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Gameverse | April 22, 2021

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Review of Indie Game 9.03M

Games, in many ways are still an immature medium that holds little relevance in the way that we think about current events or the news we hear day to day, despite its great potential. 9.03M, the short art/empath title from Space Budgie, has changed that.

Generally when we think of video games, we think of some fun pastime; maybe our current top favorite AAA game, some trending indie title, or perhaps even a quirky little mobile app that we use to while away the minutes on a long commute. What we generally don’t think about, however, are the deeper topics of life, death, family, or the most recent disaster covered on the news. Games, in many ways are still an immature medium that holds little relevance in the way that we think about current events or the news we hear day to day, despite its great potential. 9.03M, the short art/empath title from Space Budgie, has changed that for me. In its own subtle way it has moved beyond the boundary of simply being a game.

More than any title we have played that lays claims to being artistic, introspective, or in some other way enlightening, this short indie title actually made me reflect on something more serious than gaming. Created as a memorial for the Tsunami victims of 9.03M(agnitude) earthquake in 2011, 9.03M reminds us that all of those people that died in the disaster are more than just numbers in a news broadcast or stats on paper. They were people, individuals, children, parents, lovers, all of which had their own lives and passions that were cut tragically short by events utterly beyond their control. A favorite toy, a nice view, holding hands on the beach; these are the type of simple experiences that make lasting impacts on us, and these are the things that this title highlights. The developers have also promised to donate half of the proceeds from this title to the Aid For Japan charity for children orphaned by the disaster.

One of the most interesting things about the game is the way that it approached the topic. Instead of showing some scene from Japan, the game takes place on an empty stretch of beach in California. The player is being led from point to point around the beach, coming across items that have washed up that belonged to one or more of the victims of the tsunami. This fresh approach manages to capture some of the sadness of the event without being too over the top or in-your-face about it. It is as if you are simply finding pieces of these people’s lives, and wondering about the individuals that they belonged to. Who are they? Are they still alive? What’s their story? We think this, more than anything is what sets this title apart. It doesn’t tell the story, as most games do, but rather invites the player to be curious about what the story might be and starts them down the path of imagining the victims as individuals instead of faceless numbers.

Despite the artistic and emotional merits of the title, it’s extremely simplistic; it’s short, completely devoid of gameplay, and sports a 50 Shades of Blue art style that falls flat on its face. In fact, we are hesitant to even classify it as a game as opposed to a more generic term like interactive media or interactive art. Yet, for some reason these things that we normally value when analyzing games don’t seem to matter at all for this title. The experience is subtle, touching, and personal. The real gift it gives the player is in drawing out an emotionally somber experience that makes the player reflect on how precious the small things in life really are, and, for us at least, we think this is something the world definitely do with a little more of. We would highly recommend this game, and at a price tag of only $2, half of which goes to charity, it is worth every penny.