Toem sent me back to my phone, not for the internet and his tips and tricks and workarounds, but for the folder that contains my photos – back to the last months of my life and a story I didn’t realize until I ‘had written.
It’s a weird kind of story, and quite boring for an outsider, but fishy and sort of a narrative emerges. Snapshots of LFT serial numbers and screenshots of train timetables for a trip to Margate. The tiled floor of a shelter on the seafront where TS Eliot once sat and wrote “On Margate Sands./I can connect / Nothing with nothing.” Later, a visit to the Grotte des Coquillages – recommended, perhaps essential – then a series of photos of the weeks following our return: a sunflower that our neighbor gave us in a new pot, the contours of the cloudy continent which appeared on the ceiling that weekend the bathroom above was leaking. Blue sky everywhere, people stopped and posed for a few seconds to create something disposable that you can then stare at for hours on end. A reminder that we were all in those times, a reminder this time is times when you cut it like that with a camera shutter. An image next to the other, the invitation, perhaps, to connect Something with …?
I love Toem. And I have to warn you up front that Toem has absolutely nothing to do with TS Eliot. It is profound, in fact, due to his courageous and kind absence of anything remotely deep within oneself. Toem! In a world of grayscale newsprint, you take a short trip with a camera, moving from one bus stop to another. The photos you take can solve puzzles for the characters you meet at each stop, and each puzzle solved gives you a stamp that earns you a regular ticket to the next stop. You travel, meet people, help them, get a feel for each place and most importantly, skip to the end. And the lasting proof that you have done it all is in the roll of photos you took along the way.
Toem’s film is fantastic. I finished Toem last week, so what is it? A yeti outside his cave. A huge snowball on what looks like a plinth. A small mouse hole in the masonry. Fashion show. A woman standing behind a hamburger. A creature hiding between the trees.
Photography games are always reminiscent of what video games can be – what other they can be. This yeti: he wanted to see an image of something as soft as himself. That snowball was rolled up there by somebody a long time ago, and they wondered how it was without them. The little mouse hole was an accessory detail that I just wanted to capture. The fashion show was a bit of a mission – to participate and take pictures of the show for a newspaper, I had to get the right press credentials. The Burger Woman was an influencer looking for a photo that would explode on social media. The creature hiding between the trees – well …
Toem is just like that. You come to a new location and move between inconspicuous areas, each a small sculpture that you can rotate and zoom. People and Animals are cartoons depicted in thick pen lines, thin paper but beautifully animated. Trees and shrubs are doodles that have retained their quick, spontaneous energy. There are log cabins and beaches as you move from region to region, towns and mountains. Everywhere there are people to talk to, most of whom seem to need something: a balloon has disappeared, a photo has disappeared from a gallery, a storm has left ships stranded on top of a series of rocks .
It’s amazing how much you can do with your camera, a nice analog thing with a smooth, greased zoom and a heavy shutter click. Watch attentively! People quietly adjust when you put them in the frame – an image is always a big deal, after all. But you also find yourself steering a ship’s horn, picking up trash in the ocean, traveling deep beneath the waves, and roaming the skies. Some of the challenges presented to you are quite straightforward. Others are almost cryptic crossword puzzles, where the first thing you need to do is figure out what your goal might be. If you want a collect-a-thon, don’t worry, it’s smoothly built into the procedures, but Toem is smart enough that you know you’ll want to take photos of things that catch your eye, too. Pictures for pictures, as you move through animated dioramas filled with sweet intrigue.
The color scheme does so much for this game. I can’t imagine Toem being so charming or, weirdly, so warm if the places you visited were colorful. The gray here is so inviting. The white and black makes the whole feel like a secret world that only you know about, like you’re one of a handful of old newspaper comic fans. Toem sounds like a club in the best possible way, kind of hum and buzz jokes with nice light music from Jamal Green and Launchable Socks. The characters in the game swap tapes and strangers will regularly give you clothes that could open up new parts of a level, but which could also be fun to wear. Likewise, a horn prop for your camera is good for waking people up and warding off creatures, but it’s also just fun to have fun with.
I didn’t want Toem to stop showing me new things. I didn’t want to go home. Take pictures for people, solve their humble problems, explore their complex, beautiful and inhabited places. And at the end, coming back now after the main story is over and I’m working on 100% completion, I’m surrounded by people and animals who just want to say thank you for the little things I do. have been doing for them over the last few hours. The person whose socks I returned. The ghost whose chores I did. And yet there’s always a cat stuck high up somewhere, always someone trapped in a sewer that I couldn’t access, always someone annoyed by the state of a beach. I can fix these problems, I guess – fix them with the right photo, the right instinct to connect something with something else. But it’s good to stop here for a second while I still have some of this beautiful, transporting game left. Toem is an absolute dream.