On He Never Showed Up

Andi McClure made He Never Showed Up, a game about getting stood up in the rain.


This is a game about time. Or, rather, it is about an absence in time, about waiting for a moment that never really comes.

Lyotard, writing about the relationship between a painting and a viewer, writes:

Two non-substitutable agencies, which exist only in the urgency of the here and now: me, you.

When you begin He Never Showed Up, there is nothing except for me, you. Me, the user who is flailing around and attempting to figure out what to do, assuming that at some point he will show up and I will get to just punch the shit out of Him for taking so long. He doesn’t. There is no you here, not in that moment, but when I realize that attacking does nothing but change the shape of the universe, then I find the you.

The directions for the game say “press A for hammer attack.”

I often write about games as possibility spaces. That’s the whole logic of “open world,” isn’t it? You can create an entire universe that, by virtue of being created, is entirely internally consistent. The designers and programmers generate this small yet large place and we step into and, with luck, accidentally smash it to pieces sometimes.

When you press the A key in He Never Showed Up, you’re attacking the shape of that universe. You parse through them; you turn existence into a crude replication of a slot machine, with Platonic abstraction and the heat death acceleration of the universe appearing within the moments that sequence into our field of view.

If He Never Showed Up is about time, then it is about flailing at its inevitability. You’ll find him, probably. He’ll be there, for a moment, and then disappear into the rain. The lights will click off. You’ll go home, and rain will fall, forever.

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