Memento Mori is an interactive reminder that one day, you will die. That’s a good thing. As the game’s creator, Lucas Molina explained in the comments of an indiestatik review, the game is about forcing the player to confront this suppressed horror, if even for a moment.
The player navigates a black silhouette of a little girl as she jumps from thought bubble to thought bubble, ascending literally and metaphorically to the heavens. The bubbles reveal questions in a one-sided conversation with the player as you climb.
“Do you ever think about death?”
“How did you feel in the time of Ancient Rome? That’s how it’s going to be after you die.”
We all think about death from time to time, even if it’s only a vague feeling of dread in the background of our lives. But that feeling is perilously easy to block it out. Memento Mori forces you to face the facts head-on.
“You are going to die one day.”
I jump off a small puff of black cloud, a moment of dexterous concentration before being hit with another uncomfortable statement.
“But you don’t really grasp what that means.”
The climb itself in Memento Mori is a progression of reasoning based on the evidence. Death, in a world without tangible evidence of God, without an afterlife, renders life meaningless.
“And all this climbing was for nothing” the game admits, sending you falling to the ground before the screen turns black and the game ends. I’m left with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“wow really emotional game but when she fell to the ground everything went black and nothing else happened. is this normal in the game?” squada asked in the comments.
“Yes, that’s the point.” The author patiently replied.
In the game’s description, Molina explains that the game was an attempt was to express his own feelings on death. “You are free to disagree,” he says, “but I tried to be honest with my beliefs hoping that others might relate.”
The comment section on the game’s New Grounds page reveals that not every player is satisfied with the beliefs they find in themselves.
For some the confrontation of mortality drudges up anger and racism, all thinly veiled by fear.
“MANIC NIHILISTIC DEPRESSION, THE JUMPING GAME.” matrix29bear said.
Some console themselves with the value of living a good life. x0Zero0x suggested an addition to the game, “enjoy the time you have.”
For some, enjoying life as best we can creates hope, even if only as an anesthetic. But that’s what makes Memento Mori so powerful. It conveys the idea that without an afterlife, without some greater context, life is, in fact, meaningless.
“that is deep man. cuts deep, hits hard.” Nap67 said.
“Did your cat die or something? Talk about lame.” Kab00se commented.
Ultimately, Memento Mori reveals how unsatisfactory our secret hopes about a meaningful life really are, as Dreader6 said: “i think about this everyday, and wonder why I’m even trying in life. i always answer the same way. i try in life so other people will know of what i achieved and what i didn’t.”
Saturne, an atheist, agreed with the logic, but near the end almost instinctively, reaches outward for some kind of hope.
“what about parallel worlds?”
In an old BBC interview J.R.R Tolkien is asked to sum up the Lord of the Rings.
The old author quietly takes another puff of his pipe, thinking. He mumbles something about the unsatisfactory nature of summing up such a large story into a few sentences, but then thinks better of it. “Human stories are always about one thing aren’t they? Death. The inevitability of death,” he says.
Carefully unfolding a piece of paper from his wallet, he reads a quote from Simone De Beauvoir:
“There’s no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that happens to man is ever natural. His presence calls the whole world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation.”
In the end, Memento Mori provides a precious confrontation: You are going to die. Avoiding the thought, squelching it, and administering a poorly realized and naive hope like “enjoy the moment” or holding out for parallel worlds is something Molina is helping the player to avoid.
Regardless of belief, religion, or opinion, we all share one sentiment in common: death sucks.
Molina is right to say, “have no hope”, because there is none to be found in logic, or science, or anything within our power to overcome death. If we are to have hope, it can only come, ridiculously, outrageously, and miraculously from outside of humanity.
If there’s one thing to take away from the reminder of death, it’s that we cannot save ourselves.