I just played a game called Early Frost Warning, an adaptation of a short story of the same name by Gary Butterfield. It’s a point and-click adventure done mostly in black and white about the emotional state of a man post-divorce, and how un-noticeably his life deteriorates around him. It’s moving. Sad, worrying, but moving.
You play first-person as the protagonist, as he crashes his car into a younger man on the road, and then, in a fit of panic and guilt, brings him home to look after him. This is where the game creates its emotional core. Having something or someone to care for, to give yourself to, even though you may be caring for the wrong thing or in the wrong way.
The parallels with divorce are obvious, but never shoved down your throat. The protagonist speaks about the time spent with his ex-wife not angrily, not sadly, just reflectively. If he has those feelings in him, he hides them, he avoids them. He avoids the world around them. He detaches from the world and everything he cared for in it, including himself, including his tomato plant, including his career. And each of these hits a different emotional beat. The job is depressing, the tomatoes are alien, and the mirror is terrifying.
I started this really unsure what to say about Early Frost Warning. It’s a deeply personal creation, and the experiences of the author come through with shocking clarity. I can see things falling apart around this man, I can see his home, his body, his life breaking and hurting, and I want to see him care for himself. It hits me in a hard place. I can put myself in this character, I can see myself in his mirror. I know what it is to be alone and directionless, to put all your energy into something you’re not even the best person to deal with, because it feels like something.
It’s amazing to see that kind of emotional state captured like this. It makes me unreasonably jealous, wishing I could express things so clearly, that I could make myself create something with real simplicity and resonance. It inspires me, in an angry way.
I recommend playing it, because it’s interesting and unique and cheap and worth it. It’s worth seeing people write their poetry and stories as games, and it’s worth being able to support that kind of endeavor, especially when that endeavor is as personal and heartfelt as Early Frost Warning.