The Limits of Memory
 
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A cold white light bathes the basement in an eerie glow. The only sound is static, crackling through the silence. Discarded pizza boxes and energy drink cans litter the carpet, along with stains from sources that are better left to mystery. It is a calm scene that is suddenly broken by a whisper, and a giggle. Tiny footsteps creep down the stairs, muffled by decades-old carpet and weeks-old socks. Two lone figures fumble in the dark to find their place, their groove in front of the cold static emanating from the television. With the crack of a jewel case, the spring of a console eject button, and the whirring of a disc starting to spin, the two are ready for adventure.

Suddenly, a loud electronic noise threatens their very clandestine mission. "SONY COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT" springs into life and echoes through the small basement. The pair fumble and paw for the remote, tossing pillows and pizza boxes aside to rescue them from this blight. The sandy-haired, freckled one of the duo leaps into action and reaches for the TV itself. The volume reaches an almost imperceptible level. They both fall silent, holding their breaths, looking upward at the slumbering house. Silence. They breathe a sigh of relief. The sleepover can continue, but not with sleep. Instead, they surge forward into what the game simply calls, "Planet". A ragtag group of fighters seeking answers against an evil corporation. The two look at each other and grin, they have all summer to see their quest through, and oh so many memory blocks to track it.


 
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Our duo grows older and in that time have created and explored countless worlds. Together they have conquered the odds. Until one day a family moves. All that is left are the memories, in block form: A character named after them, or a moment of triumph over evil pressed between the pages of a game, preserved until the card corrupts.

And so new memories are made and are bought. These memories fill hard drives. Megabytes, then gigabytes of data to represent friendships made and love lost. The remaining half of the duo strike out on their own, wondering how so much could be contained in so little.


It is a Friday night, and a hero faces new foes like they have never seen before. They have a world that stretches out before them, almost offering endless possibilities. The snow crunches underneath their boots as they enter the grand gates of a place called "Ironforge". This world has so much possibility not only thanks to the adventures promised and the lands to explore, but because they face this new world with a new friend. Their new partner in crime has left them alone in the world most of us live in, but now they find each other in this place called "Azeroth".

 
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The sound of battle, the ding of the auction house, and their voice over a crappy headset become their new normal. It works for a time. They grow stronger together and meet new friends. They form a ragtag group of fighters to take down threats that dwarf their, well, their dwarves. Small fights over loot, over dungeon tactics, and over their time difference become their new normal. These aren't the fights that matter though. They simply reflect the words they aren't saying to each other in the world they have both forgotten.

It is another Friday night, and a hero clicks through to the familiar hustle and bustle of a capital city. Purple text begins to enter their field of vision though. A sentence or two at first. Then a paragraph. They look down and read,

"There are limits to this world. To our world. We can't keep hiding our love away. I'm sorry, I can't do this anymore."

Their screen suddenly blurs, and tears fall heavy in the place they tried so hard to ignore. The room is silent and the only light is from a cold computer monitor. Every other light has gone out.


 
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Formatted and reformatted. Uploaded to the cloud, and downloaded to a spare hard drive. Save files move between computers and consoles as time passes, some not making the trip. Instead, sometimes all that remains is not the physical memories but the faded photograph barely held together in the mind. 

When everyone else leaves, the saved games become the new normal. A hero hiding in bed, face barely lit by a handheld, as they dive deeper and deeper into a new world. This small screen is a portal to something they so desperately want. Even as the sun begins to rise, they do not sleep, and instead, find new friends in dungeons. Or in cities. Or on the road. No matter where they originate though, they will never leave them. At least until the small device in their hands is lost to time.

There are limits to these memories though. Like a Polaroid, they are two-dimensional and lack depth. At a glance, they can bring back what was once lost. But they can't make it real.


 
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Stories made in the confines of someone else's framework. A potential lover transported to the simulation, a dear friend becomes a teammate against an alien threat, a spiky haired protagonist gets a dumb name that lives on through physical memory. All of these are real memories to the now older freckled face, but they exist in a weird mixture of the ephemeral and the data trapped in physical media.

This mixture of formats becomes their new normal. Compatriots that only exist through their words and digital avatars are still friends. A warning buzzer goes off in their mind as some adult tells them not to meet strangers from the internet, but they swat it away. 

It is an early frigid morning at a Greyhound station. The sky is grey, the ground is grey, and their breakfast is also sadly kind of grey. Beeps and boops emanate from beside them as their ancient portal to new worlds bursts into life, still surviving to this day. They scan the empty terminal and wonder when.

Minutes turn into hours and now the snow is coming down hard outside. A curse escapes their lips as their beep boop gives its last and a charger is nowhere to be found. Then the silence of the terminal is broken by the wind howling in and a snow-covered individual shakes a small avalanche of snow off themselves. After much patting and wiping they look up and eyes meet. 

It couldn't be... could it?


 
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A cardboard box, labeled "OLD GAMES" is dug up. Tape is ripped and soon a treasure trove of memories is discovered. Old game cases, computer boxes containing manuals that are small novels on their own, and a console that might still just work. A smile spreads across a freckled face, and the sandy hair bounces down the stairs, a new prize in hand.

"Hey! Remember this? I wonder if it still works."

Many minutes later after fumbling with cords, adapters, and convincing a cat that this new member of the household wouldn't eat them, a familiar sound fills the room. It actually doesn't just fill the room, it once again blasts its arrival and sends the duo scrambling for the remote. Pillows fly, books are tossed, and a cat looks on worried. This time though, a pink-haired grin comes to the rescue and races for the TV itself.

"Did you know they call this place Gaia now?"

"Well, you changed your name too."

"And you changed your hair."

A save is loaded and our hero "BUTTFACE" takes his place on screen.

"I forgot you named him that."

"It's still hilarious."

The duo settles in, while a cat watches the screen intently. Pink hair and freckled smile intertwine, making a new memory from an old one. While some memories fade, and some only exist to be trapped in amber and examined, others can be changed and brought back into the light. We might not always remember where we left off, but we can always continue forward.

Growing up in a small town, going to school for graphic and web design and finally moving to Toronto, Colin began to look for a new project and landed on Third Person. He has always had a passion for video games and finally decided to do something about it. Inspired by websites like Giant Bomb, Polygon, and Waypoint, Colin has founded Third Person with the intent of covering games using a mix of the old and the new.

Colin loves to dive into RPGs of all kinds, exploring their worlds and developing his character. Well-crafted stories draw him in too, and he is always on the lookout for a new adventure.

When he's not spending a billion years in a game's character creator, he can be found behind his camera, reading comic books or probably sleeping.

Some of his favorite games: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, Alpha Protocol, Mass Effect, Overwatch, Life is Strange, Persona 4