In Utah summers, the grass is brittle and dry. Most of the green on the mountains is from the trees. Otherwise, they are awash with a pale, brown yellow. The fireworks start fires. People still light them. They celebrate, even with the tangible cost of it before their eyes. This is the 4th of July. A celebration of American myths that does active harm to its land and peoples. Especially now, when our president interns immigrants and summons task forces to export citizens and as we creep closer to overt fascism. People are suffering, even dying, because of our belief in empty fables and institutions. The fires are burning, yet we still let the fireworks free.
Where The Water Tastes Like Wine (hereafter WTWTLW) does not indulge such celebration. The foundational myths of America, the rising up of oppressed colonies, barely make a blip in the game’s patchwork United States. Instead, WTWTLW’s myths are small. A gay couple dwells in a lighthouse. A blues singer’s deal with the devil makes her musical legacy both remain and vanish. A farmer laments leaving his home for California. These moments ripple, drops in a vast vision of a nation.
The game’s mission is to spread those stories. The player travels the United States, swapping tales with other travelers. A Johnny Appleseed who plants myths. They watch as the stories grow and distort, become both more and less truthful. In all this travel, there is no throughline. The stories share some themes, sure. But they vary in tone, in purpose, and in perspective. By my count, 24 writers worked on this game. There will be varying visions. That is the point. For WTWTLW, there is no grand myth of America, there is only us. There are only people trying to make their way free and survive.
We often make the mistake of saying that the US is fundamentally good, that there is some truth beyond our failures and atrocities. Some proper order will be restored, once we impeach traitor presidents or reach true equality. The truth is that the United States has always been broken. It has always failed to provide for its people. Its institutions have only ever been as good as the people in power. Its soul only ever as good as we were. So while we cannot celebrate the myth of America, we can choose to celebrate each other. There is nothing wrong with getting together on these days, where most of us are free from labor. As long as we are together, surviving, and telling each other true stories. Just as long as we remind ourselves of what is real and what is illusion. Just as long as we love each other, over creed and country.