Killing Time at Lightspeed – An Indie Game Review

Killing Time at Lightspeed game screenshot, FriendPage feed
Killing Time at Lightspeed – An Indie Game Review

Platforms: Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Steam

Game Name: Killing Time at Lightspeed

Publisher: Green Stripe Snake

Developer: Gritfish

Genre: Adventure

Release Date: July 5th, 2016

Killing Time at Lightspeed from Gritfish

Killing Time at Lightspeed is another game along the lines of Cibele or Replica that simulates a digital interface – in this particular case a social network feed.

The twist? You’re in a space ship traveling at the titular velocity, so every time you refresh your feed, another year has gone by for your friends on earth. Thanks a lot, Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Killing Time at Lightspeed game screenshot, FriendPage feed

The way this plays out is that seemingly small slices of life – your typical Facebook minutia – provide a cross-section of future history as it plays out. An RSS news feed provides further context to rapidly evolving social issues as they play out within the circle of friends you’ve left behind.

Click “Like” If Your Grandson Will One Day Agree

The future history mapped out in Killing Time at Lightspeed draws some obvious parallels to current events. Legal and social issues regarding cybernetic implants – and eventually artificially intelligent robots – stand in for current debates about bigotry, persecution and the use of terrorism to justify the curtailing of civil liberties.

It’s not all heavy-handed political commentary, though. There are plenty of laughs, as well. Read the news articles, in particular, and you’ll find them loaded with subtle (and not so subtle) jokes. How funny you find them will depend on your sense of humor, of course, but also your level of immersion in the tech and game dev scenes.

The interactions between friends on your social media stream are even better. From in-jokes to puns to the formation and dissolution of relationships, they feel fairly realistic and – more importantly – endearing, even as they move on with their lives without you.

Killing time at Lightspeed game screenshot, hashtag

Long, Long Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

That last factor is what makes Killing Time at Lightspeed less satisfying than it could be. There are potential interactions at certain points – prompts show you when you can respond to your friends’ posts and offer multiple response options – but it doesn’t have a huge effect on their lives or the narrative.

That’s kind of the point, though, isn’t it? Leave a comment on a friend’s post, and by the time they read it, it’s a year later. It makes you wish you could spend more time with the characters on your social media feed, but of course you can’t.

You’re hurtling away from them so quickly that the structure of time itself is altered, so naturally you’re not going to be able to have the seemingly banal but valuable relationships people have with one another when they share a neighborhood, a social circle, even a solar system.

Killing Time at Lightspeed game screenshot, illustration

If Killing Time at Lightspeed leaves you wanting more – and it does – that’s the intent. As a piece of experimental interactive fiction, it excels at creating a sense of both distance and intimacy, and since it’s the replication of a social network, it does so without a sense of voyeurism.

Time (And Lightning) in a Bottle

Aided by Matt Hamm’s affecting ambient soundtrack and drawings by Marigold Bartlett, the Enhanced Edition of the game – originally created during Antholojam – is a memorable approach to storytelling that combines the time dilation themes of Joe Haldeman’s seminal science fiction novel Forever War with themes of social media, civil rights and the way we interact with technology.

Killing Time at Lightspeed is available via Steam.

[xrr rating=”4/5″]

Watch the official trailer for Killing Time at Lightspeed below: