In Lifeline, the sole survivor of a spaceship crash relies on you for survival

Laura Hudson for Boing Boing:

As counterintuitive as it sounds, there’s something about interacting with Taylor through text messages that can feel very intimate, perhaps because we’ve grown so accustomed to communicating our most personal thoughts with our friends through texts—and waiting for their responses with bated breath.

While some mobile games intentionally frustrate players with waiting periods to compel them to spend money, waiting isn’t a coercion tactic in Lifelife, but rather a crucial part of the storytelling experience. If you die several times—or win the game—you can unlock an optional “fast mode” that allows you to skip the waiting periods, although I wouldn’t recommend it. While it might offer instant gratification, it also shatters the sense of immersion you feel, flattening the urgency and anticipation of those intermediate moments.

“When people are playing it, it’s not just about the time that they’re interacting with Taylor,” says Justus. “It’s all the rest of the time when they’re thinking about Taylor. The whole goal was to make something that would become a part of people’s lives.”

It’s such a clever concept — simple, yet well-implemented, and happening not in game time, but in real time. In fact, for me, verisimilitude brings with it a hidden catch: evoking a sense of real-time responsibility can be a distraction throughout one’s working day, not to mention feelings of guilt about leaving your stranded colleague waiting while you sit through actual meetings. Am I overstating the point? Possibly. It’s just a text game, after all. But games will only ask more of us, that much is clear. And the more invested we become in these simulations, the greater the emotional toll. I can’t wait.