by Jed Pressgrove
The Plan is a very short free game from Krillbite Studio, but you don’t even have to play it. Just read the first sentence on its Steam page: “A fly ascends to the skies, pondering the pointlessness of its brief existence.”
Rarely do you see such truth in marketing. The Plan is a giant set-up from the first time you lay eyes on its description and the praise from Giant Bomb, Eurogamer, and others. “Oh, it’s free,” someone will say. Yeah, have you ever played a good free game like Will You Ever Return? 2 or Hydorah? Pretty graphics, rousing classical music, and the lack of a price don’t make a good game — good ideas and good design do.
The Plan has two ideas, and neither idea is as profound as the marketing says. The first idea is something the game mistakes for existentialism: a fly flying higher and higher to certain death. The first thing you might consider is that a fly’s life doesn’t have to be as boring as it is portrayed in The Plan. A fight with a spider web is the only stirring moment in the entire game; how about a fly swatter or newspaper coming at you as you continuously try to meddle on human skin? Instead, it seems the fly’s pointless flight should inspire you to examine your own, presumably pointless, existence. (Hell, reading the “Fly” wikipedia page is more enlightening than this game’s sorry ascent.) Moreover, moving up and up begs comparisons to last year’s Castles in the Sky, a flawed game but far more fascinating than the nonsense of The Plan.
The game’s other idea seems novel at first, but it’s even more pointless than the ascent: at the end of the game, you’re prompted to type something. Anything. So I typed “What’s the point?” The game then showed me a screen of stars. As I hovered over the stars with my mouse, I got to read the messages other players had typed upon finishing The Plan. The majority of the responses amounted to quotes like the following:
“[insert player’s first name]”
Why would anyone want to read this? And why limit me to only a few dozen stars? (And yes, I did look for the words that I typed — I suppose that points to the “Read our own garbage” routine that social media have helped foster.)
I don’t care what a well-meaning nihilist might claim: existence can have meaning, often through interaction with others. As such, I recommend playing Chris Johnson’s Moirai over The Plan. Like The Plan, Moirai prompts the player to type at the end, but Moirai’s usage of this idea reveals the consequences of language and violence. That is far more profound than anything you’ll experience or read in The Plan.