I had the pleasure of seeing an early build of _transfer at GDC2017, and I’m thrilled now that it’s gotten an official release. This is going to be a very short post about a game that you have to experience.
In science and science fiction, there are aspects that can be difficult to understand. There might be a moment of insight where between the trees you can see the sun, but as soon as it was there it’s gone and what you have is an impression of a truth that you almost knew.
In _transfer, that glimpse of the sun is the answer – it’s who you are. And the story is told in the moment of momentum where you can see it. You don’t have the origin and you don’t have the destruction, all you have is a little snapshot of time where you might see the truth if you know what you’re looking for.
If this sounds extremely bizarre and pretentious, this is just the only way I know how to explain it.
The game starts with you logging in to a conversation between AI. You don’t know who you are or where you’re going. It’s irrelevant, and many of them are quickly bored that you’re bothering them with questions about your identity. As you converse with them, memory files are recovered that shed light on the world of _transfer and the lives of these AI. As you start to piece together the themes and concepts at play, the system shuts down and forces you to start anew.
Every time you start a new round in _transfer, important concepts accumulate. If you want to take in all the information, you might want to take notes, but the AI designations change every time, so you can’t count on those. Soon you’ll discover the unimportance of linearity in the “lives” of these AI. They inquire about conversations that you had in previous rounds. You play in a circle, and every time you learn a little more.
The AI in _transfer are curious and confused about sex. “Humans are so obsessed with their own survival that they watch videos of other humans procreating,” reads one of the memory logs. “They are always talking about origins and destructions,” says another. I feel like this is what _transfer is about. Without creation or destruction, what are you at all? I think _transfer is saying that we’re in transit. We’re transferring, from one place to another, and that’s the sunlight through the trees that it’s attempting to express.
_transfer is a fascinating little thesis-statement of a game about AI and the transit of existence. It’s the kind of game that couldn’t have been anything but a game in order to tell this story as intended, and that’s the highest praise I can give anything. Check it out.