Today’s Meditation will strike a chord for anyone who has ever felt left out at a social gathering, which is probably a lot of people who know about Meditations.
The game didn’t work (for me) on Google Chrome, but once I loaded it up in Safari it was fine. It begins with a character creator, but when you finish and load into the game proper you aren’t playing as that character. You are someone else, able to walk between groups and individuals.
Each person speaks when you approach them, a little speech bubble with a coloured shape in it. Some of the people who stand alone are grey and speak grey shapes. These, we presume, are the ones described in the intro: “The new kid in school, sitting on their own. The misunderstood one. The nerdy guy. The awkward coworker. And so on.”
You can transform these grey people into colourful people like the others by integrating them into groups, which you do by picking them up and throwing them. They will only transform if someone else in the group is speaking either the same shape or colour as they are. It’s such a simple but effective idea, and a sweet thought that everyone has their place somewhere. The final grey person transforms into the character you created. This nerdy outcast could be you.
I’ve been the outcast before. I was the outcast throughout almost my entire adolescence. And yet something in me resisted the idea that the way to fix loneliness is for the lonely people to stand still and wait for someone to figure out what group they’d best fit into and then throw them into it. I think part of me resented the busywork of having to remember what colours and shapes were in each group, because if you are carrying one of the grey people then the speech bubbles stop. But I probably also chafed at the example of “nerdy guy” in the intro. I obviously like a lot of guys who are nerdy, but the phrase “nerdy guy” makes me think of a specific kind of guy. The creator – Jonathan ‘Ellian’ Rousseau – tweeted that this game is based on their GDC, and while I have also been a loner overwhelmed at a games event hoping to be welcomed by somebody, I have also – at a games event – had to deal with the kind of “nerdy guy” who is mean or inappropriate or just plain leery. Probably a lot of those kinds of lonely nerdy guys would benefit from being welcomed into a group and gently nudged away from inappropriate behaviour, but I don’t think it’s fair to expect other people to do all the work for them.