The Book Ritual is a unique title in which you talk with and destroy a physical book. The simplistic game is characterised by its use of an ‘alternative controller’. in this case a book and bin or shredder.
You are primarily interacting with a physical object. Destroying a book is just not something many people want to do. This art installation of a game forces you to confront why you feel that way. You’ll discuss loss, how loss has made you felt, and your emotional attachment to both people and objects. It’s a low-key but hard-hitting journey.
The Book Ritual recommends certain equipment, a book you’re okay with tossing and a USB connected shredder. A lot of players probably won’t have one, so a bin will work just as well. You choose a book, literally any book, and interact with it. This book is actually a human that has become trapped in the form of literature. It’s been there so long that it’s forgotten what’s its like to be human, so you have to help it remember how emotions feel.
Shred Your Friends
The Book Ritual needs you to perform some tasks to progress. These involve talking to the book, but also drawing in the book. Desecrating pages to have a conversation with the human inside, drawing pictures and giving it a face. While doing this you might feel some twang from having permanently ruined the physical object. It’s okay to have an attachment to books. A format you can feel happy to keep, organise and display. It’s the kind of attachment to a physical object that is culturally acceptable.
The game plays with this attachment. Within the drawing on pages you’re loosing whatever is written on them. By destroying what the book was, you create something you can interact with. Each play through will yield a differently destroyed book. There’s a lot of shredding. The book will be entirely ruined by the end of The Book Ritual. It’ll became some shreds of a souvenir of the experience.
In destroying the book to provoke a relationship with an actual human, the game raises feelings about attachment to the inanimate. Surely its better to have the attachment to a person than to a physical object? Well, the person is just a character in a game so it’s not quite as easy as that. The game doesn’t attack you for feeling this way towards a physical object, but it does make you think about why. Why do we associate objects with memories and then treat them as if they are embolic of our good memories? Why is physical media something we feel a sense of ownership over, a sense that prevents us from destroying it? The Book Ritual has no answers to these questions, it invites you to consider them.
A Heart to Spine Conversation
Outside of the destruction, The Book Ritual is a heart to heart conversation with someone who has forgotten what emotions feel like. They’ll ask penetrating questions about loosing someone in the past. Asking you to remember deaths, break ups, whenever you felt you’d lost something. Igniting analyse of that loss. It doesn’t equate the loss of the physical object with the emotional loss, but it uses the metaphor to provoke the player to actually experience their feelings. If you’ve lost a loved one or a relationship recently, this can get pretty raw at times. It’s not an unpleasant experience, it becomes cathartic.
The game elevates feeling normal emotions to the the end goal of conversing with the book. In doing so it legitimises then, making you feel like you’ve achieved something for recognising and accepting your own feelings. It’s special in this way. Despite destroying something physical that you didn’t want too, you’ve felt something from it.
The Book Ritual is one of the strangest games in a while. It’s the kind of game that can teach you about your feelings. It’s innovative and emotional. By elevating feelings of loss and destroying physical objects, it provides an almost therapeutic release for those feelings. The game raises more questions than it answers. It doesn’t aim to solve your feelings of loss, or make a point about physical objects and attachment. Instead it provokes you to look at these things yourself and to actually feel your emotions, to be honest with yourself about them.
An early build of The Book Ritual is currently available.
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