Critical Play: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

The Chinese Room’s “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture” begins as a first person game in an apocalyptic present day scene (maybe it’s set in the 90s). From the beginning, it is made clear something is horribly wrong in this world. The streets are empty, people are gone, but we hardly know much beyond that. Right off the bat, religious allusions are made as we are instructed to “follow the light” as guidance for where to begin our search.

Moving about, we find left out electronics like telephones and tape recorders, we can listen to the voices of the disappeared. They sound terrified. As something is clearly coming for them, wiping them away one by one. We listen through a telephone to a hysterical male voice yelling “It’s in the phones! It’s in the phones!”. On top of the electronics serving as mechanisms for helping us solve the mystery, are globs of light that seemingly represent conversations people might have once had standing in those same areas. This is a helpful way of once again incorporating light and leading us through the narrative. Religion as a whole marks another key framing mechanism for pushing the story and getting us to think about this mystery through a pious light. The dialogue from the light drives the story and drives our character’s physical direction—searching through homes and churches, uncovering the story. 

I suppose I wonder if this really is a mystery. Given the name of the game, and that just about every detail reveals more info to suggest the name of the title reflects the reality of the game, it feels more like the designers simply wanted to show an exciting take on what a rapture might look like in practice. Ultimately, if you take this game less as a hardcore mystery to solve and more of the atmospheric exploratory piece that it is, you find an enjoyable set of mechanisms that unravel an interesting (sometimes morbid) story about humanity’s final days.


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