In a year of innovative games that didn’t quite stick the landing or super polished blockbusters that left me cold, when it comes to considering game of the year contenders, I’ve found it ever more important to prioritise my heart picks. In 2022, Hindsight was that game for me.
I’d argue it’s gotten more difficult to find a game that can hit you in the feels when many indie games feel compelled, at times mawkishly, to make players cry. Hindsight also has the unfortunate position of being the second Annapurna Interactive joint released this year that centres on a similar conflicting parent-child relationship, though the premise is immediately more gut-wrenching, as protagonist Mary’s introspective journey is brought about by the sudden news of her mother’s passing. The images conjured forth, however, make it one of the year’s most cinematic experiences.
I don’t mean cinematic in a Hollywood or MCU way but rather the lyrical arthouse fare that’s often smaller in scale while still grappling with big themes like time and the human condition. For me, the dream-like cinema of Wong Kar Wai and Terence Malick spring to mind, not just because both filmmakers have a tendency to rely on voiceover narration to articulate their characters’ internal lives, much like Mary. Indeed, one of Wong’s signature styles is playing with his characters’ perception of time with edits speeding up, slowing down or even repeating what we see.
That’s despite Hindsight’s key and arguably sole mechanic being more linked to photography. With free control of the camera, you rotate around tableaus of Mary’s memories, until a glowing object catches your eye, or more effectively, another image appears like a double exposure. These hidden apertures within the scene magically transport you from one memory to another. Essentially, it’s like a match cut in film, incidentally the core mechanic to another very cinematic game this year, Immortality. Sometimes there’s a direct association or a deliberate juxtaposition, or sometimes no clear correlation at all. But then isn’t that how memory works? Different fragments from our lives popping back up unexpectedly, just as one train of thought can end up entirely somewhere else.
But coming back to dream-like film auteurs, it’s perhaps Malick and his semi-autobiographical masterpiece The Tree of Life that has the most parallels narratively. Hindsight doesn’t quite pull back to consider the beginning of space and time, or dinosaurs, yet its images convey a whole life and then back to a newborn’s first cries before focusing on an idyllic suburban house, complete with front porch and tire swing, which becomes the emotional battleground between parent and child.
I realise I’m spending more words here writing about cinema when I should be focusing on games. Partly, I think, it’s because Hindsight shares a place with films and shows that have resonated with me the most this year, from Pixar’s Turning Red to sci-fi drama After Yang to Apple TV+’s multi-generational saga Pachinko to the sublime and ridiculous Everything Everywhere All At Once. Regardless of genre or medium, these works each have something to say about the immigrant Asian experience, the inter-generational and inter-cultural conflict that can arise from that, but also that simple yet powerful realisation that those who are long a part of your life have their own lives that have always been there, even if you’re only just beginning to understand.