Killing Time at Lightspeed [Review]

Besides being a strong leader, a blue-eyed go-getter and by far the most optimistic of the Avengers, Captain America has the distinguishing quirk of being from a completely different time than the others. This provides for many light-hearted moments of him stumbling with the intricacies of modern life, especially when Tony Stark is there to sarcastically quip. The dark side of his having to spend decades in cryogenic suspension somewhere beneath the Arctic Ocean is that the lives of the people he knew from back when are mostly over. His peers went through what remained of the war, had families, raised kids, grew old and passed away while he remained the same frozen in ice.

Killing Time at Lightspeed is a desktop-simulator game that puts you into the shoes of someone in a situation that’s technically similar, but also way worse.

Originally made for Antholojam I, a month-long, “Gold-Age Sci-Fi”-themed game jam organized by Zoe Quinn and Alex Lifshitz in late 2014, the game got fleshed out and saw a full release in early July.

It begins in year 2042 as you embark on a spaceship that will take you from Earth to a planet zipping around a distant star. You’re no explorer, no pioneer off to clear a planet infested with antagonistic parasites - these epic-sounding journeys across half the galaxy have become routine in this fictional future. By the standards of the present you’re doing nothing more than moving to a different part of the country.

Due to the mind-bending effects of relativity, all the clocks inside of your spaceship run extremely slow and what you experience as a half-hour trip ages everyone you knew back home on Earth by 29 years. While you presumably could spend that short span of time watching a saved episode of The Simpsons (which you stopped following after the controversial season 52), you instead choose to witness the sped up account of life on Earth, as shown on the dashboard of your Twitter-meets-Facebook social media site.

Suffice it to say that what you see is not pretty. At its heart, Killing Time at Lightspeed is a commentary on our increasing obsession with tech and the dystopic future it’s leading us to. As you refresh your feed and hop a whole year into the future of your home planet you see news stories replace one another, with their overall outlook getting more and more dire as you do so. A new Javascript framework is released by an organization suspiciously keen on Lovecraftian nomenclature, panic ensues as a failed update clogs up an electronic heart and self-righteous horror erupts as leaked footage reveals the deplorable conditions factory workers assembling the ubiquitous, AR eye implants called Oqulars, have to endure in third-world countries.

Besides a general news feed you are also provided with a dashboard where you can read up on what your friends decide to share with the rest of the Outernet. These updates coalesce into well-crafted plotlines that tell a tragic story of the reality you are powerless to change. At the end of your journey, your dashboard is mostly silent but for the mindless ramblings of social media bots...

Even though bleak in outlook, Killing Time at Lightspeed has its comedic moments and is exceptionally witty when it comes to parodying the current state of the tech world (despite the claims of your local IT guy, the clear superiority of Linux is not enough to convert a sizeable portion of the world’s population to its cause, even by 2042).

4 out of 5

+ Great Writing
+ Klein & Gustav
+ Deep
- Lots & Lots of Writing
- Oqulars