Syberia: What the Telephone Communicates

I don’t know if this is a typical experience, but I’ve had a much better and easier time with the Barrockstadt chapter of Syberia than with Valadilène. I completed the chapter last night, and at no point was I stuck from failing to notice a hotspot. There were moments when I mistakenly thought I must have missed something, and roamed about for a little while scanning the screen with my cursor, but the actual key to getting unstuck was invariably some mental connection I hadn’t made. In other words, I was actually finding solutions by thinking, which I don’t think happened at all in chapter 1.

I’d like to describe one such moment of insight in particular — the one I mentioned having in my last post — because it illustrates how expectations can create mental blocks where they really shouldn’t exist. There’s a device that has a sign attached to it giving a phone number to call in case of emergencies. There’s also a phone attached to the device, but it’s broken. What do you do? What a lot of us would do in real life: pull out your cell phone.

So, why did I have a hard time thinking of this? Mainly because the there are a number of things about the phone that work against thinking of it as a something useful. For starters, there’s the simple fact that it hadn’t been useful before this point. The phone has an interface with a few pre-set numbers in it — Kate’s mom, her boyfriend, her boss — but calling them never seems to produce anything other than an answering machine, so one gives up on trying to use it early in the game. Also, although the phone can only be accessed through the inventory interface, it’s not an inventory item: it has its own button that stands apart from the grid of inventory slots, and pressing that button brings up the phone interface rather than selecting it for use on the environment. So it’s not part of what you look at when you look through your inventory hoping to find something useful. It just fades into the background.

The strange part of that is that the phone also keeps calling attention to itself. Every once in a while, shortly after you’ve accomplished some major goal, Kate’s mom or boyfriend or boss will spontaneously call her up and chatter about their own needs to emphasize their physical and emotional separation form Kate right now. But this actually helps the phone to fade into the background, because it’s such a background event. The calls inform you about Kate’s emotional ground (or at least the first couple of calls do; subsequent calls don’t really add much), but they’re useless to your situation. Their uselessness is part of the point.

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