|Confirmed: Rapture is real (image from PopMatters).|
No: it’s not the latest indie darling that Jorge and I are fawning over. It’s an old episode of This American Life about an abandoned house full of artifacts left by its former inhabitants. The episode tries to unravel the mystery: Who were these people? Why did they leave? Why is the house still full of stuff?
The nerdiest part of my brain immediately made the leap: it’s like Looking Glass created a real life immersive sim and made a radio show about it. On a more serious note, it’s a good reminder that environmental storytelling (even tropes like abandoned diary pages and broken dolls) is based in reality. It’s easy to roll our eyes at audio logs and graffiti messages scrawled across walls, but sometimes reality is just as cheesy as fantasy. I mean, finding an abandoned letter from a woman who had just given birth, imploring the father to come to the hospital and go along with the lie that he was her husband? It seems unreal.
Hopefully you’ve listened to the show at this point, because I’m going to spoil it: the mystery is never solved. More accurately, it is only partially solved and the explanation is a quiet, ambiguous one that leaves a multitude of loose ends. It’s fully explored, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that you want more and that if you search, you’ll eventually find something. Some missed clue or hidden code that will keep the story’s boundaries from becoming hard barriers.
I think this is the feeling that keeps the search for Luigi in Super Mario 64 alive. Giving up means admitting that even the most mysterious world is ultimately finite.