Lost, wicked and wrong in Hyper Light Drifter

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You’re in a strange city for the first time; its raining, and for some reason your phone doesn’t work. You find yourself in a used book store, browsing the shelves. But somehow it seems like you’ve forgotten everything you know about authors or literature. Everything is new to you, and there is no obvious place to start. So you pick the book that looks like it holds the most promise.

Later, when you have time to read it, you realize that it is the ninth book in a ten-part series that you have never heard of. But it’s late, and there’s nothing else to do, so you keep reading, finding that the book is well written and engaging, even as plot points sail above your head. But every mystery seems all the more intriguing as a result, especially knowing that somewhere out there are books 1-8.

Hyper Light Drifter is that entire experience. It’s visualizing a total picture of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe from a few fleeting TV spots glimpsed here and there. It’s watching Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home first because that’s all they had at the public library, and Star Trek means something to you even though you haven’t seen a single episode.

These things don’t happen anymore. It’s the ‘wrong’ way to go about things, because yes, you will miss things. Plot points will be spoiled, characters and events misunderstood. These days its absurdly easy to experience some form of culture or art in the ‘intended’ way, and no other. But that forgets an enourmous range of possible experiences.

So I applaud Hyper Light Drifter for forcing players to have unique, opaque experiences that are thus extremely personal. You lose some of the universal water-cooler quality of some games, but I think it’s ok that some of our gameplay moments can’t be shared.

p.s. the book was the excellent “Knight of Shadows”, by Roger Zelazny, if you’re curious

Written on April 24, 2016