Maps Of The Known World

PC, Mac, Web, free

When I read the description in my email for Maps Of The Known World, I gasped out loud.

“Using footage from my grandmother’s home videos, Maps is a game about memory in which players have to type in order to keep the image from blurring.”

Oh my goodness, yes.

It’s all of three minutes long, but goodness me, it’s such a brilliant idea, and delivered without fuss. You type the slightly poetic, slightly dream-like sentences that appear at the bottom of the screen, while clips of what might be Super-8 film play above.

This has multiple effects. Firstly, you start trying to associate the words you’re reading – loosely about memory and forgetting – with the film you’re seeing, which are so disconnected as to drive your imagination. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, when you’re focused on typing the words in correctly you struggle to properly pay attention to the video, but when you stop typing to watch, it all falls out of focus until it’s an indecipherable blur. And then the words start to make sense.

It’s such an interesting exploration of memory, of how we strive to remember, to focus, but how so much slips away. It’s also just lovely to manage to see moments from these films, so out of context, so completely distant from ourselves, and imagine the stories behind them.

I wish there were more to it. Or perhaps I wish it just stopped after its two or three minute run, rather than infinitely looped. I think it would be more poignant if it just stopped when the poem was over, closed to desktop, and the decision was with you if you wanted to play it through again. The loop creates that uncertainty that there might be more to come (there isn’t), and somewhat breaks the mystique of its ethereal nature.

It’s certainly an idea that could do more, but I’m delighted it’s been done at all. You can play it right in your browser, or if you prefer download it for PC or Mac. It’s free, but you can always choose to pay for it to show your appreciation.

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