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Many spoilers and much discussion of the ending of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. A couple of unexpected spoilers for the end of Dragon Age: Inquisition. 

Feminina:

Started the Witness.

BUT! Let’s discourse just a little more about Rapture before we move on, because we agreed that the religion aspect was key and I couldn’t really write yesterday.

So, OK, you feel that in the end the game is quite positive towards religion. I think you can definitely read it that way, but it’s also possible to read it as–not ANTI-religion, but fairly atheist.

The light could represent God or a god, but it could also just be a naturally developed intelligence wandering through the stars, desperately lonely, looking for company. Kate’s words about the light from dead stars traveling through space, about the loneliness of the Pattern (matching her own loneliness and feeling of being an outsider in the village), suggest that she herself sees it as a being with which she is closer to an equal than one usually feels about a god. (Presumably. Haven’t met any, myself.)

And one interpretation of the Jewish/Christian creation story says that God created humans because he was lonely (or bored, or vain and wanted someone to praise him more meaningfully than his construct angels could, but loneliness is the most sympathetic). In the terms of that story, this Pattern, if it is a god, is a scavenger god: rather than create its own world and intelligent life for company, as God did, it just wanders in the emptiness until it finds someone else’s world, and takes THAT intelligent life. One can imagine a whole, much larger story in a cosmic time frame in which gods/patterns/light beings create and/or steal from each other in order to stave off the emptiness.

However, I did feel that the final message was kind of positive, whether you think it’s about faith rewarded (and evil punished) or a more material tale. Kate’s closing words are rather beautiful, about how everything is darkness and emptiness but our lives, however brief they are, are still bridges of light, moments that are worth living, that add something to the universe, even if they are incredibly brief and, once over, are gone forever. (Think of the fireflies that lighted the paths between the different peoples’ stories. Beautiful, even if they only last a moment. Our lives are equally beautiful and equally impermanent, maybe she’s saying.)

I don’t know if in the end the people who are remembered by the light are still THERE, really…if they’re still themselves, or if they’re only those brief recordings of themselves, forever wandering in their own memories in that captured snapshot of the world. But while they were there, even in all their human weakness and imperfection, they had a certain beauty, and that seems to comfort Kate/the Pattern as they leave the Earth.

Another potential bit of thematic support for this is the butterflies…the Pattern produces a print-out (or, apparently, a facial burn) that kind of looks like a butterfly, and maybe a sensitivity to this (we talked about how kids are traditionally considered to be more sensitive to weird stuff) is what made the kids specifically draw butterflies in their pictures. Butterflies, like fireflies, are famously beautiful but fragile and short-lived. Maybe butterflies are a sort of metaphor for life in general, in the mind of Kate/the kids/the Pattern.

Also, one can preserve butterflies by sticking their physical remnants on paper with a pin, and, perhaps, the people preserved in the Pattern have their…spiritual?…remnants trapped in this ‘display case’ of a remembered world. Which is a somewhat less cheerful way of looking at it.

But then, no one said the Rapture was going to work out well for everybody.

Butch:

I agree: KATE’s message was positive. She’s the one that has found rapture, lower case R anyway, if not upper case R. But who else was? No one else seemed particularly happy about their fates. Maybe they weren’t as negative as the “They’re all here….” guy who you missed, but no one was all that thrilled to see the planes.

We never did find out, though, why a) the light only seems to burn certain people (Kate, Stephen and….who?) or b) why Stephen seemed hell bent on painting that pattern on random buildings. And it was Stephen. Remember the general store, when Stephen spilled the paint and it made the pattern? He says “I need it more than you do” as he’s stealing it, and it’s the same color as the graffiti butterflies.

So I don’t know about that. It didn’t burn/mark/whatever everyone it “infected,” not by far. It was choosy, and didn’t seem to have much of a pattern. For lack of a better word.

No, the rapture doesn’t work out well for everyone. Indeed, I still hold it DIDN’T work out well for pretty much anyone. Except Kate.

But on loneliness: Kate seems to think that everyone has found their other, and the pattern is hers. I’m….less sure. We’ve seen nothing that indicates that Frank found Mary. The scared dude was not happy about “everyone being there.” Jeremy was pretty much alone (except we never did figure out who he was talking to when he said “You’re still here?”). The one entity we see in the game that isn’t alone is Lizzie, as she is accompanied by the child/baby light. She is leaving to do “what’s best for the baby” and, sort of, winds up with it, a companion. No one else seems to have gotten that. We don’t see their fireballs with any other fireballs. And, indeed, the fireballs’ paths never cross.

