Review: ISLANDS: Non-Places

Have you ever suggested or thought to yourself “Hey, let’s spend a day at the airport and then go home again; that’ll be great!” or “Hey, let’s have a picnic in the parking lot; that’ll be great!” or “Hey, let’s spend a week in another country, but stay in the hotel lobby the entire time; that’ll be great!“? I must admit I haven’t, but maybe these places hide something you quite didn’t expect… and that’s what ISLANDS: Non-Places is about: it tells the story of all these “non-places”, but it’s a story between stories, told using only the words that fell through.

So, ISLANDS: Non-Places by Carl Burton is one of those “I use the game medium, so I’m a game” games. It’s a game just like Kazimir Malevich’s White On White is a painting. Now, it may sound like I’m mocking the game — or, for that matter, that elusive painting — but I’m really not; I loved it. It was a bit short, but such a great and nicely executed concept of showing us the beneath of all these places we ever only pass through on our way somewhere else. Fun fact: I saw White On White “live” once in my early twenties, and thought then that it took the idea of what can be called art a little too far, but recently I saw it again (although not live this time) and appreciated it more.

It’s a bit like going to a highly anticipated art exhibition and your friend suddenly stops and points at something really insignificant, like a set of stairs made out of raw concrete, well-maintained, but still it looks so lonely there, installed as it is in a less travelled back alley, and just “Isn’t that beautiful!?” and you scratch your head and “o-kay“. This game takes it a step further and I like that: seeing the beauty or adventure where you might least expect it is such a great gift (and, whoa, by the way, was that example highly specific or what!?). Another thought that just struck me is that these non-places are harbouring the somewhere else, secretly nurturing it.

Final thoughts: having an actual picnic in the parking lot might be taking it too far, but why not stop and look next time you pass by!? You might see something you quite didn’t expect… Or you could be on your phone the whole time, playing this game while waiting for your ride… that would be meta as fuck, wouldn’t it — or just really, really sad… šŸ˜‰

Game’s website