Return to the Umber Wall


Note: I intended to post this on Monday but somehow posted it as a draft…my bad!

We all have moments that we would like to relive forever; the moments of pure engagement, where we feel so in tune with reality that they still resonate with us today. Time passes however and eventually, we long to return to those moments. To this end, science fiction and fantasy have provided endless imaginative solutions to return to these moments.

To this I say forget quantum physics and magic portals, the fastest way to travel back in time is to engage the five senses. To this day, the easiest way to snap me back to my eight year old self is with the song Umber Wall. The song is from a game called Mechwarrior 2, a high water mark in gaming that combined the complex variables of fighting inside giant robots with a soundtrack that makes you feel on edge; a rarity amongst simulator games.

The music evokes memories of summers past, hunched over a particleboard desk, neglected to the point that the dust had achieved sentience. Sunlight invaded through small cracks in the drawn shades, a vain attempt to keep out the midday sun. The song Umber Wall brought back memories of a simpler time, when life centered on video games and how much time I could dedicate to playing them without being pulled away by distractions such as school. These led to conflicts and troubles with school and family, but these unpleasant elements are not part of this memory. When I hear the drums of Umber Wall, I travel back to a time when life was centered on having fun; before issues such as climate change, genocides, conflicts, financial market crashes, and all the other regrettable realities saturated my psyche.

I now see the irony in the fact that Mechwarrior 2, a game centered on warfare, is an emotional anchor point for a time in which warfare and conflict seemed non-existent. Of course, we heard about warfare in school and even at a young age, I was a history and military geek; but it all seemed so fantastical back then. The concept of Mechwarrior’s proposed military clans fighting across the stars, using telephone credits as a form of currency seemed ludicrous, heroic, and entertaining all at the same time. Certainly no more realistic than the concept of people waging war over the color of another man’s skin or their faith in what happens after they die and before they are born.

Yet now I sit writing, thoughts of uncountable conflicts and lives wasted mulling over in my mind and distracting me from working on my two passions, writing and board game design. When I turn on the Umber Wall however, everything snaps back into focus. Life becomes simpler and in many ways, much clearer than modern day explanations for why humanity devotes so much collective effort towards harming itself and the planet.

Mechwarrior 2, released over a decade ago and centered on clans and corporations involved in intergalactic warfare in giant robots still seems to make about as much, if not more sense than the conflicts that rage around us today. A sad commentary given the apocalyptic nature of the Mechwarrior universe. At least in the game, players could restart if they died prematurely…a feature that we are sorely lacking in the world today.

Is their song that snaps you back to a younger self, bringing back emotions and memories for better or worse? Songs that allow you to recount a moment otherwise lost in time. Share below how a game created a personal experience for yourself or others that still resonates with you today!


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