Today I begun, and finished, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture on PlayStation 4 that I’ve had sat on my account since it was “given away” via PlayStation Plus, I’m not normally one for these so-called “Walking Simulators” (I much prefer to lump them in with the interactive/visual novel genre but understand some keep the two seperate due to the stylistic and content differences). I really found Proteus to be utterly pointless, didnt finish Dear Esther and whilst I finished Gone Home I barely remember what happened but remember feeling rather underwhelmed by it. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, however, was different. I found it to be enthralling and I genuinely wanted to know what happened to the citizenry of the fictional Shropshire village of Yaughnton.
However it was Yaughnton itself that I became the most fascinated by. A read on the games Wikipedia page leads me to learn that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is set in 1984 which is the year I was born plus its Shropshire setting places it in the Midlands (albeit West Midlands to my East Midlands so opposite sides of the country really), but as I explored the little village flashbacks of my youth would come back to me. I’ve seen people liken the plot delivery to the radio play The Archers, but having never listened to that I begun to get flashbacks of sitting in the living room on the cottage suite doodling in notepads as my Dad watched Emmerdale (or on a Sunday evening Heartbeat), now admittedly the location of Yaughnton is actually in a similar region to that of The Archers’ Borsetshire but I think it was just the soap like nature of the relationships, with everyone knowing everybody elses business and bits and pieces of gossip that brought to mind the TV shows that were a household watch when I was younger (and we only had 4 channels etc).
That was just the beginning of the nostalgia wave I was subjected to (and which has enabled Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture to leave a mark on me) as other rather minor things came flooding back to me. The most prominent (and a big visual feature of the game) were all of the fields, and this brings up two factors from my childhood, both with harvested fields as a feature. I’ll go with the minor one first and that was the rolled bales of hay which brought back memories of the long drives to Mablethorpe where we would usually spend our summer holidays (partly as one of my Aunties lived there so we would go and visit her) which also tied into the beer gardens at the The Stars at Night. It was this location (a sign inside stating “Todays Ale 50p” was the first sign that this wasn’t a modern setting!) that brought back memories of Panda Pops and Quarter Backs during the summer (I actually found some Quarter Backs in Farmfoods recently, they definetly didn’t taste like I remembered, although that didn’t stop me demolishing them). Even the sounds of the jet planes flying over the village to drop the gas bombs reminded me of seeing RAF Tornado’s flying over The Wash as I walked along Mablethorpe beach. Back to the fields though and this time it was the remaining stalks that reminded me of riding my BMX (not a Raliegh Burner like the ones in the game, although my older brother had one of those) through such fields (and bluebell filled woods, again another visual nostalgia injection) during anytime that I weren’t at school regardless of weather, during the summer holidays my friends and I would travel for miles and I have distinct memories of having to hide in unharvest fields on a few occassions after seeing the farmers tractor driving towards us (I’m convinced he fired a rifle or some other gun on occassion too).
The cars too tied into my childhood, despite spending most of my Youth in the 90s my Dad could only ever afford much older cars (he was running an old X-reg Chevette for years, getting parts and panels from other scrapped models, including one he kept in the car park behind our house that he used as a donor for external body parts, I think he even swapped the two cars’ engine blocks over at one point too) and whilst there isn’t anything resembling a Chevette in the game he did have a Montego Estate which some of the cars resemble (even down to their interior) whilst the vans are quite clearly old model Transit vans.
This is all probably normal for most kids that grew up around that particular era, however there was one incredibly odd and rather distinct memory that came flooding back to me. I randomly looked through the window of one of the sheds in one of the many gardens in Yaughton and the rather distinct smell of the old brick shed that was in the garden of the house we had just moved into at the end of 1997 filled my nostrils. It was a damp mixutre of rotten wood and dirty oil that filled my nostrils as I used my shoulder to force open the brittle wooden door with its stiff hinges as I looked around the place for the first time. It was a smell that I’d long since forgotten and have never really smelled anything close to it since moving out of my Dads home some time in 2001 or 2002 but even so, as I looked through that computer generated window, into a shed that the developers had “locked” the door to, I was taken back to being 14 and being both fascinated and disgusted by the scent that filled my nostrils, and, wierdly, its that moment (strengthened by the other stabs of nostalgia) that have left more of an impression on me than the rest of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.