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The sci-fi co-op game Haven beautifully captures life as a couple during Covid

The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted for nearly two years. For some, its various phases of lockdown mean caring for children forced to learn at home. For others, it means taking care of a parent or sibling. However, others stay home alone. For us, a childless couple in our late 30s, that means living apart.

During this period, the outside world really became a kind of outside world, not only for obvious reasons – a dangerous and contagious virus that can take us down or our loved ones – but also the ways in which that virus suspends our daily activities, forcing us to reflect on what meant heartbreak and what didn’t. The required work has been marked. Systems of oppression have been devised and resisted. Meaningless acts of violence weigh more heavily against the blurred background of everyday distractions. We both started working remotely, trading one-hour commute routes for one-second clicks. And with the extra hours back into our daily lives, we can spend more time together, even getting back to nature: venturing and finding previously unexplored areas of the neighborhood Our Bronx, discover the woodland beauty hidden in our own backyards.

These moments, once confined to nostalgic memory, find a stirring reflection in The Game Breakers’ Haven, A video game released in the midst of a pandemic captures the impression of living through a pandemic. In Haven’s gentle aesthetic sci-fi story, you control (or, as we did, through cooperative play, or individually) Yu and Kay, a young couple who make promises to each other through strictly arranged marriage. They decide to flee their home world in pursuit of a forbidden romance on a distant, abandoned planet called Source. Playing through the game means exploring the planet’s free-floating islands, collecting delicious alien fruits, pacifying wandering beasts, and cleaning up the environmental devastation caused by these aliens. caused by colonists in the past. Every night you can retire at home. You can cook what you have found. You can relax together, read a book, play board games, get drunk, be intimate, and pass out, only to wake up and spend another day exploring and having fun together.

Yu and Kay overlooking the landscape of The Source in Haven

Image: The Game Bakers

But the joy is in Haven always experienced against the canvas of lurking danger. For Yu and Kay, it’s a vengeful government who won’t allow even petty acts of rebellion like theirs. In our case, as the outside world becomes more dangerous (whether from the virus itself or the dreaded xenophobic reactions to it), we seek comfort in each other and within a radius of two. miles of quiet, tree-lined streets around our home.

Hiking around our local wooded paths is no different from gliding along to collect fruit and magical “Flow” energy in Haven’s The source. Going out, having a lively conversation during the few mile hikes, and then coming home became more than enough for us. It’s simple – and a bit odd – to rely solely on our love while philosophizing about the horrors of the outside world, wondering if we can safely expand our bubble without causing harm. contagion or other forms of disruption to our new, uncharted life. How long can we live like this? Do we ultimately need more than each other and our two cats? In Haven, shutting down the world and taking care of your own little sanctuary (or so-called “Your Nest”) reflects the lockdown mentality that has affected so many of us. (For example, Home Depot hit record sales in 2020, as people noticed and invested in improvements to their respective sanctuaries.)

In a memorable scene in Haven, Yu and Kay jump off one of Source’s floating islands to land in the azure waters surrounding an idyllic beach below. After that, they changed into bathing suits and frolicked in the calm waves. It’s a particularly great scene for a game that’s already been imbued with fantasy; a holiday taken from what was a vacation. It reflects, perhaps more than any other part of the game, the sense of detachment and baselessness that just drifts along that is the core of the game. Haven experience. Floating is most of what you will do. Friction, while present, is rarely a significant force. Violent clashes with local wildlife (presented via a turn-based battle machine) can be intense at times, but being beaten just means you’ll be translated Move back to your comfortable home to recuperate and relax. Nothing was said to be unpleasant or particularly difficult. In those rare moments when your character stops gliding and is forced to walk, they complain all the way.

Yu and Kay return home to cook in Haven

Image: The Game Bakers

On the other hand, all fantasies have a grim reality, and Haven there’s definitely its version of this. At the end of the game, Yu and Kay are threatened by their parents and other authority figures from their home planet, who seek to bring them back home and rob them in name. To be sure, these characters are villains, but there’s also a bit of hesitation in the young couple: Does it feel right to end our former lives? Is it sane to avoid the troubles and pitfalls of society, to try to stay in the dream forever? Meanwhile, we strangely measure our comfort in the reserve against the horror of what we find outside: packed hospitals, police brutality, and countless wallets. example of a life-threatening situation. Walking along the trails close to home, we realize the privilege of rising above so much of the human suffering caused by Covid and our flawed society. We have grown a lot as a couple. But beyond our limited vision, beyond our vision, is the world, to which we will have to return in one form or another.

The ways that Haven’s The conclusion that resolves this dilemma is remarkable. Both of its potential ends are in the extreme. In one: Yu and Kay break the energy bridge connecting Source and their home planet, effectively severing themselves forever. And it’s so innocent and naive that to make the ending make sense, the game forces a character to suffer disfiguring wounds just to back it up. On the other hand: They try and do not resist, eventually lose each other, and are returned to their original social roles. This movie is so scary that it ends with Yu (a strange lover sleeping in the background) partially undressing, smiling happily in the light of mind control and destroyed memories. .

The cartoons are overstated, though these endings may be, they represent some of the anxious anticipation we carry with us when we think about the fork in the road ahead. Do we stay in the Berkshires, the peaceful area we escaped from New York City in the midst of the pandemic? Do we squeeze out our savings to fix this “old house” into a more permanent “home”? Do we buy some chickens, do some gardening and home improvements? Are we using this form of early retirement effectively?

Yu and Kay talk about berries in Haven

Image: The Game Bakers

Or do we go back to the city, forgetting the lessons learned about slowing down and appreciating nature? Have we forsaken the shared joy we experienced as a two-man unit, floating beyond the corrupting forces of society? Are we like Yu, gazing serenely and unfocused in the middle as we fulfill our civic roles well while foretelling our true purpose?

In the ending of Haven ending with you separated from your home world, Yu and Kay figure out how to upgrade their jet boots to plant flowers that bloom when they wake up. You can spend as much time as you like gliding around and gazing at the nearby green hills with swaths of colorful flowers. It is a rather hollow substitute for the general development of procreation, for rooting. In the ending where Yu and Kay are separated, where their imaginations are shattered, we have a scene where Kay looks like her own child, playing in the park. The game seems to acknowledge that fantasies, even those that the player spends a lot of time cultivating, are spaces where time doesn’t progress, in which change and growth can’t be real. happen. To develop, one must repatriate and reconcile the knowledge and experience gained with the knowledge and experience of one’s family.

In hiding and forgetting the world they left behind, Yu and Kay blocked their potential for growth. In our own lives, we understand that we cannot live forever in a mode of escape. We want to grow. And that means figuring out how to get back into the world, how to reconnect the many connections that have been severed during this pandemic. Instead of choosing between Haven’s extremes of happy ignorant fantasies or depressed social surrender, we intend to choose a middle path, preserving the lessons we have learned and finding ways to combine those lessons with others (something Yu and Kay never figured out how to do). That’s the hope, anyway. For now, all we can do is sit in our nests and wait, until the fun is over and for reality to find its way back.

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