Thirty Flights of Loving is a 10 minute product of Blendo Games. A game, at surface value is about prohibition and a romantic relationship breaking down. If you can spare $5, play it on Steam, or watch a playthrough here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0dCRb8PEeY
It is labeled as a Citizen Abel game, a game universe created by Brendon Chung, notable for modding games such as Half-Life, Quake, and the Doom series. Chung’s mods usually add elements not seen in those types of games before: the Citizen Abel games have quite comedic features to them despite typically being a Quake mod, Gravity Bone discusses narcissism associated with gaming, and Barista utilizes real-time editing to push a story forward.
I wanted to utilize this discussion to talk about how Chung’s games blend filming techniques with game design. Thirty Flights of Loving is frantic, the beauty emanating from throwing so many elements at you at once. Thirty Flights of Loving, and many of Chung’s works utilize editing to create a “show not tell” approach, something to be proud of video games of.
Take a look at this gif:
Chung spews in less than five seconds who this bearded man is to you. You learn here that you are a definitely committing some illegal acts, closely related to this forger, safe cracker, pilot…this individual is your best man.
Throughout Thirty Flights of Loving scenes like this are constantly happening. In the few minutes of an already short game, you get into an airplane, and the scene skips ahead to what you can assume is the future, where Anita, your lover, bloodies and with a bullet hole in her, is tracking a Skorpion pistol, leading you to wonder why.
Instead of taking you in and out of gameplay like many games do with cutscenes, Thirty Flights of Loving’s edits are triggered with player actions. Walking in the airport the scenes are only changed with your player’s movement, maintaining the momentum that you were building up allowing you to feel a sense of urgency.
J-cuts in Thirty Flights of Loving are quite important too, (in a J-cut, the sound of the next scene precedes the picture). Moments like these are seen in the frantic scene where you are trying to escape the airfield. People are traversing the airport at a furious pace, a clock on the wall is spinning frantically reminding you of two things: to hurry, and that time is being abnormally represented–just like in the game.
The action of the airfield chase is accompanied with flashbacks to cuts in an apartment complex. The cuts throw you back to a scene where Anita is peeling oranges and throwing the rinds off a high balcony, and you can join her. At first glance it’s a pointless interaction, but the importance of the interaction comes from the serenity of the interaction. It contextualizes Anita’s comfort and happiness with you.
Smash cuts in Thirty Flights of Loving are what enables the game to tell a story in such a quick time. It is NOT a linear narrative, waiting for dialogue to describe the story like a Grand Theft Auto or Uncharted game. Cutscenes don’t exist. The game is anxious, just like our main character too. I won’t spoil why.
Thirty Flights of Loving is more exciting, fun and tragic than many games that are hours longer.