This past weekend, I visited my parents, and in keeping with ritual, timeworn in the considerable period since I left home, I picked up another box of childhood possessions needing allocation between the designations of “keepsake” and “trash”. In it this time, I found a boardgame, a pre-production copy given to me by its designer (my high-school girlfriend’s father) at around the time of its retail release. It was a spiny memory, hence my writing about it now.
If the game were a seashell, it would be an unremarkable one, chipped, dull mottled white and brown. It was a physically clever design, but when all was said and done, it was just a limited set of sudoku puzzles, rendered in three-dimensional, physical space for reasons that I’m not entirely sure were thought out. Predictably, it had little appeal to the sudoku demographic, and as far as I can tell, there is no longer any way to acquire it. Like a seashell, it’s just detritus now, washed up on a beach, ejected entirely from its medium of existence.
Also like a seashell, it remains as a reminder of something no longer here. Game project failures are a dime a dozen–even the best developers have tons of them–but this man never got another shot. If memory serves, within a year of giving me this gift, his cancer returned from a ten-year remission and took him from his family and whatever projects he might have intended as a second swing. There’s a true but tired moral here of how life (and its grim consequence) will relentlessly fuck with our best laid plans, but what I felt as I picked up that game was just a strange, calm shiver, a slimy, ephemeral thing crawling up from the sea to remind me that the shell I hold is important, that it once meant something.
The meaning there is not the same as the moral, and of course it’s difficult to parse. But even though I can look down at the sand and see the horizon of shells, stark, white, legion at the water’s edge, I know the apparition isn’t wrong. This one did once mean something, and my own unique ability to remember it suggests it’s worth keeping.