Videogames are only getting bigger and deeper. Complex, branching narratives, layered systems and mechanics, sprawling, detailed worlds begging to be explored—these are becoming the rule rather than the exception to meet consumers’ ever-increasing standards. However, I’ve found myself longing for simpler, more relaxing experiences as a result—an escape not only from the mundane but from my fantasies. Escapism shouldn’t always be so stressful or involved. I’ve found myself longing for games with few frills and smaller learning curves, games that are purely about play, games that are breaks from games. games like Refunct.
I was instantly relieved as my eyes fell upon the title’s neutral landscape. Orderly, rectangular platforms amidst a tranquil sea, surrounded by distant towers and pretty skies. There was no preamble or introduction. All I had to do was jump on pressure plates to spawn other platforms. I fell into Refunct’s inviting, laid-back world in a matter of minutes, which was made even easier with its calming electronic score and intuitive controls which include only three buttons—wall-jumping, sliding, and clambering.
I could also get these cubes in areas that required a bit more parkour expertise, so—being a completionist—I latched onto acquiring every cube I saw. No side quests to complete with my clan. No combos or strategies to master. No big decisions to make for my character. Just land on the plates and collect the cubes. I was wholly immersed in the unadulterated core of Refunct.
Then it started talking to me.
I was amused by the achievement as it popped up the corner of my monitor. As I collected a few more cubes, the game still had more to say.
“How are you?”
“What drives you?”
“Do you do what you love?”
“What makes you smile?”
The more these came up, the more introspective I became. I started thinking about how I genuinely felt. I rolled around answers about the truths and passions that give me purpose. I started dwelling on friends, family, and interests. Refunct’s honest, clean setting and design was left empty so I could think freely; it was meant to disarm any and all of my defenses so I could reflect.
The nature of the questions are intentional as well. We hear people ask us, “How are you?” and “What do you do?” so often in life, but they largely come from places of little concern or commitment. I’m guilty of these cliched niceties too, but I’ve found that when they spring from intentioned hearts, they can blossom into personal, beautiful questions we give serious consideration to. They can touch our souls. They’re questions that help us remember . . .
“What makes you, you?”
I can’t help but dwell on Jesus’ ministry with this in mind because he met with individuals on their level. He was a people person, utterly divorced from caring about his social status when he conversed with prostitutes and tax collectors. He intentionally sought out the downtrodden (John 5:1-9) and scorned (John 4:7-30) throughout his final years, but he did so because he loved people and desired the best for them.
I have a handful of friends who reach out to me in the crowds of people that surround them to ask how I’m doing, and only with them do I smile when I hear or read common words like that. They often ring hollow, but they mean them.
Refunct isn’t a friend, but a kindly stranger. It’s an open book that greeted me with a non-judgmental grin and sat down, completely invested in the story of me while I, in turn, literally explored its own heart. At the end, the perspective zoomed out to show that the land I restored was in the shape of a heart accompanied with the message, “Thank you!” as if it were honored that I had not only taken the time to invest in it, but also that I’d had a silent conversation with it in my head—no, that I’d had an utterly unique discussion across time and space that the game’s developer, Dominique Grieshofer, wanted players to engage in.
“Can we be friends?”
As I closed the game, I chuckled. “Sure, I’d like that.”