Amongst the loping slopes of the valley resides a message. Scrolling over it reveals microprose, a small story wrapped up in atmosphere and emotion lasting maybe 120 characters. It’s the kind of fragmented storytelling native to Twitter, jumping into an interaction or story far removed from most of its context. Things are quiet, a lull between songs. You ruminate a bit and begin scrolling on to another place, another mood.
The Library of Babble from developer Demi (@idlemurmurs) is a landscape of messages left in bottles for others to trip over. Only ever seeing a slice of the world, you scroll over the endless landscape stumbling across messages left by others, small bits of prose, microstories, encouraging adages. It’s a cozy place, painted in bright pastels, stark against the grey backdrop. You have coordinates at the bottom of your screen, a reminder of where a particular entry can be found again, a way to have a definitive sense of place in this world.
Featuring no soundtrack, it encourages the player to dictate the feeling of this experience. It’s quite nice, especially for those eager to spread stories across the countryside. Certainly, being able to come into the space with a particular mood about you allows you to craft whatever it may be you want to bring to this place.
Unlike some games such as The Things We Lost In The Flood, another title about asynchronous messaging, there is no overarching goal or narrative. There are no prompts or destruction of messages. Instead, the player is wholly focused on the act of sharing thoughts and stories along with taking in those of others. Its calm, straightforward nature presents a place that feels safe, like an intimate space, one into which our deepest emotions can be poured. Unlike Twitter, there are no metrics here. No way to measure how many players have crossed your messages, no ratings, nothing more than the act of throwing words into the ether and wondering if another may cross them.
From the sense of security offered by such a pleasant world, it’s easy to feel the humanity coming through these dictated remains of others. During my time exploring, every message I came across spoke to inner turmoil, a reassuring of the fears of others, and ultimately a found comfort. Babble is quickly filling with the words of those who wish for nothing more than to feel the gentle caress of a hand against their cheek, reaching through the screen to glimpse the contact point they form with another. We are all social creatures, and places like Twitter can serve as wonderful spaces with which we can connect, where we can explore different sides of ourselves and express ourselves in ways we otherwise wouldn’t.
But, Twitter has a nasty habit of atomizing us. We become wrapped up in the aesthetics of interaction, the anxiety over how we phrase our approaches to others, resentment for the lack of Likes given to a reply, or profound sadness from lack of engagement with our own posts. We lose sight of one another, trapped in a system of numbers and a sea of words. Babble feels like the direct opposite of this; clear, concise, subtle. It’s a place in which we don’t have one-to-one interactions, or discourse, or exposition; instead it’s a place of retreat, one to go to when weary and wanting nothing more than the simple pleasure of sharing ourselves with one another. Our fragments drift the world infinite, campfires and beacons of life for the other wanderers following our path.
The Library of Babble is currently available on itch.io.
Catherine Brinegar is a trans game developer and filmmaker who explores the surreal and abstract in her work. Beyond her creative endeavors she enjoys losing herself inside other worlds, interactive and not. Finding inspiration in everything, Catherine aims to see all the world has to offer, through the continual conversation of art. You can keep up with her on twitter @cathroon.