Season’s tale of a civilisation in the threat of being forgotten is a quiet one; it’s the depiction of a lonely archaeologist who seeks to preserve as much of modern culture as possible before an impending cataclysm wipes it all out.
When I think of apocalypses in video games, I might go to Fallout’s nuclear-ravaged wastelands or Naughty Dog’s zombie-riddled metropolises in The Last of Us. It’s never fully clear what the exact nature of Season’s worldwide disaster is, but it’s one of a much calmer temper. You’re not fighting mutants or escaping a blood-thirsty infection, you’re simply observing a world whose days have gone by.
You are The Protagonist, a nameless observer who sets out from her lonely village wishing to record and preserve cultural aspects of the world in her notebook so that future generations can understand more about it. This is achieved through drawing sketches, taking photographs and capturing audio on a tape recorder.
Season’s main setting, Tieng Valley, is a location full of memories and conflict. As you travel on your journey through this place, you happen across many different scenes of decay and change. And the game does not particularly care about what you choose to record, it’s up to you, the player, to decide what is worth recording in the notebook.
Tieng Valley is open for you to explore, and does all the right things the best open world games do. I spent a lot of my time there taking photographs. In my day-to-day life, I’m a visual person and enjoy taking photographs to remember later. My notebook is full of photographs and so was the one I took with me in the game.
But other players may enjoy recording audio, the gentle cries of Tieng Valley; probably the last sounds to be heard by anyone. Or they deck it out by picking up actual objects; a flower, a note, and storing that away safely. Season is all about respecting how you want to record history.
In its deepest form, Season features the most interesting type of conflict for a story in my opinion. On the surface, you’re witnessing a dying world that won’t be here for much longer. But getting beneath the surface, it’s also about the protagonist’s inner conflict, how they grapple with their understanding of the outside world, and what to do about preserving the memory of those lost within it.
Season also takes the time to address the problems of not preserving information. In the opening hour of the game, you meet a character who despairs about a broken dam that threatens to flood an entire valley. The character in question describes the problem as there being no-one left who knows how to repair the dam, and is instead choosing to voluntarily tear it down. The knowledge of how to fix it has been lost.
This also rings true for a lot of industries in our real world today. Due to various working conditions, such as low pay, toxic environments and lack of resources, we’re seeing many skilled workers leave specific careers and be unable to pass those skills on to the next generation.
Here in the UK, we’re having a crisis with our National Health Service, where poor conditions are leading to a drought of workers wanting to do the job. This creates more stress on the staff that still remain there, as well as providing a worse experience for patients. This is creating a vacuum of talent in the healthcare industry that is unsustainable in the long-run, and will lead to further cuts and privatisation of the service.
And in any industry, if this continues, eventually you’re going to hit a point where there is a huge knowledge gap. Senior workers are going to be leaving the jobs they used to love, and newer hires won’t have the mentorship to develop their skills further. In time, there will be practices and expertise that will cease to be.
And it’s part of that which makes Season’s apocalyptic setting so compelling. It doesn’t spend time pondering unlikely potential disasters, such as a comet impact or a nuclear holocaust. Instead we’re seeing authentic, slow ways our world is being washed away. As you progress through the story, you see more of the little ways this has affected each character.
Season is a reminder that memories of the past are all we’re left with, and it staples the importance of being able to carry over that knowledge into future generations. Because otherwise, we’re left with a culture that is doomed to repeat the same mistakes and won’t have the skills to work past it.
For our Season: A Letter to the Future review, a Steam code was supplied to GameByte by Honest PR.
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Featured Image Credit: Scavengers Studio