I’ve played many games in 2022 that foreshadow our current point in time, but of them, Signalis felt the most personal. A sci-fi horror that folds in upon itself, tied in intriguing knots by its own plot threads. In it you are trapped as the android-on-a-mission Magpie. She searches for the woman she loves in a labyrinth of archaic technology supporting a rapidly decaying future. VHS tapes and floppy disks join Soviet futuristic spaceships. The game itself is rooted in the past, looks like PS1 games and harks back to genre classics like Resident Evil or Silent Hill to portray a haunting future.
Our present is no different. We envision our future based on past decades with endlessly recycled nostalgia. Our media landscape has been dominated by what was popular decades ago, stifling attempts at new forms of expression. In the words of Godspeed You! Black Emperor: “We are trapped in the belly of this terrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death.” In this decay, desperate for survival, we both find ourselves and Elster. Elster is denied love, all personal needs are suppressed by her function as a worker. Who among us doesn’t find it difficult to keep going when the work seems to be asking more and more of us while doing less and less. Our hopes and desires can feel illusory. Always out of reach.
As if that weren’t enough, their identities are being questioned by the forces of government and society. Suppressed where possible. Her body is not made her own, but dictated by the same forces. For women and queer people, hatred of our autonomy and right to exist has felt like a rising tide. Like the red meat mass growing all over Signalis, devouring more and more of the facility, this hate feels like it’s taking up what little space is left in our late-capitalist nightmare.
In the face of this slow, creeping fear that feels slightly inescapable, Magpie doesn’t back down. No matter what ending you get (even the fake one), one thing remains true: Magpie doesn’t give up. Their love is like a beacon guiding them through the facility, the depths of the planet, and every nightmare that makes up reality. I think of the other androids you meet along the way who are afraid to move on and give in to their fear or hopelessness. It’s no joke to say that despair will kill you. I understand that feeling, I’ve been there and yet it’s Magpie I’m clinging to. Her determination in the face of utter desolation. Even the end of the game offers no respite, no protection from the reality of their situation. Can they escape? Who can tell? She still fights on.
I can be sustained by self-determination all I want, but there’s really no way to douse the part of me that lives for love. Signalis, for all its endless horrors, sparked the romance in me. Reminds me that I can endure anything for the people that matter. For a person who matters. Something so comforting to emerge from his nightmare was one of 2022’s greatest gifts.
If you need someone to talk to, the Samaritans will help you. They can be called toll free on 116 123 in the UK and Ireland or emailed to email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org. The lines are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the emergency service is Lifeline 13 11 14. For other international suicide help lines see friends worldwide.
https://www.eurogamer.net/games-of-2022-signalis-was-the-best-reminder-of-what-matters-1 Games 2022: Signalis was the best reminder of what matters