Talma, approaching the end of her days, keeps a comfortable farm on the village outskirts. One by one, her family have left for the bustling city, leaving her to tend to the homestead by herself. Released on PC earlier this year, Memory of God’s The Stillness of the Wind emphasises the despondent isolation that comes with old age. As Talma, you spend your twilight years raising chickens, growing crops and bartering with the travelling merchant that visits every day—who brings letters from your family.
Being an elderly woman, Talma isn’t the swiftest person. Her movement is slow, cumbersome, and exacerbating with every passing moment. Watering crops, making food and collecting water are long jobs, meaning you must choose which tasks to perform each day. There’s never a point where you can set out to complete everything on your to-do list. As winter dawns, the days get shorter. Suddenly, you can’t milk the goats, trade with the merchant and make that lengthy haul to the well before sundown. You get smarter, more efficient at prioritising some errands over others. This comes with the increasingly harsher weather, where the sunny vistas of summer disappear, replaced by roaring thunderstorms and dark fog. The wolves that live in the valley get hungrier, forcing you to protect your livestock from their clutches.
After my tenth day in The Stillness of the Wind, it quickly hit me that this was no ordinary farming simulator. In fact, it barely resembles the likes of Stardew Valley or Story of Seasons. There’s no cute harvest festival to attend or friendly roster of villagers to chat with. This is a tale of brutal survival against the natural world. Talma’s family are gone, and they make it clear in the letters that there’s nothing left for them but nostalgia and melancholy. Talma instead contends with her own existence, where old age, hostile wildlife and harsh weather are her only companions.
I like to think video games are the best medium to tell emotional stories, as the layer of interactivity and player input combined with a good story can allow people to be immersed in ways other modes of entertainment can’t achieve. Everything from performing Talma’s daily tasks to reading her family’s letters sparks emotion, to where you can feel a connection with the character as she struggles with the loneliness of managing the homestead.
As the days get shorter and weather is harsher, it became clear this approaching winter was a sign of the end—a metaphorical backdrop for the turmoil that comes with old age and eventual death that occupies Talma’s mind. Alone, hungry and sick, her fight is an uphill battle against the natural world. It’s an existential dread that is only achieved by allowing the player to become immersed with the character and the situation, and whether that means shooting invasive wolves or trading possessions for food, it’s up to her—and you, the player—to not go gentle into that good night.