Except at the very, very, very end when we see Stephen “see” Kate in the pattern. What did you make of that? That was weird. And did that cause him to intentionally kill himself? Was it an accident? Did the Pattern/Kate make him do it? And what to make of all that?

Feminina:

You’re absolutely right that Kate seems to feel a lot more positive about this than anyone else. And I, too, was a little skeptical of her optimistic “I see Lizzie with Stephen, and Frank with Mary, and Jeremy with his god” (interesting that distance, “Jeremy with his god,” not “Jeremy with God,” as if Jeremy’s god is some personal thing rather than an absolute).

I mean, that’s all very nice, Kate, but…I didn’t see Lizzie with Stephen, although at least they were both in the Pattern, and as for Frank and Mary–Mary died weeks ago! How could she be there? And Jeremy and “his” god, is his god something that can be contained by the Pattern? I think maybe what she means is that they all, in the end, IMAGINED themselves with the being they loved, and that this fond imagining is somehow stored in the Pattern, but…we know the Pattern’s reality is artificial in some significant ways. The passage of time, the presence/absence of animals, etc. So it seems quite plausible that the happy ending Kate sees for everyone is either what they wished for themselves, but is not actually true, or is true only within the Pattern because the Pattern allows them–in their strange, preserved state–to see it as true.

“I’m going to store you forever in a pretend version of this pretty village, and sure, you can believe that you’re one with your god once I’ve absorbed you and you’ve forgotten why you weren’t happy about that, why not?”

Meanwhile Kate wanted some communion with something else, not a person in the village and not a god defined by any established religion, and so she happily accepted union with the Pattern, which she perceived (rightly or wrongly, how could we know?) as lonely like herself, something with which she could merge to be made whole, not left alone in the dark between the stars.

Or Kate could just be deceiving herself by believing that the others are as happy as she is. One of the problems with the concept of heaven and hell is the question of how a decent person could be happy in heaven knowing that former friends and family members were being tortured forever in hell. Maybe the answer is “god lies and tells you everyone else is fine too.”

Kate wasn’t very friendly to Lizzie that time, but she doesn’t seem like a bad person–I could imagine that if she thought everyone else was miserable and afraid, it would make her feel bad. Maybe she’s right that the Pattern is lonely and genuinely wants her company, and doesn’t realize that it lets her believe what she wants to about the rest of the world because it wants her to be happy. Hardly an equal relationship, but then, that’s kind of what you have to expect with a god.

Yeah, I don’t know who Jeremy meant when he said “you’re still here.” Kate? We know Stephen saw Kate in the light right before he burned himself up (accidentally or on purpose…I read it as definitely on purpose, although he might have hesitated at the end). But then, we don’t really have the sense that Jeremy had any sort of relationship with Kate such that he would have noticed she was “still there.” Nor do we have reason to believe that he thought she was gone, and might have been surprised that she wasn’t. I dunno.

Butch:

Indeed. Jeremy with HIS god. Like, we all have our own. But then, the pattern tried to be something to everyone. Or, at least, a lot of people. Did it choose her? Or would it have chosen everyone who wanted it?

And believing you’re happy because you don’t remember why you aren’t is also a good metaphor for faith. People will say things like “I know so and so is in heaven.” Know? Really? So when Kate is saying “what happened,” it’s unclear if she’s really in the know, or if she is looking at this weird thing and thinking “I know” in the same way people “know” so and so is in heaven. Wishful thinking on her part? Maybe this really is some malevolent thing.

Maybe Jeremy IS right. She does say “His God,” but it’s not just his. Far more people believe in Jeremy’s god than the pattern. Or maybe they’re both wrong in the same way: having wishful thinking color their judgment.

It is interesting, in that regard, that the game made two key choices with Jeremy: leading with his story, and having the game be, literally, a circle. You come full circle at the end, winding up where you started. And here you are, with someone believing all these wonderful things about something that defies rational explanation, right where you started, and you started with a priest.

