BETSY'S HOSPITAL GAMEFAQ
memory / "mnemosyne" is the mother of the muses, there's something strange about that concept now. not creativity or inspiration or even the imp of the perverse: instead this other process, which we're tempted to regard as a secondary one, the proxy or mirror of experience or history. memory in an oral culture is the basis of transference, reproduction - when those functions are outsourced to the mechanical our notion of memory becomes more abstract and strange. it begins to register instead as a distortion, or an unexpected surplus, a complicating texture outside the range of whatever information we can capture.
the metaphor of a computer's "memory" connects them to a longer tradition of memory machines, memory palaces - carefully constructed imaginary buildings, acting as warehouses for charged and emblematic objects which in turn could summon some piece of information. frances yates claims dante as drawing upon this technique, that of "striking images on orders of places". victoria nelson, citing erik davis, points out that computer games tend to be structured the same way. meandering voyages across carefully demarcated terrains, filled with strange portents and entities. we may never fully understand the allegorical cosmos of Doki Doki Panic - composed of birds, masks, and vegetables - but that itself is part of the appeal. if a computer is a reference system then computer games are an aestheticized outgrowth of that reference system, similar in shape but not in function, like an encyclopaedia overgrown with lichen.
lilith's games can feel like wandering through alien memory palaces, universes made up of charged fragments, talismanic objects whose purpose remains unknown. dimly familiar pieces of affect - of a mall at closing time, a hotel basement - are built up and extended into new and abstract realms. it can be funny and goofy to wander around some vast and bewildering space that feels like a cathedral crossed with a laser tag center and stumble across weird toys and games. but there's often a melancholy feeling to it, as well - the environments in these games are dense, noisy, overgrown, but your own presence is often that of a weightless ghost. it's as though the vitality stored in these worlds has somehow been stolen from the player, who can only rediscover it at a remove, by examining these strange external forms.
in betsy's hospital the game world is almost too dense to take in - the bumpmap textures, shelves filled with tiny toys, cabinets that open to hint at inaccessible dioramas. you can look out the window and see 3d spaces that you cannot reach, you can place VHS tapes into a machine and watch found footage videos of other people's vacations, mostly long handheld camera takes, the camera blindly and perpetually flickering across details you can't quite make out. there's no indication of when these videos might end, so you swap the tapes in and out and then go back to moving around. there's a guiltily awareness you might be missing something important - some mysterious moment of insight or clarity buried deep inside an endless, slow recording of a forgotten theme park circa 2007.
playing a computer game can be a strangely unmemorable activity - move here, move there, eat the cherries, etc. we keep track of a kind of vague gestalt impression of what's going on but it's hard to remember exactly what we've just been doing or why, in part because the game keeps track of that for us. in many of lilith's games this perpetual present is placed against a frozen and inscrutable memory world, and part of their power comes from playing with the back and forth between the two forces. the memories that are closest to us are also the most alien, most disconnected from any original significance or meaning. closest to the strange self-certainty of a found toy.