I decided to take a break from the more violent games to tackle a few small indie titles.  I started with To the Moon.

My first experience with To the Moon came from the Games Only Podcast.  After providing a thorough review, they played a song from the game at the end of the show.  This song hooked me, and reinforced my desire to play the game.  You can give it a listen here.

The basic story of To the Moon is as follows: A man lays on his deathbed, and his dying wish is to go to the moon.  He has hired a company that connects a machine to his brain and goes back through his memories to find the motivation to go to the moon.  From the point where his motivation is strongest, they re-construct for him a lifetime of memories where the motivation endured, and the patient finished his life achieving what he wanted to achieve.  As the doctors – and the player – experience the memories, you get to see why his life turned out the way that it did.

In To the Moon, you work your way backward through the patient’s memories.  Games and films that play the story in reverse provide a fascinating and unique sense of discovery.  It shifts your focus from “what” to “why.”  Simon Sinek has a great TED Talk about this very topic here:

The mind is motivated by “why.”  If you take a small child and tell him or her to do something, the first word out of his or her mouth is often “why?”  This doesn’t change as we go into adulthood; our desire to understand the world around us is rooted in the questions of why.

When you watch a story that goes in sequence, the question you ask is usually “WHAT is going to happen next?”  Yes, there will be things that happen through the story that might have you ask “why,” but the explanation for those things will generally only come through flashbacks or through references to prior knowledge.

When you watch a story backward, however, you find yourself asking “why” for nearly everything that takes place.  This forces you to stop thinking about events and start thinking about meaning, and heightens your awareness of everything happening in the storyline.

To the Moon is one of few games that I think would be enjoyable to a non-gamer.  My wife doesn’t tend to like playing games, though she does enjoy watching them to get the full story.  In over a decade of marriage to my wife, I can’t remember ever calling her over and making her sit down and play a game.  The whole experience of the game is beautiful, but a lot of it is missed if you don’t experience it yourself.  So with that in mind, after completing the game I made her play through it.  She loved it.

To the Moon is an emotional rollercoaster.  I think, in the years to come, this is one of those games that I will look back upon fondly.  As I played through it, I experienced joy, loss, regret, giddiness (especially during the horseback riding), frustration, sadness, and excitement.  I laughed, I cried, I covered my mouth in shock, and a smiled.  A lot.  And I think you will, too.