“The boundless space of the whole universe is literally a library containing all thoughts released by humankind.” Napoleon Hill
In my previous interview with the Tale of tales creator; Michaël Samyn, his opinion regarding the terminology we use in videogames still assimilates my mind; “…these words (game, fun and play) would not suffice to convey the ideas behind the creation of Bientôt l’été or the concepts and feelings explored in it. This is why I am half-considering asking journalists not to review Bientôt l’été. There doesn’t seem to be much point to talk about it in conventional game terms. Not that I think it is so immensely different. I think many videogames have suffered from the minute vocabulary that the games press generally employs.”
If this was a standard review; the obligatory comparison of graphics, sound and gameplay would be measured to other games. If that analysis was conducted however, you could not quantify this experience; especially as it nestles outside of the parameters typically used for evaluation.
The vision opens by a desultory journey through space, amidst planets of fire and gas. From the confines of an isolated orbital station you interact with a program; one that simulates a beach along Earths French Atlantic coast. You are an astronaut but on this beach you are personified as either Un Homme or Une Femme, awaken from cryogenic sleep.
Your avatar faces an ocean, its tide washes phrases from Marguerite Duras novels around your feet; “The air is burning.” “Your body will be taken far from me and I will die from that.” “Sometimes during the day, I end up imagining myself without you.” Depending on your sentiment they manifest as a collection of headaches or as a portfolio of infatuation. A building on a distant sand bank houses opportunity for their use, externally a metamorphosis of myriad colonial facades, internally; a dainty cafe replete with a chess board and a jukebox playing French Chansons. It is in this cafe where Bientôt l’été reveals its virtues; communication with all of its intricate dialects.
You indulge in virtual conversations with another avatar, which can be seen on the far edges of the beach where code meets planets. In the cafe they appear as online holograms or (offline) computer A.I. The phrases washed ashore serve as your vocabulary, supplemented by drinking wine or smoking, playing chess or simply listening to the jukebox.
“If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.” Paulo Coelho
You could be mistaken for thinking that Bientôt l’été is nothing more than an infinity loop. Walking from the beach to visit the cafe and then back to the beach, but what you feel in Bientôt l’été is more important than what you do. There is something within it that makes the pressing of buttons or even controlling a character seems arbitrary, because the fundamental interaction of Bientôt l’été is mind based.
Tale of tales have succeeded in drawing out your internal voice; that mental chatter within a person’s mind that generates thoughts and desires. Your attempts to transmute this ambition with your partner in the cafe is the real gameplay of the vision. The crux of this is a suggestive language that is found in Marguerite Duras novels; a language based on silence, the unspoken that nestles between a persons words. It encompasses body language and the symbolic movement of material objects. To understand it is to acknowledge that even when we are silent we are still speaking; through our eyes and facial expressions, even sipping a glass of wine can imply more than words convey. At first these emotions seemed fueled by imagination, but your emotional investment is actually based on personal experiences; reflections of past relationships and existence.
The sentences on the beach are neutral until you give them meaning, the open expanse of the beach works in unison with the ocean and infinite space to elevate them into your highest ideal, regardless if your intent is to fill them with positive or negative affirmations. The sprinkling of piano keys from Walter Hus accentuates sunrises and sunsets to compress emotions even further before you enter the cafe.
“To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I.'”
The cafe is aphoristic, your emotional intelligence dictates if the location is intimate or claustrophobic. If the beach let you dream about longing, your partner could leave you loathing them. On the other hand if your intent was to bring animosity, a conversation has the potential to leave you amorous; the complexities of love and hate reveal their inconsistencies both good and bad.
The other element that can change a conversation is random apparitions on the beach. Ranging from a flowering magnolia tree to a deserted tennis court, their appearance might seem obtuse but they are never fantastical. At the heart of these lay collectibles; predominantly chess pieces for use in the cafe. As a common gameplay element, collecting has had its importance removed here for the better; a hollow victory of a crown is awarded for full completion. When a gun is found however; it makes a bold statement to be placed down in front of your partner, much more so than any generic target we usually fire at. The apparitions themselves are about connection and your feelings towards them (even if they are perhaps Michaëls memories) , this makes their appearance more important than the act of collecting, which is genuinely refreshing.
Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn created an application called Wirefire when they first met, before Tale of Tales was brought into fruition. It was a program that embodies the emotionalism here. This is truly a eulogy to their relationship, imbued by Laura Raines Smith’s animation work, by which they were both motion captured for the avatars. As much as it is theirs however, I would say that in all honesty, if not selfishly that it is mine because I chose to fill it with my own emotions. Of course it can be anyones who chooses to do the same, whether that attachment is mentally, verbally or silently. Bientôt l’été is not a game, it is a resplendent emotion engine. Please support it here.