A Verdant Keyframe

Y2K and a sea of trees.

Y2K was a precipice. With an allegedly world-changing computational problem looming, there was an underlying buzz to daily life. I was weathering the adjustment of moving to a small, temperate rainforested and intensely quiet gulf island in the pacific northwest from Canada’s largest city. Everything had a strange mix of both the new and the archaic to it. Games from this era shared this quality too.

As a pre-teen, another kind of precipice itself, my Y2K zeitgeist is encapsulated within a moment from Valkyrie Profile. It takes place during the recruitment of Llewelyn, the tragic archer who went to war at sea, leaving behind his beloved Millia.

Millia tells Llewelyn that she loves to just stand and “listen to the rustling leaves. When the wind blows just right, it sounds just like waves lapping on a shore.” Llewelyn responds after they both listen for a moment, the camera jerkily shifting to the pixelated canopy while the white noise standing in for the soughing wind plays, that he “never noticed it before” and now he knows what’s meant by the expression “a sea of trees.” Millia says that since Llewelyn will be at sea, she will associate this forest with him and will commune with his spirit there while he is gone.

I wasn’t going to war. I wasn’t anticipating any earth-shattering loss. I was simply an anxious kid who was worried they wouldn’t find their place or friends. But when I encountered that moment of Valkyrie Profile, I believe I experienced what The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows calls keyframing: a seemingly innocuous moment that was a marker into a strange and significant era of your life. When I turned off the console, I listened to my sea of trees outside.

I was in a wondrous time and space.

By Phoenix Simms

Phoenix is a game critic and narrative designer from Atlantic Canada. She’s also a bibliophile, an anthophile, and an etymology nerd. Her work can be found at Unwinnable, Paste Games, and Videodame. She can be found at @phoenixsimms on Twitter.

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