Arc Symphony is a Very Real, Very Fake Retro PS1 Game That Fooled Twitter

"Arc Symphony the game is about a community obsessed with Arc Symphony. So the game within the game is the game you see on Twitter."

News by Matt Kim, .

Have any of you avid retro gamers played the PlayStation 1 classic Arc Symphony? No? That's probably because the game was just released on by Canadian video game developers Sophia Park and Penelope Evans.

arc symphony

The very real, and also very fake PlayStation video game called Arc Symphony made the rounds on Twitter this weekend when fans of the classic JRPG "re-discovered" their feelings for Arc Symphony and shared photos of the game's PS1 copy on Twitter and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. The only problem is that Arc Symphony never came out on the PS1.

While the actual Arc Symphony is a twine game about the fictional "Arc Symphony", and the nature of fan culture through old school internet boards, Park and Evans thought it would be fun if they went ahead and made a few keepsakes for the game's launch. As it turns out, game devs are quick to jump on a fun concept that in turn could be turned into a sort of meta-game. A meta, meta game if you will.

"Once [Arc Symphony] was finished we were wondering about how to properly launch it and I realized that with a small budget we could create full cases and hand them out as a keepsake to a few friends[,]" Sophia Park told USgamer. "But then it looked like way more people were interested than we first conceived—a lot of independent developers thought it was a fun idea and a neat concept and they had a sense of play to participating in the illusion."

The illusion as it turned out, was to share Arc Symphony—or rather a picture of Arc Symphony's PS1-era jewel case complete with cover and Square-era JRPG cover—over the internet while gushing about all the nostalgic feelings the game stirred up for the owners.

"I liked the cases idea because it's acting out the game's central premise (learning about a game through its community, through fan content) in real life. Arc Symphony the game is about a community obsessed with Arc Symphony. So the game within the game is the game you see on Twitter."

Although most of Arc Symphony's early adopters were game devs in the Toronto area, Park explained that a few people who weren't in on the stunt would still come up to the game's booth and confess that they too played Arc Symphony way back in the day, even though the game never existed until now.

"They saw one of our jewel cases and said 'Oh. Yeah, I remember this. Didn't dig into it much though,'" Park told Kotaku over email. To further the illusion, a Google search for 'Arc Symphony' even turns up a neocities page straight from the 90s, complete with a short intro from a very 90s sounding netizen named "DARK".

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Following several tweets from prominent game devs about Arc Symphony, NeoGAF and Reddit threads began appearing with people wondering what exactly is 'Arc Symphony', and why they haven't heard about it before.

"Oh shit, is that getting a re-release?! That game was such a sleeper hit," writes JoeyJungle on NeoGAF, presumably joining in on Arc Symphony's game within a game, within a game.

Arc Symphony is a game about the performative nature of fandom, and the spread of video game culture through fansites. You play as a poster on an old internet message board for the fictional game, where you can e-hang with a colorful cast of internet dwellers. As a snapshot of what is quickly becoming a bygone era of the internet, it's interesting to see a version of the game play out in real-life through social media, a kind of descendant to forum culture.

If you want to play the real Arc Symphony, check out Sophia Park's page.

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Comments 8

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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #1 KaiserWarrior A year ago
    Joining in on the meta-meta-metagame? Or simply being a bunch of poseurs attempting to claim "old school cred" -- for whatever that may be worth -- that they don't actually have, revealed in their 'nostalgia' for a game that never existed? And how long ago was it that nobody would ever have bothered trying to attain that cred, being as video games weren't cool enough to be worth appropriating in such a way?

    I'll never forget the first time I saw a GameFAQs thread where someone had acquired a PS1 disc, noticed the black disc back, and wondered whether they'd gotten a bootleg game. I realized then that this person had never actually seen a PS1 game before then, and was unaware that all PS1 games had black backs.

    It was the first moment when I realized that I was officially Old, and that the things I grew up on were no longer recognizable to the prime video game playing demographic. The PS1 was far from my first console, but here I was on a site that is frequented pretty much entirely by people that are at least somewhat invested in the hobby, and here was a user for whom the PS1 was ancient technology from before their time.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #2 VotesForCows A year ago
    Reminds me of a study I read about during my psychology undergrad - people created false memories based on doctored images of their childhood.
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  • Avatar for Sturat #3 Sturat A year ago
    I understand why people liked stuff like this back in the day, but I just don't have the time to invest in a game like this anymore. I wish people would put the same amount of effort into more compact games that don't require such a commitment. Maybe people like time-consuming games because they feel nostalgic for the days when they actually had time to play them...
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  • Avatar for sunotenko #4 sunotenko A year ago
    I am wondering if these people weren't confusing Arc Symphony with Arc the Lad.
    At least, it was what came to my mind when I read about it.
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  • Avatar for Thetick #5 Thetick A year ago
    Wel, that Dutch part on the cover is clearly been translaties with Google translate and is incorrect, which made me think it was fake. And as a big rpg guy during the psx/saturn days i would have heard from it. Since it also would have been the first rpg translated in Dutch as far as I know and that would have been news.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #6 cldmstrsn A year ago
    @otenko I have that collection sitting right in my game library along with both the Lunar collectors boxes as well!
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #7 SatelliteOfLove A year ago
    Next trick is exposing the snoody, mercurial "gatekeeper" translators of unlocalized classics.
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  • Avatar for Macuelos #8 Macuelos A year ago
    @Thetick Maybe it would have been the first PSX RPG translated into Dutch if it actually existed, but as far as I know the first RPG playable in Dutch is Lufia II.

    ...still a hideous translation, though.
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