9.03m is an "art/empathy game" created by Space Budgie as a virtual memorial to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. The title refers to the earthquake's magnitude, and not the number of casualties (over 20,000) or wave height (over 40m, or 133 ft).
The experience is essentially linear, with the player traversing a beach just before sunrise, uncovering various artifacts that have washed ashore from Japan. The game takes place on Baker Beach in San Francisco, California, with the Golden Gate Bridge visible in the background, but this is never directly stated during the game.(In reality, most debris from the tsunami washed up further north.)
The player begins at the top of the beach, descending a wooden staircase, and is directed to find butterflies. They are directed to several static representations of people, who vanish and reveal an object when approached. These objects can be examined to reveal a butterfly symbol, which triggers the next person to appear. Though these scenes can only be viewed in one order, most of the locations are initially inaccessible and underwater, with the sea slowly receding as previous ones are found (in a manner similar to that often preceding a tsunami).
The game contains no spoken language, giving instructions through simultaneous Japanese and English subtitles only when necessary. Although the player is free to move about the beach, attempting to travel beyond it or into the water dims the screen and eventually resets the player a short distance back. Jumping and sprinting are also impossible, with the player descending at a leisurely pace if they move off a ledge.
In order, the player comes across
- A male child sitting down, revealing a soccer ball with the name 'Tatsuya Sato'
- A woman, revealing a ring with the inscription '25.04.09 - Love, Life & Happiness - Together'
- A person, revealing a music box that opens to show a young couple dancing and plays a short tune
- A hunched man, revealing a fob watch stopped approximately at the time the tsunami first reached the coast of Japan
- A crouching small child, revealing a damaged wooden toy train
- A man and pregnant woman holding hands over cracked ground, revealing an empty baby bassinet
- A small child, revealing a damaged stuffed toy with the name 'Teddy' written on its ear
Finding the butterfly on this final object leads to the ending scene, showing the beach now filled with countless persons and butterflies.