February 7, 2023

I find myself alone. I’m the only person left in the tree house right now. I think it’s the first time this has happened. It’s interesting to think that I could try to wipe the website, delete loads of articles, do something to burn my job down. I don’t really want to, but the coiled potential to do it exists, because I’m not supervised. There is not another member of staff between me and all of you. The large filter has been removed. Any typos are intentional. How you doing?

This gives me a great opportunity, because I kind of have the last word on RPS this year. Lots of posts to come (if we count the advent calendar posts that have already gone, we’ve got 50-ish pieces of hashtag hashtag content for the season this year, which I think is the most I’ve had to plan for a Christmas break yet), but almost everything after this point is a planned post, made of time travel words written days or weeks ago. I’m live and uncensored, baby. I’m going to start Among Trees. Let’s go and be alone together. But don’t worry, I take my responsibility seriously, so I’ll make sure the last word is a joke.

It’s been a weird old year for me. I moved to a new country and it’s a nice place to live, but I don’t have many friends here yet. I feel increasingly isolated from work and games and people in general, even though I deal with more and more people online every day. Sometimes it makes me sad, but sometimes I want to be alone even more. I like to be alone. There’s no pressure to be someone else when you’re alone, you know what I mean?

Among Trees has been in early access for a while now. It’s a survival game about living in a small hut in the forest, searching for mushrooms and branches and finally building more parts of your house. I haven’t played it in a while, and the first thing I noticed today is that it starts with a Byron quote, which I’m pretty sure it didn’t before.

There’s fun in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is a society where no one intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I don’t love people less, I love nature more

A shot of Reed Lake in Among Trees early in the morning

Unfortunately I fucking hate Byron. I suppose if you want to start your game with a quote from the most famous poet to ever fuck his sister, that’s the way to go. Among Trees always reminds me more of the WB Yeats poem The Stolen Child. The world is more full of crying than you can comprehend. It’s tempting, isn’t it, to leave the world behind and put enough distance between you and her that you can’t hear the crying anymore.

I wouldn’t really like to live in an unheated pine cabin in the woods because I get very tied up and I don’t like mushrooms. Having to walk around every day to find mushrooms to eat wouldn’t be ideal. But I like doing it in Among Trees. Two years of early access has added more berries and a little notebook where you outline key locations you’ll encounter. Turns out they have names! What I thought of as “Big Pond To Right-Ish Of My Front Door” is actually called Reed Lake. I think there’s more fog in the air now. I think there are more animals. I don’t recall seeing rabbit ears in the distance as I walked to Right-Ish Pond in the morning, or ducks. Maybe I did, and forgot because it’s been a while since I was here.

The notebook in Among Trees with some key locations outlined - a waterfall and a lake

When I was younger, my parents were very annoyed with me because I didn’t like walking (I grew up in the countryside, where walking was one of the main forms of entertainment). There was talk about the risks of not going for a walk with my parents. The thing is, I don’t like going for a walk with anyone. They will insist on having a conversation when I would like to focus on not concentrating. I don’t feel like I can breathe loudly when I walk with someone. I can’t tell if I’m going too fast or too slow. I can’t stop and stare at things for an unsettling amount of time. I can’t jump around or hide behind a tree and imagine I’m a spy, or an elf on a quest through a forest. Of course I still do all these things. But only when I’m alone. And in Among Trees, you’re alone and can jump up and down the river bank while looking for driftwood, and no one can see it.

By the end of this year I made new friends, started talking to new people – still online, but it’s good. No person is an island, but they can actually be like trees, because a tree is alone, but many trees together form a forest, and forests are connected in a vast, invisible underground network of roots and fungi. They communicate, sort and share nutrients. Now let’s go, you and me, and eat Walnut Whips and chips and watch the movies we watched when we were kids, and cry, ’cause the world’s crying won’t stop if you can’t hear it. I forgot there were hostile animals in Among Trees.

A bear that attacks the player in Among Trees

The player lies dying on the ground, attacked by a bear, in Among Trees

Exit, chased by a bear.

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