The Let's Play Archive

Blackout

by SimonChris

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Original Thread: No trolls, star wars or shootouts here. Let's Play Blackout.

If you liked this LP, you might also like Persona 3 by Schildkrote, Banjo-Tooie by Rooreelooo and No More Heroes by Chip Cheezum

Introduction

Blackout is a classic surreal noir adventure game, which was published in 1997 to widespread critical acclaim and is considered a milestone of interactive storytelling.

The reason you have never heard of it, is that it was only published in Scandinavia, is entirely in Danish, and disappeared off the face of the earth soon afterwards.

I have managed to track down a copy at a used book sale and will be translating the game to English, so the rest of you can finally see what you missed.

Let's take a look at the box:



You probably didn't understand a word of that, so here is a translation:

Blackout box posted:

Escape your fate – if you can.
Blackout.
Novel and CD-Rom.

Whenever you see some incomprehensible gibberish, simply scroll down for a translation.

What makes Blackout so special? Why not let the back of the box explain:



Blackout box posted:

Black Out.
Escape your fate – if you can!!!
Black Out is the game that will challenge your sanity and explore you subconsciousness.
At the start of the game you have no idea who you are. Slowly you get to know the Black Out city and through that yourself. Through conversations with people and experiences of deja vu, you soon realize that your soul carries dark secrets. Your fate is determined, unless you do something – quickly!
In addition to the unique concept of the game. Black Out plays out in a revolutionary environment. A scale model of the entire city has been constructed, with houses, streetlamps, waterfront district and last but not least, animated dolls.
By communicating with the 60 different characters in more than 30 realistic environments you will achieve a game feeling the like of which you have never before experienced. Because your actions control the game and the preconditions are constantly changing, you will discover new dimensions every time you play Black Out.
An insanely exciting game.
Literally...

In case you thought they were kidding about the model city, here are some pictures:















As the box mentions, the game is accompanied by a novel. Let's take a look:





Blackout posted:

Produced by Deadline Multimedia.

Co-produced by:
Media Investment Club.

With support from:
Stephan Bisse
The Ministry of Culture
The Culture Fond

Published by BMG/IQ Media

Executive Producer: Chris Mottes



Blackout posted:

Foreword
For far too long entertainment on computers has been reserved for gamers, 13 year old kids and computer nerds, and for far too long the "interactive kick" has been based on trolls, star wars and shootouts.
It was with this in mind that I nearly two years ago contacted novelist Michael Valeur and encouraged him to develop a script that would work more with emotions than with adrenaline. Our experience with the medium was quite limited at the time, which forced us into fundamental discussions about the possibilities and impossibilities of the medium.
At first we were excited by the many opportunities and for six months we worked on a script, which was completely discarded. Precisely because the many opportunities made the experience too arbitrary and hence uninteresting. It was as if a guiding hand was missing – a meaning to everything.
The balance between control and free will is razor-sharp, and it took an additional year before the script finally came together, and we together with more than 50 creative people, could finally embark on the adventure that Black Out has been and has become.
Black Out is a mixture of traditions and innovation, and for that reason a novel accompanies the CD-ROM's. You can read the novel first, you can also read it last, you can experience them side-by-side, you can refrain from reading the novel or only read the novel – the choice is unconditionally yours.

Pretentious? Sure, but this isn't your average indie pixel-art game. Featuring a fully voice-acted cast of 60 nightmare-inducing stop-motion animated puppets, acting out a dark surreal noir story about insanity and existential angst, in a detailed scale model of a city that makes Dark City look like Pleasantville, built by 50 creative people, funded by the Danish Ministry of Culture, Blackout is so motherfucking ART it could make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.

As for the question posed by the final paragraph, this LP will be going with option C: Experiencing the game and the novel side-by-side. Throughout the LP, I will post excerpts from the novel, to supplement the videos. I will not be translating the entire thing, but you will get to read a few choice sections.

Without further ado, let's get started:



This was a relatively short update because I want to give the thread an opportunity to participate. Blackout has a lot of plot reactivity and actions can affect the plot in subtle ways. The game is also very open, letting us freely explore the four hub areas of the city right from the start. We can run straight to our doctor for help, or just enjoy ourselves partying at nightclubs and eating Chinese. I should mention that it's quite easy to skip a lot of content, if we simply run between plot triggers, but that's up to you. I'm planning to do a bonus playthrough, to show off some extra stuff, once the main one is done.

The game manual contains maps of the four hubs, with enterable locations marked by red arrows:

The Suburb (where we live):



The Waterfront District:



Uptown:



Downtown:



Where should we go next?

Also, Blackout is notable for tracking the actions and choices of the player in subtle ways. Since I can't pause the LP every time there is a minor choice, I would like to try something else: I would like for you to write a brief description of how you see the personality of our main character. I will do my best to mash together everybody's suggestions and act accordingly.

And now, the novel:



Blackout posted:

"Everything that matters leads a shadow life in angst."
Hanne Methling

No idea who Hanne Methling is. Googling the name leads to a Danish singer/songwriter, who seems way too cheerful to be the author of that quote. There are no hits at all for the quote itself.



