I played this game as I wrote it. I played it as I re-read what I had written and imagined playing out scenes that I knew I had to experience for real. That I have to experience for real. That I would have to handle live, beating, fragile hearts rather than paper ones.
- Aaron Lim, "On Goodbyes, and how games are played"
This is part one out of three of a playthrough of Homebound by Aaron Lim.
I am simultaneously reading, learning, and playing this game as I feel that I am slipping away.
Aaron gives me a copy of this game at an early playtest of Capitalites. I think it's the first time I meet him in person. I also believe it's in the period of time shortly after he leaves Melbourne. Me with Capitalites, him with Homebound, it's like we are trading vulnerable pieces of ourselves with each other.
A long few years later, I pick up Homebound once again to play it. I left home about a year ago.
I wonder what to make of the fact that Malaysia no longer feels like home.
This is a picture of my dog Bilbo resting beneath the dining table where we played tabletop games, drank, and served large meals. Bilbo is always happy to be included, as long as his social battery is charged.
How To Say Goodbye
This is a short game, consisting of a simple ritual of sharing and sensing. It centres around a group of friends saying goodbye and what they leave behind/take with them in the process. The impermanence of a space takes precedence here - things are ending - how do you want them to end?
I graduate just before COVID. During then, it feels like all friendships that are meant to be finally fall into place. The mid-20s are a chaotic time for a lot of us - this is where the bonds that are not meant to last come to die... especially so during quarantine.
Discord channels become congregated spaces for us to play minecraft, chat about stuff, watch movies, and feel less trapped.
Before leaving I am young. Insecure. Naive. I am not a whole person. I go by Sam as is my birth name. After leaving, I feel whole. I am free from depression and anxiety. Still, I am paranoid and manic but I am nonetheless whole.
Now, I go by many names... but somehow people still call me Sam. I feel a need to be responsible, to be more of myself by having less of myself, to care of things to make sure they don't fall into ruin.
I've seen so many people fall into extremely dark states or lose their reputation because they didn't realize their goals in the exact way they wanted... or because their egos could not bear the weight of their environment... or other people. I have this responsibility to not end up like them. A lot of them were around my age as well.
I have recently lost two long time friends this way as well.
When I leave, my friends trick me into watching an elaborate home movie made just for me - a means to say farewell. I do not know what to say. It is only after I arrive here, my new home, that it hits me. My life in Malaysia is over. I have died and reborn as who I am now.
I cannot return. Malaysia will spit me out and choke me. It cannot accept my movement and body. At least here in London I am a nobody. Better to be left unseen than seen and pestered by the evergoing noise of self-destructive, social systems of shame and being.
I leave behind my old self, the pieces of my heart spread across the rivers and roads of Subang Jaya. I leave behind my rage and unforgiveness. I leave behind my brain, my ways of thinking. Where my body wanted to burst from its skin, there it leaves behind whatever can be removed while still keeping itself alive.
My heart now is a thousand times bigger than my old one. I only had so much heart to give.
Saying goodbye then for me means preparing to go back one day to give as much of my heart as is humanly possible to the people who helped me become who I am.
I am slipping away but I will hold on. I wonder if my friends will accept my rapid, violent changes - if it is also something they can swallow. I wonder if at some point they will spit me out as one already has.
I take with me everything I can. My regret, grief, love, rage... I take with me a deck of tarot cards and a laptop full of games. Boxes full of jewelry, each a manifestation of my genders. Clothes found in secondhand stores.... a video game controller for Sekiro... a Razer microphone for discord calls.
I don't change fundamentally. The bright side of being a multiple person is that you have many hearts to give.
I leave with fanfare and celebration. This is my second puberty. I want my friends and family to be happy as I am happy, for me and for themselves and for who we can be. Truth unfortunately is that Malaysia spat me out years ago...
I'm ready to return if I have to I think. I will survive one way or another. But I want to be in London now, for as long as possible or for as long as I can handle. Maybe London will spit me out as well one day, til then I remain with my heart in a million places - untethered but not disconnected.
This image of me and my friends serves as the epigraph to Capitalites. The text reads: THIS IS NOT A WORK OF FICTION. ALL RESEMBLANCES TO PERSONS, LIVING OR DEAD, ARE COMPLETELY INTENTIONAL AND WERE OBTAINED WITH CONSENT.