Symposium: Norco, December 1, 2022

It’s hard not to put the point-and-click adventure game Norco (2022) in conversation with Kentucky Route Zero (2013). Both present their own takes on the surreal South, a location as much grounded in the poverty of the moment as it is in the slowly bankrupting of the future by glacial, often unwelcome technological forces eroding away at time and memory. Yet, perhaps, while KRZ (2013) presents a journey of grief into a mourning of light as a community rises above when they come together, the flesh of Norco (2022) is weaker still. The technology has reached too far, and escape is a matter of the best among the worst.

This month, we discuss Norco (2022). Some topics to ponder as we make our way through the swamp are:

  • It is unusual for a new point-and-click game to come out. Yet, much of the success of Norco (2022) is in delivering its slow, ponderous journey into the unknown and increasingly surreal. How much does the mechanics of clicking through a story implicate the player into the consequences of the character? With no ability to turn back, is the slow progress forward the only way, and does such a metaphor work as both mechanic and storytelling tool for this purpose?
  • Both Norco (2022) and Kentucky Route Zero (2013) consider the South as a surreal, at times beautiful, but ultimately damned place where the people struggle and hope is rare. How much does the setting play a role in Norco (2022)? Could this be told with the same affect somewhere else? Could another place have taken on the same thematic meaning as a place flooded, and which will be flooded again?
  • How much does the aesthetics of the game play into its metaphors of the wrapping of everyday life by digital technology? Information can seemingly be perfectly preserved, yet living memory is cloudy and many faces are swirls of colors or tangles of flesh. What does this say about the role of memory, both recorded and living?

We’re meeting at 8:30 pm ET / 7:30 pm CST / 5:30 pm PT for voice chat on Discord.

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