The beautiful, arty landscapes of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter aren’t going anywhere in Rebecca’s Games You May Never Have Heard Of. This time is 9.03m, a brief, interactive dedication to those who lost their lives in Japan’s tsunami disaster in 2011.
9.03m is an interactive experience created by Space Budgie which is “dedicated to the unique men, women and children who lost their lives, or are still missing as a result of the tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11th, 2011.” I really wanted this to have the empathetic impact the developers desired. Unfortunately, it falls far too short of its potential.
The art style is quite sweet. Its minimalistic style gives the ‘game’ (for convenience’s-sake) a very attractive quality, using a simplistic colour palette of blues, blacks and whites. However, without research, I wouldn’t have understood the significance of the place nor the objects on the beach. I felt very disconnected from the game; it didn’t indicate where I was nor why I was following a butterfly.
In reality, without having the ‘dedicated to’ section in the credits, you would never know that the game is about those who lost their lives during the 2011 tsunami in Japan. This is a reason why the game falls short of the mark. Without knowing what the game is about, how are we supposed to empathise?
The simple, gentle piano music that plays whenever butterflies are found may add to the game’s character, but I thought it needed something all the way through. Between cutscenes you find yourself walking slowly towards your designated target, with only the sound of the waves.
Now, some of you may enjoy that kind of thing: peaceful and soothing. I personally thought that without music, the game felt bland and it didn’t take long before I was bored of walking and wanted to reach my next destination. The glowing butterflies lead you across a shadowy beach in first person, to silhouetted figures representing those whose lives were cut short by the tsunami. Once you reach these figures they are replaced by objects similar to those that washed onto Baker Beach, California.
If the objects were supposed to make me feel emotional it didn’t work, but it did feel like the game was trying to force me to feel sad. If you’re going to try and make a meaningful and emotional connection don’t do it in a way that forces emotion out of people. It just seems like it’s saying “Oh look, a baby’s rattle. Bet you’re feeling sad now.”
However, despite all the complaints I’ve made about this game, there is one thing that makes the game worth the complaints: the motivation. For every game they sell, half of the money earned goes straight to those still suffering from the 2011 disaster. Although I was disappointed with their execution of the game, their intentions make up for it (a bit).
Overall, the game fails to meet its objective and didn’t tug at my heartstrings in the slightest. The simplicity of the game’s art style is very appealing and although the game barely lasts ten minutes, length wasn’t an issue. The music was very limited, and the fact that without research you wouldn’t understand the setting’s significance, retracts from the game.
Now I’m going to go against what I would usually do and say that just this once I’m going to be generous and give a extra point for the intentions of the company. It is nearly Christmas after all.
Games and Tech Columnist
Does 9.03m tug at your heartstrings? If not, what games do? Let us know in the comments below, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on everything else games and tech, check us out on Facebook and Twitter.