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    dkirschner's Little Inferno (PC)

    [June 5, 2018 09:20:41 PM]
    As the game approached its climax, I had begun feeling like I was wasting my time. Burning consumer goods from mail-order catalogs in a fireplace and trying to piece together 99 combos was making me a little crazy. "What the fuck are three items that will give me a MANLY COMBO??" "This stupid combo needs something cold, but there are FOUR COLD ITEMS! AAAH!" The game started throwing nuggets of significance my way a little earlier, but once the climax hit and the game fundamentally shifted, I understood.

    Little Inferno is basically Plato's allegory of the cave. The game is played facing a fireplace (Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace). You order consumer goods from mail-order catalogs and burn them. When you burn items, you get more money than you paid for them in the first place, and you can also get tokens that speed up how quickly items are shipped to you (Amazon membership?). It's extremely repetitive action, but I got really into trying to figure out the combos. The animations and sounds from burning toys are amusing too. I also realized how irritated I got when something too a long time to ship. Just like in real life. You carry on letter correspondence with your next-door neighbor, who laments that there is a wall separating you. You write and mail some things back and forth, but then she goes and burns her house down. Accident with the fireplace?

    I won't spoil the rest, but suffice it to say she starts putting ideas in your head, ideas that make you think you might be real. The gameplay then changes and the player gets a lot to think about. Our entertainment can lure us into comfort or serve as an escape, making it easy to ignore the wider world, our responsibilities, other people and events. Often we are lonely, isolated, and we donít exist in the world, but digitally or in our fictions. We see the shadows and flames and call it reality, choosing not to turn our heads away from the screen and take advantage of the experiences in the big (scary) world.

    It's not just the screen that provides warmth and draws us near, but the chill of an increasingly isolating, bureaucratic, rationalist world pushing us toward what can comfort us. Sometimes it repels us, and other times it lulls us. In Little Inferno, everyone has to burn things in their personal fireplaces because it's been getting colder and colder, constantly snowing. The receptionist at Tomorrow Corporation embodies this rationalization, and the conversations your character has with adults are absurd in part because of the scripts the adults follow in their jobs. You are a customer, nothing more.

    The game tells us to go outside. Thereís a whole world of experiences for us to go get. We can have meaningful relationships with other people who are ďthrough the wall." I find a very anti-consumerist message here too. Burn your things. They are keeping you from new experiences. But, as the game keeps telling you, once you leave the cave, you can never look back. We're changed by experience, by responsibilities, by transitions in life. Another reading of this is that it's talking about transition between childhood/adolescence and adulthood. When the early stages end, we have to go out into the world. But as I said above, it's not easy. It can be cold, not warm and cozy like your hearth. Youíll have to pay. People wonít always help you. But thatís okay because you'll grow through your experiences. I'm sure there's more commentary here I haven't thought about much, such as how we play games, but I'll be thinking about this one for a while.

    Excellent game. The end is worth the journey of burning stuff.
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    Status

    dkirschner's Little Inferno (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Tuesday 5 June, 2018

    GameLog closed on: Tuesday 5 June, 2018

    Opinion
    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Gameplay doesn't seem to go anywhere, but the end is worth the journey. Burning things is fun, and now I have a lot to think about.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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