Back in grade school, I got into the genre of computer games known as "graphic adventures," narrative experiences — and often quite elaborate ones — through which the player guides the protagonist with points and clicks: games like Maniac Mansion, Space Quest, Mean Streets, Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders. In college I got into the writing of Haruki Murakami, the international superstar of Japanese literature specializing in the kind of stories that, in his words, have undergone "a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side." More recently, I've cultivated an interest in projects crowdfunded on platforms like Kickstarter. At long last, someone has come up with a creation that unites all three: Memoranda, a Murakami-inspired graphic adventure now raising its budget on Kickstarter.
"Three years ago I sat down with a friend to brainstorm for making a game," writes one of Memoranda's developers. Murakami's work "had inspired us profoundly and we thought that the vague, surrealistic reality of his fictional world would have a great potential for being turned into something visual and could lead to the creation of odd characters, an essential element in game design." This led to a "script inspired by more than 20 stories by Murakami" involving a little town (which has "European-like architecture but that doesn't mean it belongs to somewhere in Europe") "where there are both laptops and bamboo water clocks," a cast of characters from "a WWII surviving soldier to an elephant taking shelter in a man's house hoping to become human," and a protagonist "who little by little realizes she is forgetting her own name."
Kickstarter has proven a viable financing medium for a new wave of graphic adventure games, some of them by the creators of the old wave: Tim Schafer, known for Maniac Mansion's beloved sequel Day of the Tentacle, raised $3.3 million for what would become Broken Age, and Space Quest masterminds Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe more recently reunited to raise over $500,000 for SpaceVenture. Memoranda, by comparison, requires no more than a shoestring, and, with ten days to go in its funding drive, it has already raised more than the $13,695 requested by Bit Byterz, its Vancouver-based Iranian developers (how's that for a demonstration of Murakami's global appeal?). But you can still contribute at its Kickstarter page, and as a reward could get a copy of the game, its soundtrack, a digital art book, or even — enthusiasts of Murakami tropes, take note — the inclusion of your own cat in the story. No game company ever offered me that in grade school.
You can watch a trailer for Memoranda above.
Colin Marshall writes elsewhere on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, and the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future? Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.