Hindsight is a game about memory. Our memories ambush us. Going back to one’s childhood home is willingly subjecting oneself to a deluge of memories. They can be unlocked by something as simple as a cracked porch step or living room carpet. For me, it’s personal. I recently moved back to my hometown, and I pass my childhood just driving to the mall.
Hindsight is a new indie project by creative director Joel McDonald and narrative writer and designer Emma Kidwell. It explores the emotions we feel when rediscovering somewhere from our past. Because of my move, I’ve spent a lot of time reliving memories recently, and Hindsight really spoke to me.
In a hands-off demo presented by Joel and Emma, I was able to see the groundwork for Hindsight. In it, the protagonist, Mary, goes back to her childhood home after her mother dies. The game represents that sudden feeling of unlocking an old memory by treating physical objects around her as apertures, or literal windows into the past.
This creates a back and forth between the timeline of Mary’s life. The player can look into her past, seeing memories that are meaningful to her. Wind chimes may unlock a memory of playing in the yard. From there, Mary might recall learning to ride a bicycle. Each event can take place at a different age in Mary’s past, making it a constant back-and-forth. Finding and exploring these apertures is the basis of moving forward in this game.
Joel and Emma informed Hindsight with their own lives, calling it “fictionalized with a kernel of truth.” From what I’ve seen from the hands-off demo, this fictionalization serves to make Mary’s experiences feel nearly universal.
We’ve all experienced that moment where something resonates from our past. We know what it’s like to be pulled into a memory as we try to recapture “ineffable feelings from childhood,” as Joel and Emma put it.
The “walking simulator” genre is only getting more popular. While some use the term pejoratively, I think Hindsight has a unique take on the genre by using non-linear storytelling to shake up the timeline. Mary, the protagonist, moves back-and-forth through memories and her current day. It feels closer to replicating how the human brain uses thoughts and memories. It also serves to activate the instinct for exploration in the search for the next memento.
Hindsight is 20/20
My initial worry is that the project might not be very interactive. However, Joel and Emma explained that the game also has small puzzles inside the apertures to keep players engaged. I wonder if that will be enough to make the game feel more lived-in by players themselves. My worry for Hindsight is that, without enough compelling interactivity, it may make players feel too much on the outside looking in. While Joel and Emma stated this to be their intention, there can be too much of a good thing.
After seeing the demo, I had enough of an itch for Hindsight that I played the fifteen-minute Packing Up The Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day of Your Apartment, recommended by Joel as an inspiration, as well as Joel’s previous work, the iOS Editors’ Choice game Prune.
The final game will be released on Steam, Switch, and iOS, and it should be about three to four hours long.
Hindsight looks to be a thoughtful exploration of memory, childhood, and family relationships, and I look forward to playing it in full.
Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.
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