A Place I Don’t Know

It was way past my self-imposed bed time when this song began, at the exact place where the game had started an hour ago. I was back in the room from which the protagonist was snapped to go on a psychedelic neon-retro-synth trip with the length of an average pop album, in order to work through one or a few failed relationships. I laid motionless in my bed in the dark and was truly and deeply touched by what I had just experienced.

Whenever I play a game, I can not simply enjoy it. I always also analyse it a little along the way. It’s a gift and a curse that I am constantly asking myself questions. Wouldn’t this element be suitable for a new F-Zero game? Why do the controls feel a little unresponsive? Do I like the ranking system? Are the stages varied enough? And what exactly is the narrative about? I couldn’t find satisfactory answers to some of these questions while playing, but at the very end of the game, when the rolling credits were the only light source in my bedroom, none of that really mattered. I just felt good. I had taken part in something wonderful. Like waking up in the morning after an exciting and eventful night at a certain age and not being able to make out what exactly happened. But there is this deep feeling of content and joy inside of you and you just know that everything is good.

Sayonara Wild Hearts is a very special piece of media full of warmth, sadness and confidence, somewhere between a video game, a light show and a pop album. Even after playing hundreds of video games and listening to hundreds of pop albums, it was a completely new experience for me. Truly a place I don’t know. And just like good pop music does, it touched me, without me noticing it at first because it comes across so lighthearted and sweet. But in the end it really got to me. When you sit in the cinema for the whole credits to process the film and sort out your feelings, and then, exhilarated, roam through the balmy summer night. Or when you drop blissfully and sweaty into the subway seat after a wonderful concert.

That’s how I felt when the electronic wall of sound gave way to the crystal clear guitar and the psychedelic euphoria turned into the tranquility of the own room. The transistion from the loud and wild frenzy to personal solitude. It was a moment that left no room for analyses or judgement, but simply was. All the fragmentary impressions and thoughts gave way to a blissful feeling that reminded me of a time when sadness could be beautiful. The game even found the words to describe these hazy feelings in the lyrics of that final track. It was the perfect conclusion to a wonderful playing experience.

What’s the word, does that thing have a name? When familiar surroundings just don’t look the same? But then you came around. Said it’s time to let go. And you took me to a place I don’t know.

Sayonara Wild Hearts (2019) was developed by the Swedish studio Simogo and, like so many other small gems, distributed by Annapurna Interactive. Go experience it for yourself.

This post is also available in: German