I didn’t know what to expect when I downloaded Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, a PS4 exclusive title developed by The Chinese Room. The game is atypical in that it’s more of a walking simulator than anything, straying from the formulaic path and pattern most puzzle games or first-person shooters tend to follow. While guiding the unseen protagonist through a desolate town, the experience set fire to something deep within the core of me. Whenever the sunlight changed position in the sky—an incredibly fast occurrence, as if the sun was being thrown from one end of the sky to the other by giants—I stood in absolute awe. This magical experience reawakened my spiritual side and stirred up old memories I’d nearly forgotten about.
When I was younger, maybe about fourteen or fifteen, I attended a religious retreat. Between the “real” photographs of the Virgin Mary being passed around and the tiny vials of holy water that were given to us as gifts, the retreat seemed strange and cult-like on the surface, something a surly teenager would have surely scoffed at. Unlike the rest of my peers, I loved every minute of it because I connected with a higher power. Mystified by the church’s high ceiling and calmed by the glossy rosary beads I held in my hands, I was at peace.
What triggered my spiritual awakening in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was the combination of the choir-like music and stunning visuals. When the voices of the phantom choir swelled, I was transported to a different state of mind. At the beginning of the game, I explored a quaint church that sat atop the greenest hill I’d ever seen. Inside, the church was so small I could barely squeeze my character between the pews. I could almost smell the old wood through the television screen. It reminded me of an old church I saw when visiting Ireland’s countryside.
I remained in that virtual church for a long time and allowed myself to sit with the tranquil silence in that space. I watched the candlelight as it playfully danced on the walls. The candles would never burn out and turn into puddles of melted wax. It was an impenetrable place.
Rarely do I discuss my beliefs or relationship with a higher power because sometimes it clashes with the progressive, non-traditional community I involve myself with. Not to say the community will automatically shame me for my beliefs and spirituality, but it’s an inherent fear of mine and something I hope to change. The idea that religious people are “ass backwards” is still alive and well. Though some people use their religion to harm others, it’s unfair to generalize.
It’s important for me to foster a safe environment where we can discuss religion and explore the comfort that comes from various rituals and beliefs. I’m a relatively forward-thinking person in that I firmly believe in equal rights, positive portrayals of women, the dismantling of gender norms, and so on. I don’t always agree with organized religions, but I love the rituals that come from specific belief systems.
What I like best about Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is how isolated the world appears to be, but really isn’t. Though the “rapture” swept across the rural countryside, presumably taking life as it went, the people it touched were transformed and their lives continued in some way. The world may appear sparse at first because there are no physical bodies, but it’s very much alive.
Throughout the course of the game, the protagonist will frequently encounter spheres of light. The spheres remind me of spirits or fragments of a person. However, the spheres are bursting with life as they zip about and narrate their story to the player. They’ll even take on human forms and reenact emotionally charged scenes. I felt like a spirit ball myself as I looked on, an observer of the scenes I couldn’t take part in.
The theme of eternal life is at play here, and it’s a theme that aligns with my own beliefs and spirituality. I believe that life continues on after death and that the spirit is exceedingly stronger than the body. The characters may have lost possession of their physical bodies, but their minds and spirits are still alive and well.
Lastly, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a game that encourages the player be present in the moment. Life moves at a breakneck pace and, if one doesn’t slow down once in a while, it’s possible to miss the world and all of its gifts. Though I find peace in places of worship and comfort in rituals, I’m a firm believer in connections with nature and the people around us, and that life doesn’t cease at death.
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