Fallen London is a game that’s probably sucked more hours out of my life than, well, any other videogame ever. Yes, even No Man’s Sky or Left4Dead can’t hope to compete with it as we’re talking a game I’ve been playing most nights for yonks now.
Partly it’s because I am nothing if not an ageing goth and Fallen London’s the closest a videogame has ever gotten to fitting in perfectly alongside my music tastes (please videogames – less Tim Burton, more Bauhaus), partly it’s a comfort thing because I can log in from bed, have a little bit of an adventure, then nod off or crack open a book or whatever.
Mainly though, I keep coming back for the writing. It is so b____y good (which is lucky for a game that is entirely words really). For a few quid a month, I get one (extra) story each month to play through and I can count the ones which haven’t quite done it for me on one hand. An exceptional hit rate by any standards and one that speaks to the talent Failbetter have been able to rope in to contribute over the years.
(I have a sekrit mental wishlist of people I’d love to see have a pop at a story because, basically, I’m greedy and would have everyone whose writing I adore in games write me a Fallen London story if I could)
One of the things that I find remarkable is after all this time playing Fallen London I must have read some passages in the game an absurd amount of times (sometimes multiple times a night if I’m knackered and just doing a bit of lazy making a number go up), I still enjoy reading those passages. Nothing has me going “oh, not this” or glazing over and stuff that made me smile an age back, still makes me smile now.
There’s been times when I’m exhausted, my brain residing in some sort of chemical toilet or whatever and I can’t bring myself to even play something I enjoy this much. It doesn’t bother me so much because I know that when I get round to feeling better, I’ll have accumulated a bunch of new Fallen London tales to play through. Best kind of reward for being able to drag myself out of a crappy malaise.
Mind, I’m not the kind of person able to roleplay a character easily. I’ve never really been able to inhabit someone or something else in that way. Any games that ask me to make a choice are going to find me pressing ahead with whatever choice feels like the one I’d make.
I appreciate how much the writing, the multiple interweaving stories, of Fallen London accommodates that every bit as well as someone who has the ability to not be themselves for a while and with purpose. I don’t think I’ve even once felt like the game pulled the rug from under me, ever felt like a story cheated me from a choice I’d (like to imagine I’d) make in a particular situation.
It’s quite the balance to maintain! Especially over this many years, this many stories, and throughout that time I’ve changed a lot! Still the contributors to this videogame and Failbetter in general always seem one step ahead.
It’s a wonderful thing to exist and so many times over the past while I’ve been thankful it does.