October 26, 2021

Xbox One X

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I spent Christmas in space

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WARNING: This piece contains spoilers for Tacoma.

I’ve never totally understood why Christmas is a time for ghost stories, but please don’t mistake my confusion for disapproval. I’m very, very happy to spike the schmaltz with something creepy. Which is why, between calculating volumes of red cabbage to braise and sloshing sloe gin on the wrapping, this last December I found myself playing Tacoma, 2017’s best ghost story.

Obviously, Tacoma’s ghosts are not actual ghosts – this is sci-fi, not some haunted house hokum. Instead, they’re augmented reality reconstructions of the commercial spacecraft’s vanished crew that you (as salvage-specialist Amy Ferrier) access on your way through the station, the game unspooling its story as you walk among these shades. The incidents seem to have been preserved at random, though that fiction is belied by satisfying arcs and telling details thanks to developer Fullbright’s writerly chops; you can rewind and replay each one, moving to different points in the environment to eavesdrop on different characters.

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