I dunno though, man, Kate doesn’t seem to give much of a fuck. She certainly knows that people are sick and dying. Stephen keeps begging her to stop and she doesn’t just keep going, she amplifies things. So maybe she felt bad, but the fact that everyone in the village was bleeding and dying didn’t slow her down at all.

And was Stephen really seeing Kate in the light or was that HIS wishful thinking? Did he want to “see her” one last time? Yes, he saw her. But we took it on faith that that meant she was really there.

Was the pattern like a Rorschach test? You see what you need when you need it, even if it is nothing but blobs and spots? If so, what does that mean the game is saying about God/gods? Or was she really there?

And what does it mean that you took it on….wait for it….faith that she really WAS there?

Feminina:

See, I kind of believe Stephen saw Kate in the light, because I don’t know that it would be wishful thinking…if it were wishful thinking, wouldn’t he have seen Lizzie? He was sleeping with her, they had a past, he took the trouble to warn her to get out of town…I would have believed he imagined seeing HER, there at the end, as a way to make it easier for himself, but why would he especially want to see Kate? Unless he secretly wanted to get back together with her, and of course we have no way of knowing exactly what was going on in the mind of a fictional character as he was about to set himself on fire and/or be absorbed by an alien energy being. Still, from the interactions we overheard, he seemed a lot closer to Lizzie than to Kate. And if he’d said “Lizzie?” then we’d wonder if maybe he did see her and Kate isn’t just making this up to make herself feel better.

As for Kate…yeah, I guess you’re right, she really didn’t exhibit any concern for anyone. She was pretty much just obsessed with the light from the beginning, and spent all her time working to help it get stronger, ignoring Stephen’s common-sense objections. I felt kind of sympathetic to her because she was lonely and driven by scientific curiosity, but it’s true, from a practical standpoint she was at best careless of the safety of all life on earth in her thirst for knowledge, and at worst murderously selfish in her pursuit of her own ends. From a certain standpoint, she’s the classic self-interested villain who only cares about herself. What was Corypheus doing, really, but breaking the world trying to connect to a greater power?

Interesting, then, that she’s the one who winds up happy. The old idea that “you must set aside all worldly cares and focus only on God and only then will you be enlightened”? She certainly did that. And she was, perhaps, rewarded.

Also, excellent point about coming full circle, starting with a priest and ending with, effectively, the priest of a different religion, trusting in the truth of what she wants or needs to believe.

Butch:

Good point about the Lizzie thing. So maybe it was literal.

And that is exactly what Corypheus was doing. And Solas, too, if you watched the credits (which I know you did). And, probably, Morrigan but it’s cool cuz Morrigan.

Why do you empathize with lonely scientists? You’ve been at work too long.

But yeah; Kate knew damn well bad things were happening and cared not a whit.

She certainly did set aside all worldly cares. One of the last radios I got was her saying she was eating cold food out of a can like a caveman. She completely regressed. Lived in the dark, ate like an animal, etc. THEN she was…what…claimed by the light or whatever.

I highly, highly doubt making the player’s path around the map a complete circle was accidental or done out of some convenience of game design. Had to be on purpose.

Feminina:

Yes! The caveman thing, her saying she was completely losing her sense of who she was, having to repeat her own name to herself…this is totally reminiscent of mystic hermits who go off to live in caves and meditate for 20 years until all they know is the feeling of possession by god/the break with reality caused by living in a cave by yourself for 20 years. She’s a mystic, she devoted herself to this entity, and she was rewarded, apparently, by becoming one with it as we’re told we should all hope to become one with God.

The message about faith/religion, then, is maybe “take god where you find it?”

As for the circular path not being accidental, I agree…although I do always wonder, when I get way off into an exciting discussion of themes and fine details and the subtleties of implied meaning–how much of this did the writers actually PLAN, and how much is just the happy coincidence of curious minds picking at the work of other curious minds and spinning out ideas beyond the original work? Like, did they actually think about the implications of Stephen seeing Kate rather than Lizzie and work it all out in the intention of someone like us coming along and saying “well, but…” or was it just that that’s the way they told the story, and the rest is us filling in blanks?

Authors don’t always have in mind everything that readers take from the work later, and whenever we get especially insightful/creative, I wonder whether we’re noticing a subtle point they put in there on purpose, or spotting an interesting implication they didn’t even think about.

Either way, we’re obviously brilliant. But also, good on this game and its creative team for having SO MUCH to unpack. For a short work, it’s remarkably rich in discussion material.