Blackout posted:

January 20th
Dear Malene
Well, another six months have passed since the last time we saw each other, but I have had a lot of things on my mind – and it's definitely not because I don't want to... I actually stopped by one afternoon and rang the doorbell, but no one was home...So I left and thought about coming back later. But I didn't get around to it. Moving takes a lot out of you, and the six months before our departure have been spent scraping some cash together and making arrangements. I whored myself out editing weeklies and letter columns for the worst women's magazines on the market... Signe had a lot of connections at those places, so the jobs were easy enough to get... But it was, to say the least, not very exciting work. But here we are. The city is worn-down and unattractive, but it was maybe the right thing to do, even though I haven't really settled in and now I'm settled in... and I'm beginning to notice the small havens in the city.
I can't stop thinking about what Jesper would have said about living here. Every morning I think he is here, and
So here we are. Jacob is already working at full-steam. He now has a position at the psychiatric ward, which is the foundation of our economy right now... In addition, he is trying to build a network of private patients who need talk therapy. It looks like he is doing well, in this city he will have work to do for a long time, most people here have eyes like glass doors... One of them, who was here yesterday, kept screaming and grabbing his ear, where a microphone had been implanted, which told him to kill his children, “but just to spare them from seeing all the things they are going to see...” He kept arguing with the voice while he was talking to Jacob. But the worst thing is that the entire city feels the same way... As if every
:



Blackout posted:

inhabitant is balancing on a razor-sharp edge. He is already getting started and is using a few of the cases for his research project. In the beginning he had to visit them at their homes, and it sounded like they needed to be committed more than they needed therapy, but I think things are moving in the right direction. At least we have had a lot chain-smoking people with bloodshot eyes drinking our coffee.
We are staying in the nice part of town. There is a large plaza right outside the window. And as you can probably guess, Jacob has seized the best room for his office... The neighbors in our hallway are cautious, and the first thing they asked was “if we had children”, as if that would have been a disaster... But later she
But he deserves it. The rest of the apartment is starting to come together, after I had it painted – it's not like I lack for time... Jacob seems distant and is busy – he will probably work his way out of it... I have taken some odd jobs in a bar called “The Mask”, but it doesn't mean shit to me... And I'm still thinking about Jesper. It's like he is still everywhere. I miss him so terribly. I miss the old Jacob, I miss the way things used to be...
Well, I am going to stop here, I'm planning to go down to “The Mask” where I have a temp job and invite one of my colleagues for tea. A girl called Sandra I think you would like... “If you want new friends, invite them home for tea”...
I wish you were here. Take care.
Dearest regards from Kathe....

See you next time!

Note: The game is being remastered for tablets, with full English voice acting! See http://nordicgamebits.com/2015/06/1...ed-for-tablets/ for more information.

Videos






Playlist for the jukebox songs at https://open.spotify.com/user/11611...KNhb0ULSzXy7NN.

Here is a new excerpt from the novel, dealing with our doctor:



Blackout posted:

Controversial new hire at the psychiatric ward.
The psychiatric ward waves goodbye to an old controversy and welcomes a new employee.
With the hiring of Jacob Lütting, department O can finally close the book on the long controversy concerning the use of talk therapy in the treatment of borderline psychotic patients.
Jacob Lütting has done several years of research on the effects of the new drug Isamarc, which is used concurrently with talk therapy in the treatment of psychiatric patients. Isamarc is just as efficient as many of the existing psychotropic drugs, but the drug is much less sedating, even with long-term treatment. The results so far have been very promising, and the drug has surprisingly been applicable in the treatment of both bipolar and psychotic patients.
“For me, the question is not so much whether talk therapy should be used, but rather how to find the right tools to support the therapy,” says Jacob Lütting.
During his career, Jacob Lütting has focused on the interplay between external and internal disease. In his research, he has focused on reconstituting the mental balance of people who have suffered severe external trauma caused by war, torture or similar experiences. A large proportion of said patients had developed severe personality disorders, and they became the basis for the first tests of Isamarc.
“Isamarc made it possible to establish genuine



Blackout posted:

talk therapy with patients who had previously been impossible to reach, either because the psychosis prevented it, or because drug treatment dulled their minds too much.”
In spite of the positive research results, Dr. Lütting is hesitant to call it a breakthrough. He does go so far as to call the effects of the drug promising, considering the treatment of war veterans and similar cases.
Dr. Lütting intends to incorporate his experiences with Isamarc in his new work at Department O, where he will, concurrently with his research, participate in the day-to-day work at the psychiatric clinic. At the clinic, Dr. Lütting will be able to find patients who can participate in his Isamarc trials, and this will make it possible for him to test the drug on a larger group of patients. Even though the patients haven't been directly exposed to torture, they are still products of a society collectively marked by the war.
“My job at the clinic will be to follow the daily working procedures and in particular deal with the outpatients of the psychiatric clinic, who have long been given low priority, even though they have been one of the most busy fields of work.”
Jacob Lütting has already been working at the ward for about a week, and he will officially join the staff on February 1st.



