“chronotopophobia” by hideous cave goblin.
This Bitsy game was an extremely interesting experience for me. In its description page, it didn’t give any particular information about the plot or what the narration means, so it’s completely up for your own interpretation. In this article I will try to give a short analysis about what I think “chronotopophobia” is about.
Let’s start with the title: If you try to look up what a chronotopophobia could be, you will find no results in your online search engine. That’s because this particular type of anxiety disorder doesn’t exist so far. Chronotopophobia is a coinage, a combination of the words ‘chronotope’ and ‘phobia’. So what’s a chronotope? When we look it up at Wikipedia, we can find this quick summary:
“In literary theory and philosophy of language, the chronotope is how configurations of time and space are represented in language and discourse. The term was taken up by Russian literary scholar M.M. Bakhtin who used it as a central element in his theory of meaning in language and literature. The term […] can be literally translated as “time-space.” […] Bakhtin showed how different literary genres operated with different configurations of time and space, which gave each genre its particular narrative character. For example, the chronotopic frame of the epic differed from that of the hero adventure or the comedy.”
With this context it’s easier to get a straight interpretation of what a chronotopophobia could be. The game itself features a nearly omnipotent narrator, who knows about the thoughts of the unnamed main character and also comments on their behaviour. It’s remarkable how strict, even harsh they react about social media. When the character opens their laptop, the narrator will jump in, complaining about how the usage of social media platforms is rotting their brain to black mush. They also ask if the character hadn’t planned something else today, like reading a book, because then at least they could pretend to become a more sophistacted person by consuming more or less intelligent content. Why is that important? It could be that not the actual character suffers from the chronotopophobia, but the narrator. Maybe they are afraid of the new framework, with which our certain times are archived and narrated. Social media is a kind of online archive, filled with millions of little entries everyday. Books on the other hand have a beginning and ending, the information in them are far more curated in a sense. But the internet with all its possibilities could scare the narrator. There is no alpha and no omega, it’s an overload for them.
This results in the manifestation of a new time-space, where the character must find its way out. Three figures with giant and multiple eyes will mumble about the collapse of former times and places. Interestingly enough, “chronotopophobia” doesn’t only feature the flat with the laptop on the one hand and the mysterious ‘mind dungeon’ / ‘time-space’ on the other hand, which we get to see in the game. It also features a space which gets only told about: The whimsical eye creatures address a small town with a park, train tracks as well as little buildings and they share their memories about a walk in this environment on a specific time, a late summer day. That’s an important bit to get a better understanding of the game, because in the later stage you will suddenly kill them with your new-found sword.
The killings confused me in the beginning, but they make sense. These creatures are the narrators of another time-space, the little town in the late summer. Their memories about it are pretty small and fragmented though, because they are bound in this strange, different time-space, the dark ‘mind dungeon’ with its empty halls and dead ends. There is no time or space that actually gets told in here, so the figures are like alien elements that have to be eliminated. Whenever you take one of them off, you can climb through their wounds into another place, gathering the three hidden items: An empty box, a key that can’t open any door and a book with blank pages. All these objects don’t fulfill their original purposes, they are only the containers for a past that cannot be told any longer, as their narrators are dead.
After you bring those items to the altar of the dungeon, a new path will open. Now you can finally get consumed by the void, so that all the fears will go away. It’s a painful process, because it means to accept that the storytelling of former times are gone forever, but it has to be done in “chronotopophobia”. In the end, you have only one thing left to offer. Not your life, but your voice to tell your story. At least that’s what I believe at this time and space.