A short game with a long history
“In my country, history itself is edible.
Time masticated into tales,
people digested into stories.
Places leak mineral flavor.
Buildings are grated and ground.
Domes flattened into rotis, Blood boiled into dal.
The very earth on which we once grew,
is reabsorbed into the metabolism
of a nation that has decided to consume itself,
like an ouroboros.
A glorious violent meal.
A spectacular event.
A prelude to excreting people
who have been leached of all flavor and all difference.
The ideal members of a new state.
Excrement of the old.”
– Mir UmarHassan 1960 (Translated 1983).
Losing one’s home to a violent event like a fire or flood is heartbreaking; losing the home of your people — the place generations were born into, raised family, developed and maintained unique customs, culture, languages, and food, and the final resting grounds for those that came before is a devastating, immeasurable loss for all of humanity. It’s this overwhelming loss that the fabled Gujarati poet Mir UmarHassan experienced and expressed in poetry, depicting the splitting of Bombay, India into Gujarat and Maharashtra, the town of Matsyapura a casualty in the process.
By government decree, Matsyapura was to be abandoned in an effort to draw cleaner political boundaries, the town consumed and its people excreted without care or consideration for the inhabitants and the rich history they’d created over centuries. With the continued controversy surrounding the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Studio Oleomingus felt the urgency to revisit Mir UmarHassan’s poetry once more in an attempt to “ponder the violence of erasure and the profound grief of having to survive on the margins of history.” The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place emerged from these efforts, a poignant, gut-wrenching experience that carries the heavy burden of untold lifetimes lived within 15 undeniably sad minutes.
It’s common among gamers to say that video games can be art; how often do we say that art can be video games? The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place is certainly the latter, an experience displayed as an installation at Phoenix, Leicester and at the Video Game Art Gallery in Chicago. In this sense, it feels inadequate to critique the experience on mechanics, whether or not the gameplay was fun, if it felt tedious, etc. The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place is meant to convey a specific message: a snapshot of a point in time through the broken heart of a man processing the loss of an entire culture — his culture. The grief of hardly recognizing places once well-traveled, the guilt of participating in the erasure to fill one’s belly, the frustration of feeling close enough to remember something important only to lose it forever. This is not a game meant to be judged like video games, rather art and its ability to make us feel what this man felt 60 years ago.
As I sit here collecting my thoughts and researching the events that inspired The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place, I can’t help but feel an immense sadness trying to visualize the travesty of losing a rich and wonderfully unique pocket of culture that only existed in this place. To participate in the destruction of your cultural identity because you must put food on your table. The indescribable toll taken on the very soul of those who experienced this. How horribly sad; how beautifully expressed in this medium. Make no mistake, this is art in video game form — come into it with the same expectations you might have walking into a gallery, and you’ll walk away with a new perspective and emotions you’ll be sifting through for much longer than the game’s runtime.
Mir UmarHassan’s heartbreaking words are so eloquently expressed in The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place, and I applaud Studio Oleomingus for their outstanding achievement in ludonarrative harmony. While this experience may be lost on those seeking a typical video game and only looking skin deep into its subject matter, The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place urges players to do their research on the tragic events that inspired the game, begging them not to turn a blind eye to these tragedies. This game may not excite just anyone, but its message is for everyone; The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place’s only cost is 15 minutes of your time.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Irregular Corporation; Developer: Studio Oleomingus; Players: 1; Released: February 27, 2020; MSRP: FREE
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of The Indifferent Wonder of an Edible Place available for free.