Entrant 2021

Nil Knight


Airwaves is a collection of four short stories in the form of a radio operator simulator game. The player plays as a family of radio operators in a fictional contemporary China. The stories span three generations through decades of turmoil, starting from the Korean War, followed by the Great Leap Forward, to Cultural Revolution and Sino-Soviet Border Conflicts, and ends with the 1989 pro-democracy movements. The family narrative intertwines with short stories inspired by Mo Yan and Yu Hua's hallucinatory realism writings. The player is required to decipher morse code and cryptic messages, preferably on a notebook to advance.

The game's deliberately tactile and difficult progression signifies the personal narrative in contrast with the overwhelming institutional narratives. Each story tells a tale of its generational trauma from collective memories. The use of realistic pixel art in conjunction with the magical realist narrative stresses the fuzziness and myths that come with memories about historical events. It is about the pain and suffering and hope and perseverance experienced by marginalized people living in rural China.