Infinite Children might be the strangest thing I’ve experienced in recent memory. This bizarre narrative adventure game tasks players with extending the life of Theo, an 8-year old child, with the assistance of a futuristic pharmaceutical company. The path to that goal involves talking space dragons, floating castles, abstract voids, among other oddities. Perhaps the only aspect weirder is Infinite Children’s unorthodox release; a launch I unexpectedly played a pivotal role in.
The game, described as a science fiction audiobook, is the brainchild of designer Peter Brinson. While attempting to increase Theo’s life span, players go through a series of first-person narrative puzzles segments. Describing these levels as “dreamlike” feels like an understatement. You’ll travel down theater aisles floating in space, occupied by robe-wearing dragons making snarky comments. Other times you fly through cosmic tunnels filled with drifting doors and energy beams. Some segments are on-rails, others are controlled directly. Regardless, Infinite Children almost feels hallucinogenic in its trippiness.
Though actions largely involve simply moving forward and looking around, determining what actually needs to be done to progress isn’t always clear. Some segments are straightforward such as leading an avatar of Theo down a straight path to a castle. Conversely, I traveled a spiral pathway littered with lock symbols that I wasn’t sure if I should collect or avoid. I didn’t know how I made most of my progress and usually shrugged and thought “sure, I guess” whenever the story advanced in a manner that felt correct.
As the game progress Theo’s life quickly balloons to the point of being hundreds of years old. Audio recordings of an adult Theo, as well has his future daughter Mia, paint the multi-generational narrative with out-of-context anecdotes. Far as I can tell the story deals with Theo having to reconcile with possessing a youthful body and unnaturally long life span. Mia, meanwhile, discusses her strange upbringing, such as having a father who looks as young as her despite being many times older. I’m admittedly not the greatest at interpreting abstract storytelling, but I suspect a fascinating, perhaps somewhat contrived, tale lies underneath the copious layers of weird.
Like Theo, Infinite Children as a whole spent most of its existence in a state of constant growth. Until recently it had a unique (and very meta) mechanic where the game’s overall length increased as players earned achievements. When Infinite Children first entered Steam in early May it lasted only a few minutes. Thanks to all of its players it clocked in over a half an hour by E3. This also meant that the story was unfinished; the longer the game got, the more the narrative revealed itself. Infinite Children needed 20,000 achievements to unlock the full game to the world. That’s where I came in.
Before I began Infinite Children, Brinson informed me that the game was on the cusp of earning the final achievements necessary to unlock the full experience. Specifically, that I could be the one to do it. Though a cool feat, it wasn’t a goal I made a point to aim for. Sure enough, though, by the time I wrapped up my demo an elated Brinson informed me I earned the required achievements. Because of me, the world could now play Infinite Children in its entirety. Brinson commemorated the big milestone with a photo (posted below), providing the final, surreal cherry on top of an already wacky experience.
Infinite Children is one strange bird. I’m not sure if I necessarily had fun with it more so than I felt perplexed and intrigued with everything I was witnessing. It felt like riding the world’s most confusing amusement park attraction.The design and storytelling feels hit and miss, and I wish certain spots had more clarity, but I definitely respect the experimentation. Plus, I can now say that I more or less helped launch a video game during E3. Anyone interested in giving Infinite Children a shot should be happy to know that the game is available for free on Steam. What it doesn’t ask for in price it demands in understanding, patience, and an open mind.
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Edited by Marcus Stewart