By Valeisha Jackson
A Space for the Unbound is a small game that gives you big feelings. Yes, it’s a game that touts the relationship between a teen boy and teen girl. But it also shows a rare glimpse of life in the hinterlands of Indonesia. When you add the feelings of woe like anxiety that I (and almost everyone) feel, it’s very compelling. As I indulged in the amazing pixel art environments on my PC, I felt like I was inside of an old retro game. But it’s more than nostalgia.
While playing the game, you take on the role of the character Atma, a really unique character humbly dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and a white, short-sleeved button down. Atma is the type of person to panic/over-stress about certain things because of worry. In his case, he stresses from some of the difficult things he witnesses in his town. That rang true for me, too, even though I live in New York City.
Overall, the plot of the game A Space for the Unbound delivers a compelling story that’s well-balanced. The early chapters focus on Atma exploring the town and getting to know people. The town, located in rural Indonesia, contains many shop stands, large open spaces with buildings that look old and rusty, and sometimes the town has a lot of people in a crowd speaking negatively to Atma about Raya, his high school love, after she went missing.
In a few cases, Atma has also gained the power to “space dive.” Space diving is the ability to go into people’s minds and help fix their problems through puzzles that the player completes. When Atma learned how to deal with this new ability, he “space dives” into different minds to activate small side quests, such as helping a musician get over their creative block. Finishing these tasks does not offer much gameplay benefits to progress the story, but they give insight into characters and the idea of empathy.
While playing Atma, he gains the ability to rift drive into another time in a location via a magic wand – and he can also talk to cats! I’ve constantly watched witch, wizards, and magic shows ever since I was eight years old. I even play any games I find that involve magic. I love the feeling of being able to have these seemingly magical abilities.
Perhaps most importantly, the game elegantly goes through the mental health feelings of isolation and loneliness as part of its wider mysteries. The story handles dealing with these emotions very properly and very respectfully. I say this because many people do not take mental health seriously or even believe that the symptoms are real. I am glad that this game has brought attention and shown more importance to how a mental health disorder can affect someone and how it can be overcome. I also believe that the superpowers gained as you proceed were made to represent the power of being able to have control of your reactions – in this case, anxiety and depression. After Atma and Raya developed new abilities, they both face the obstacles that come from their new powers and investigate the supernatural forces that threaten their existence.
Throughout A Space For The Unbound, I’ve felt a warmth of comfort playing because the story line shows the process of the obstacles and how long it took to overcome anxiety. I have really related to this game and felt the same about many different scenes since I have had trouble dealing with anxiety as well. It took me a while to gain control over my anxiousness just as Raya, Atma’s girlfriend, was able to receive that opportunity. Ultimately, this story-rich game is a cautionary tale about learning to live in the present, let go of the past, and be at peace with what’s is left unknown in the story line.
Valeisha Jackson is an NYVGCC intern who lives in the Bronx.