know the writer is in on the joke: “McAlistair is like most of them: they don’t realise that the point isn’t fucking her, the point is letting them all know that he’s fucking her. / He stands behind her as he delivers the speech. He doesn’t think about his words, and he knows that none of the men watching are thinking about them either. They are all thinking about his dick, his dick, sliding in and out of her pussy. Some of the women there were probably thinking about that too. Some of them, self-righteous harpies, are probably thinking about his poor wife.” If anything could be made from the gestures that pile on and pile on, executive parking lots and bank accounts and Anne Summers, we’re left to guess, careening instead into the next liminal living room.

Instead, in the moments that gust ambitiously to the atmosphere, the game creeps on effectively, sudden rollbacks of the eyes into the dreamtwist: “The dirty man crawls closer and begins to use the man in the suit as a ladder to haul his way up into the vacated section of pipe.” This atmosphere-building finesse is most potent in the opening oilrig sequence, as in this startingly punchvivid image: “The lift shakes in the wind, and will shake when it hits the waves, but he knows that it will not be long before it calms. / The Chief Engineer slaps him on the arm. He barely feels it. He shouts but it cannot be heard. Then they begin to slip away, the rig moving up and away, the sea moving up, up, and around.” The moment of disconnection when nothing can translate, alone.

When primed just right, slyly implicatively elusive, the game can sneak its whole fever in a fraught phrase: “The water keeps him steady. The world pushing back at him. Allowing him time to rethink all of his actions.” While each introspective step thence negotiates the uncanny depths, still the narrator “knows it through its feel: the way the ground trembles with familiar, human frequencies.”

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

This is version 3 of this page, edited by EJ on 1 February 2024 at 7:38pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page