I can’t remember much about my history lessons at school, and one of the things I specifically can’t remember, if such a thing is possible, is whether we spent a lot of time talking about memory. You know, how memory works and how it doesn’t work – how it records but also warps, and how consensual group memories can settle into odd shapes and be manipulated as they settle.
Today’s Game of the Week is Neurocracy, and I suspect it’s a wonderful tool for examining the effect of memory on history – particularly when group memory is manipulated by bad actors. As I understand from our review, Neurocracy is a window into a dystopian future, but the window itself is a future version of a Wikipedia-style online encyclopedia. Players read entries, watching how they change in real time as events shape themselves into narratives, say, and as official versions of the truth emerge.
This is all fascinating stuff, and I think it speaks to a great harmony between games and the exploration of memory. One of the reasons for this, I suspect, is that things in games tend to happen unnaturally quickly. Think about Sonic the Hedgehog: you’re racing along, there’s a loop-de-loop looming, you’re looping-de-loop, and then immediately the loop-de-loop is in your memory. So much stuff is happening, passing in the most fleeting of present instants – the present really is the sharpest of knife edges – and then being written to memory, it offers a brilliant perspective from which to watch it all take place.