We’re lucky. Lucky lucky lucky to live in a place where vaccination rates are good and Covid rates are declining and people are cautiously talking about returning to something like normal life after a year+ of wrenching crisis. Through this time a lot of us put our heads down and plowed through the work we were lucky (lucky, lucky) to have and tried not to think too much about how much had changed, how many people were suffering, and how things might look when this is finally over. But we knew that at some point we’d all have to come to terms with how the pandemic had changed us.
I had my toughest bout of new-reality-facing to-date when I sat down to edit some of the conversations in HRO’s Episode 03, “Fruit of the Bitter Tree.” A draft of this episode had been written in late 2019. I hadn’t touched it since. One of the storylines involves that classic trope of the sci-fi genre — an alien plague threatens the crew of the Endeavor. But after this year I found it almost impossible to read — mostly because of my blithe pre-pandemic treatment of the material. I hadn’t imagined that talk of quarantines, and sealing off parts of the ship to prevent the spread of disease, and vaccine-hesitancy, and charlatanesque folk-remedies would provoke dread, fear and even anger in me. Presumably there are at least some players who would feel similar things playing this episode.
And now I don’t know what to do with that material — or those feelings. Maybe this will fade as we get (hopefully) further into a recovery. Or maybe I should go back and rewrite that storyline the way I would write it today and to hell with the easy conventions of the genre. HRO has a lot of comedy in it, so maybe this topic no longer has a place in a cheeky game. Maybe history has overtaken this story idea entirely and we should replace it wholesale. I’ve seen the old "tragedy + time = comedy" equation work miracles, but I may have lost my faith in that idea in this particular instance. So what do we do with these suddenly unexpectedly painful ideas? Maybe we can’t know yet.
We’re definitely going to finish HRO. It’s a matter of figuring out what to do with this surprisingly problematic content. And that’s not a tragedy of any real scale. Many people lost a lot more (see “lucky, lucky” above). I still can’t help feeling profoundly sad about it. And clearly my sadness is about more than just this storyline because maybe after a year of anxiety and hardship we’re not going to be picking anything up exactly “where we left off.” Not even our retro-futuristic sci-fi parodies.
Worthing and Moncrieff, LLC is an independent developer of video game stories founded in 2015.