Oh, and speaking of this team, as you’ll have surmised since I started The Witness, I finished Dear Esther. As you said, it’s pretty much a proto-Rapture. Wandering around in beautiful landscapes, not knowing who you are or what happened, finding out fragments by triggering informative/cryptic monologues as you walk, significant religious references (Paul on the road to Damascus, in this case). It wasn’t nearly as deep or complex, and at times felt like more of a concept piece than a fully developed story, but it was interesting.

Also interesting that now, with the Witness, I’m on my third game in a row of wandering deserted countryside without any idea who I am or what’s going on. It’s going to be quite jarring to actually have a name and a history and some other characters to interact with when the robot dinosaurs arrive.

Butch:

“Take god where you find it”… Or be suckered into god in all sorts of places.

I’m not in a good mood.

Maybe a little of both: some things intended by the authors and other not. I tend to think that stuff in smaller games, or games made by smaller teams, is more intentional. A game like TR, or DA, or even TW3, as good as they are, have a lot of people working on them, a lot of chances for miscommunication or compromise that can mess up the overarching themes. Small games stay tighter.

Bookmark this particular point and we’ll talk when you’ve gotten deeper into the Witness about this very thing.

And good on the game, yes. Excellent game.

I say again: all those folks who are all “PS+ is a rip off because it’s all indie games” gotta step off. Play some indie games, people!

That’s what I read, about Dear Esther. A proof of concept. It was, after all, the first of these “walking simulators,” as they are so insultingly called. Came before Gone Home, etc. Good, but, in many ways, a rough draft of things to come. Which is interesting, but I have other things to play.

Though in The Witness, I feel more that it’s ME in the game than “Who am I?” I’m not sure why (and bookmark this, as well, as THIS will be good bloggage later), but I think it’s because there’s more of an active participation in The Witness. There really wasn’t anything for the player to accomplish in Rapture. We were experiencing it. In The Witness (I need an abbreviation for that), there’s all SORTS of “Aw yeah, I did it” moments, and those have “I” in them.

But we’ll talk a lot more about this. Later.

Feminina:

Yeah, being suckered by your own desire for god is also a logical interpretation.

You can’t be in a bad mood…I’m the lonely scientist slaving away in a community that doesn’t appreciate me!

Another possible point, there: people who are lonely and outcast are more needy, and therefore more likely to fall prey to the delusions of religion than people who are solidly entrenched in a community? Did the light perhaps seek out Kate somehow, sensing that she had that famous “god-shaped hole” in her life which, contrary to popular statement, no one else seems to have?

Is she actually as much a cult member, or a naive seeker who turns to religious terrorism, as she is an inspiring example of union with the divine? (Both cults and terrorism being, of course, in the eye of the beholder as to whether they’re negative, or boldly following/striking a blow for the holy.)

In the end, although she’s the one who’s happy, I think it’s quite open to question whether or not she’s “right.”

Did she nearly destroy the world, or was she its sole hope of being saved by this particular manifestation of god?

Butch:

Yeah, but I’m the lonely stay at home dad slaving away in a community that doesn’t appreciate me!

Kate would be the one with the hole. Wendy doesn’t like her, sees her as different and wrong, and Wendy is the most devout traditional Christian we see (even more so than Jeremy). WENDY is complete. No hole there. Kate? Godless, at least in Wendy’s eyes when she’s just in town.

Hell, DID Kate destroy the world? That, too, is an interpretation.

Certainly, exactly no one thought she was right in the story. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t. She was, without doubt, reckless, though, and we do judge people for that.

Good art, man. Asks more questions than it answers. This was certainly some good art.

Feminina:

Yeah, it’s true–I think the world wasn’t actually destroyed, but it’s possible to believe that it was, as we saw in that article yesterday. Maybe Kate DID destroy the world!

And maybe she did save everyone’s soul at the same time, or maybe she damned them all. We can’t be sure.

Art, man. So many questions. Such good bloggage.

Butch:

You know, when I finished this game, I was, temporarily, annoyed. It didn’t ANSWER stuff, man! Loose ends! But, after all this bloggage, I’m glad it didn’t. It wouldn’t have been as good.

This one was a winner. Glad we did it.

And man….the Witness after this is gonna mess your mind up.

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