PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


'Continue?9876543210': Your Heart Is a Filing System

If you understand why RAM is kind of a reasonable metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence, this is a game that is built for you, both poet and tech geek that you might be.


Publisher: Jason Oda
Rated: N/A
Players: 1
Price: $9.99
Platforms: PC
Developer: Jason Oda
Release Date: 2014-01-03

Your heart is a filing system, filled up as it is with memories.

Memory is the central focus of Jason Oda's awkwardly titled, Continue?9876543210, concerned as it is with death and using random access memory as a metaphor for the transitory nature of existence. Indeed, if you understand why RAM is kind of a reasonable metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence, this is a game that is built for you, both poet and tech geek that you might be.

The premise of Oda's game is that the player will be taking on the role of one of several video game characters (and one is randomly assigned to you during each playthrough) that has just been killed in a video game. Video game characters are, of course, disposable commodities, given that their often brief existences merely represent a slight advance in progress of a player and a temporary setback -- that is until someone decides whether or not to respond to that nearly universal of video game questions: “Continue?”

The title of the game determines the player's decision as does the opening sequence of the game, which features the dying character falling to the ground before the question, “Continue?” appears on the screen followed by the ten second timer that will determine that characters fate. The timer ticks down to zero, signaling the end of someone's game but the beginning of Oda's game, which is a meditation on what happens after a characters death, what happens to that character before he or she is swept away by random access memory.

Thus, the player of Continue?9876543210 is taking on the role of a character fully aware of his or her own mortality, who is desperately attempting to hang on to life before it slips away.

What follows is composed of fairly minimal rules and gameplay that dominantly focuses on creating a mood to ponder the transitory nature of existence more broadly. Any given protagonist in Continue?9876543210 will concern his- or herself with the quest to escape the “Garbage Collector” that will wipe out any memory of him or her, but he or she will also spend a fair amount of time wistfully reconsidering their own memories of their own existence.

As such, the game is a meditation on the tenuousness of mortality itself, somewhat reminiscent of the desperation of the short-lived androids of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, a desperation that in that film also exists to mimic and remind its audience of the frailty of human existence and the sorrow of the loss of memory -- that which comprises the unique perspective of a conscious being.

The game achieves a kind of admirable thoughtfulness through its slow pacing and somber tone, and playing it is at once fascinating and surprisingly peaceful. However, as a result of the very things that generate its almost zen-like meditative mood, this is not going to be a game for everyone. There is no main menu. The game always starts with the ten second countdown timer and the same lingering sequences that represent the player's death. Frequent and familiar cutscenes will likewise reappear and skipping over them is impossible. Oda recognizes that this would break the tone of the game, ruining what he is trying to accomplish, but players accustomed to convenience and speed in games are going to want to tear their hair out over the inability to jump into the next game or the next level of the game.

And the game itself is hard, making multiple playthroughs necessary to ultimately beat it. It is a game whose rules are initially obscured from the player, so some trial and error is necessary to figure out what to do on any given level, but even once the system that underlies Continue?9876543210 becomes clear, it also becomes clear that the game is unrelenting in its challenge, one or two bad mistakes will cost you the whole game, and games are long, due to the pacing and repetitiveness of its sequences.

Combat itself is simple. You can move using the WASD keys, and you can slash with a sword with a single button press. The real complexity of the system concerns how the player character must explore several unique environments, chat with the NPCs there, gathering information until he or she can earn “Lightning” or “Prayer.” Lightning is necessary to exit a level as each level has several exits that are blocked until those blockages are exploded by lightning. Prayer is used to generate buildings in an environment called your “Sanctuary” that appears every third level in the game. In the Sanctuary stages, the player has to hide out in those buildings from a storm generated by the computer memory that he or she is located in. If you have not created enough buildings to weather the storm, you will die -- this time permanently. There are no continues after this permadeath -- except, of course when you are returned to the title screen to repeat the whole process once again.

All in all, this is very simply one of those games that you are going to love or going to hate. You are going to either find its mood and tone, as well as the themes being played with through the entire approach that Oda takes to its subject matter, engaging and interesting, or you are going to be completely put off by the slow pacing, repetitiveness, and possible pretension of the whole experiment. I find myself in the former camp, rather than the latter. In my estimation, the game is good and treats its subject matter with a quiet dignity that makes constant playthroughs intriguing and challenging. However, I just have to give fair warning to you that this is very simply not a game that just everyone is going to jump into and enjoy. Its audience is narrow, but those who are interested in games that seek to provide a less than common experience are likely going to find something slightly rapturous in the experience of Continue?9876543210.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.