It’s a bit strange playing a game about the charms of going camping. On the one hand you’re being shown how lovely it is out in nature, and how, without all those distractions, you can have better chats with people. On the other hand, Wide Ocean Big Jacket is a distraction, a video game, and they’re normally played on your own inside.
Then again, Wide Ocean Big Jacket is a strange game. It’s a gentle game, and a gently lovely one too. You don’t do much besides take control of a small handful of characters and talk, and it doesn’t last very long, but even in the brisk 80 minutes it takes to complete it moved me.
It took me a while to relax into it, but maybe that’s a bit like going on a camping trip anyway. To begin with, I wanted to get it all over and done with. I didn’t want to talk to Mord or Ben, the tween couple, or Brad and Cloanne, the adult couple – Mord’s aunt and uncle. But by the end I did.
Nothing’s forced. Wide Ocean Big Jacket sinks in. Yes, it’s a game about talking, but the kind of interactions you have are delivered one short – often amusing – sentence at a time. It’s got an off-kilter sense of humour. Mord seems to be the catalyst for most of it, a weird kid who doesn’t shut up, but she’s brilliant because of it, and soon establishes herself as the star of the show.
Ben: “How’d you sleep?”
Mord: “Like a big pile of bricks.”
Ben: “You snore like a pile of bricks.”
It’s nice, it makes me smile.
Then, later, out of nowhere:
Mord: “Is Sex cool?”
Mord: “I mean, you’ve had sex, right?”
Mord: “Was that cool?”
Cloanne: “Do you mean, is it cool to have sex? Because that doesn’t-”
Mord: “No, is it cool when you have it.”
Mord: “Is it cool while you’re having it?”
It’s that kind of thing.
That Sex conversation goes on for a while, by the way, with Cloanne tying herself in knots. It’s funny and relatable, particularly if you’re a parental figure who’s been questioned in the same way. But it’s not just funny. There’s an honesty to it. These are the questions of a 13-year-old girl and Cloanne, as much as she falters, ends up handing out some profound advice. And they both end up leaving the campfire to go to bed having learnt a bit more.
And that’s what I think Wide Ocean Big Jacket is about: people getting to know a bit more. It might be about themselves or their relationships, or about another person, but they all leave knowing a bit more. And maybe you will too.