The love machine: thoughts on Simogo’s Sensational Christmas gift

Today, Simogo released The Sensational December Machine, an interactive short story about an inventor and her surprising new creation, which the studio describes as a Christmas gift “for our dear fans”. It’s about five minutes long, and it’s completely free – you can download it from >>here<< for Windows and Mac, and I recommend you do so before you read any further.

As we’ve come to expect from the studio, it’s quite lovely to look at: attractive hand-drawn 2D art and handwritten text is layered expertly to produce a convincing 3D effect, and the chiming soundtrack from Daniel Olsen subtly changes as you move through the story.

It’ll mean more to you if you’re familiar with Simogo’s work because it’s a continuation of ideas and themes explored in its last three games. There’s the dark, wintry setting of Year Walk, while the way it makes you feel part of the story by allowing you to move between the words is very Device 6. Its story, meanwhile, has the bittersweet tone of The Sailor’s Dream – it’s a rather sad tale, but one which ends on a quietly optimistic note.

Indeed, the tale seems to be a direct reaction to the critical performance of Simogo’s last game, which didn’t earn the widespread praise of its previous efforts. Witness the woman’s attempts to touch people’s hearts with her unorthodox new machine and the townsfolks’ confusion and rejection, mirroring the real world response to The Sailor’s Dream. This doesn’t come across as exasperated or bitter; instead, Simogo acknowledges that audiences have become conditioned to expect machines to perform a specific task. It’s essentially a metaphor for the creative endeavour to push the boundaries of what defines a game and what players are prepared to accept and respond to.

The gently melancholy story is tinged with a tiny hint of frustration that perhaps we’re not all as ready to have our conventions challenged as much as we would like to admit. But the very final line of The Sensational December Machine sees Simogo at peace with having put its collective heart and soul into making something, and that no matter the wider response, it will always have the pleasurable memories of its creation. It’s an empowering message to people working in any creative medium who might be struggling to find an audience: building something that touches your own heart can be as important in its own way as something that touches the hearts of others. I hope Simogo keeps trying to do both.

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