Chuck Palahniuk wrote that our survival rate drops to zero if you stretch a timeline far enough. Sluggish Morss: Ad Infinitum turns this concept into a fragmented yet strangely cohesive "concept album" set across inter-temporal space.
Typical of Jack King-Spooner's work, Ad Infinitum consists of horrified TV faces stuck in a tortuous loop, limping clay models, and photographs of metal work assembled to create megastructures. The soundtrack employs the tired screams of a woman playing underneath a pitch-black bass while a small percussive beat suggests rhythm.
It's all beautifully terrifying, but with touches of levity. I confess to finding the crayon-drawn dog sitting alone in a cramped corner comparing opinions to arseholes amusing.
Ad Infinitum has you following three interchangeable beings across space, millennia into the future. Humanity has managed to colonize planets on the fringes of the universe with the aid of vessels like the time-perambulator, Sluggish Morss, which is a vessel that can travel faster-than-light.
There are hints of Iain M. Banks' post-scarcity society, The Culture, throughout the game, meshing with humanist concerns and epistemological musings. This becomes apparent when you take on the role of recently graduated pilot, Fritnid, and your mentor reminds you that possessions are nil, and "reality is obtained only by someone who is detached."
This disapproval of material ownership appears in the golden coins that occasionally dot your path—as seen in so many other games—a pointless economy only good for pointing the way. Similarly, the game mocks the harmful values of advertisements: there are rambling drone-voices touting "limited editions," and gruesome endorsements of eye-worms and pleasurable deaths.
As Fritnid leaves her homeworld of Huskus to travel across the galaxy on the Sluggish Morss, the true tragedy of the game begins to sink in. The trip that Fritnid embarks on, which many others in her world have undertaken, leaves the journeyer with intense regret. This is the result of ending up in a different universe and losing sense of time after travelling faster-than-light. Learning new axioms corrupts perceptions of reality and causes the shortness of life to bite back.
What was previously understood by humanity, by us, as progressive (space exploration), has instead become destructive.
"Those who make the worse use of their time are first to complain of its brevity," one sad ghost fellow reminds us.
Seconds later, a celestial being calls an operator for an ashtray and a TV—the tools of the trade for couch potatoes—and then openly regrets not getting "that tattoo."
The game ends on a chilling note: "Is that for what you strive?"
Ad Infinitum is a journey beyond the relativistic universe where time and space are meaningless. What was previously understood by humanity, by us, as progressive (space exploration), has instead become destructive.
Like all good sci-fi, it's a warning: What's the worth of our trivial pursuits? What do we do with our lives? And what should we place value in? It turns out that your mortality doesn't care for that new fridge you've been saving up for.
Sluggish Morss: Ad Infinitum can be purchased here.