In this episode, we learn the definition of Art, how to seduce a nurse, and what Judas was thinking before he took his own life.

As promised, the full translation of the poem from the library is posted below. The poem is also available in the game novel, so I've posted a screenshot of the page, to go along with the translation.



Blackout posted:

I drink razor-sharp images
My songs are dead birds
Withered and black in the snow
Like chains that fell in old rooms

I fly with the night wind
Lonely caressing abandoned walls
In houses with weary memories

Freedom is left behind in a pile
Along with yesterday's clothes
I don't know the name
Of what I am holding in my hands

Quivering like exploding flowers
Cascades of ecstatic space
Extended in an undulating nothingness

Pushing me away
Pushing me away

My pupils are dull webs
Above me, the shuffling steps of the moon
Its dull light as sleepless features
on the city's face

Bruised throughout the day
I stand up, wavering
While I piss away my life





http://www.gamestudies.org/0301/walther/

For this weeks reading assignment we have an academic article with a section about Blackout!

http://www.gamestudies.org/0301/walther/ posted:

If a game breaks the illusion – if it fails to indicate its unity through its difference from its other and itself – one is likely to be thrown back into play-mode. Consider, for instance, the Danish adventure game Blackout (1997) in which the user takes on the role of Gabriel who suffers from severe schizophrenia (he has no less than four split personalities) and anamneses. The plot within the game is both traditional, in that it carefully peals off layer after layer of hidden psychologies, and allegorical: the fact that our alter ego (Gabriel) is a schizophrenic can be read as a figural dissemination of what would be the starting point of most computer games: I am and am not the character I am playing. In a similar fashion, Gabriel's anamneses might be interpreted as a kind of meta-fiction that point towards a common game feeling. One has to complete the game in order to "remember" what happened. One must proceed to the end of the line to fully grasp the offspring of the line.

All of this is good, and it surely puts the game on the high side of current industrial tricks. But on one occasion, Blackout – perhaps inadvertently – cuts short the imperative illusion. In a particular scene we are asked by an old fortune-teller to "click" on a symbol on the screen. Abruptly, we are thrown back to square one, unintentionally recollecting the initial hocus-pocus – that we made a contract in order to play, and that we adapted and interacted with the structural complexity in order to game (in the active sense). Therefore, at this point there is a profound focus on play-mode. We are – to use Spencer-Brown’s expression – forced into making a “crossing operation.” The distinction is shattered, the unity is broken.

However, as it happens, rather than treating the represented game world as a detached object within the play environment (i.e. a screen instead of a game element), we can compete against the game. Blackout is organised as a complex series of interchangeable choices and levels of proactive interactions. While we think we are "reading" the machine (meaning its scripted actions), the machine is also "reading" the composition of our choices. But once we get the sense of this (to what extent do our interactions influence the path that the machine is directing us into?), we are able to "foresee" this action pattern and thus play “against” the machine – as if we were given the chance to re-design the map underneath the very landscape we interacted with. This is game-mode, then, and actually on a higher level. We are not just completing the game’s mission; we are also challenging the organisation that frames this mission.







The full translations of the texts in the book are posted below:

Journal entry posted:

I can hear you grinding your teeth, but your lungs are burned away!!!!
I see your hands reaching out, but they are robbed of the desire that could make them hold on to even the slightest shred of life!!
I am the bonfire in the night. A knife that cuts a hole in the sky. A tightrope walker seeing heaven to one side and hell to the other....
And I am staying on the line. And I stomp on your face. I look you straight in the eyes until you have to look away because your pupils melt.
Because your brain sizzles and you smell smoke.
What is louder than the crying of the children - the roar of the fire.
I burn life clean!!!! And eat your ashes!

Letter from mom posted:

Dear Gabriel
I was 27 years old before your father freed me from the miserable life I had been leading. Before he pulled me up.
I was notorious for being the most sadistic whore on the block.
I enjoyed seeing the men squirm.
They reminded me of where I should have kept my own father.... Beneath my heel. I never let your father go all the way either, unless I was dead drunk.
No one promised us that life would be easy. Pain is a fundamental feature. We are born with it, and we die with it.
- Mom

Letter from dad posted:

Gabriel
I worked patiently, formally and without being seen.
I was taught that children should be seen and not heard.
I was taught that if you won't listen, you must feel.
I patiently passed it on.
I think it was the only time I was really awake and could feel - it freed me from own pain every time I struck.
I think we lived the darkness of our intimate life through you.
In the beginning you thought it had to be like that, that the same things happened to the others when their parents dragged them down into the basement.
I ought to say that I was filled with remorse.
But life isn't like that, it is not a question of right and wrong - but merely of what is possible.
It was possible to use you.
It brought me nothing but pleasure.
Dad



The poetry collection that Kathe wanted is "Gypsy Ballads" by Federico García Lorca and is available at http://www.bpj.org/PDF/V02N1.pdf. The poem we read in the library is "The Faithless Wife", which starts at page 15.

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