by Jana Branch
- For elders whose best days are behind them, when is life no longer worth the effort? More contemplative than ghoulish, Is It Time? is an online game created as an affecting exercise in empathy for the lonely, diminishing process of aging.
- The indie art game, based on the end-of-life experience of the game creator’s grandmother, is true to its pixel-graphics genre and makes no bones about being a message, not entertainment.
- The laborious action moves a widow through her house and yard while trying to keep fatigue, hunger and boredom meters from slipping from 100 to zero. She has flashbacks to happier times and occasional visits. As the game progresses, her house gets darker (simulating blindness) and furniture moves around (simulating memory loss).
- At the end of each day, the player is asked to decide, “Is it time?” And whatever the answer — emphatic “no” or resigned “yes” — no one survives this game.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO BUSINESS
- It’s both tough and uncomfortable to get inside the reality of old age. An online game is one inventive way to connect with younger generations being asked to step up to care for elders.
- Invoking game aesthetics from the PacMan era makes Is It Time? even more resonant for Boomers, an audience wrestling with end-of-life questions for themselves and aging parents.
- At every age, people don’t want to imagine when their lives will be “less than.” Exercises in empathy can build bridges that encourage better care for elders and introspection for those who will be elders one day.