The Path came out yesterday, to a venerable force of Angry Internet Men, lying in wait. And an equally enthusiastic bulge of fanatics, defending its beauty at every turn. The result is as follows: the internet has exploded.
I must say, I never expected The Path to generate such enormous and heated debate. It's a tiny little indie game from Belgium. And the whole world is going on about it.
Viewpoints seem to range from "ban this sick filth" to "favourite game of the year." In other words: the sort of arguments usually reserved for Rockstar's games. Only this is a weird little piece of art that hardly anyone had heard of until the last couple of weeks. While I disagree vehemently with the former comments, I must commend everyone for paying far more attention to this game than I ever dared hope.
The negative comments seem to be coming from two angles. Firstly, that the game is buggy. Personally, I didn't have any serious problems with it, but there are a number of people for whom the game simply won't work, crashing to desktop as soon as they launch it, even if their system specs are up to scratch. That's poor, I'll have to concede that. Hopefully it'll be patched soon enough.
The second argument is a more intriguing one. A large number of people think this is a game where you get six little girls raped and murdered.
The origin of this is worrying. Alex Lucard of Diehard GameFAN wrote a review of The Path a couple of weeks back. He hated the game. Absolutely hated it. He said it failed as both a piece of art and a videogame. And, in one section of his review, he expressed concerns that some of its themes may spark up the "videogame content" row again. "People are going to assume it's a rape sim, because of its heavy allusions to sexual violence throughout," he said. Or, y'know, I paraphrase. Because I can't be bothered going back and carefully reading it.
Since then, I've seen three people (mis)quoting the review to express their disgust at the "graphic sexual violence" in the game, and another person "agree that the only people who like the game must be paedophiles." I've seen roughly six million more immediately assume it's a game about rape, even though they haven't played it.
This is deeply troubling, and Alex is disappointed - even though I maintain he could have been more careful with the wording of his review. Those misquotes are bizarre - "you never see what happens to these girls," Alex's piece states, "but they appear battered and injured afterwards." The paedophilia comment is awful, and Alex was very quick to put that poster in his place. The "game is about rape" comments are a more difficult prospect.
I think, on two occasions, it's heavily implied. On at least another three, I can't spot any suggestion of it whatsoever. One of the wolves actually is a fucking wolf. Another is a young girl in a red dress, around seven or eight years old by estimate. Another is a spectral being.
Which makes me wonder if people have just looked at, say, Ruby's chapter, and drawn immediate conclusions.
Alex interpreted it all as rape, of course. But he's eloquently explained why this is the case, and happily accepted that it may not be the only, or even intentional, meaning. But that's to me, personally, since the review. I really wish there was more tact put into his original piece. Because it's going to be used as the basis to a lot of awful arguments that we need to stop immediately.
I'd urge people to buy this. It's really, really cheap. $10. You might hate it. You might be repulsed by it. But at least you'll be able to see how plainly obviously it isn't a rape sim. And then maybe we can all be better prepared for the inevitible onslaught of media bollocks.
UPDATES: Ah! I'm sick and twisted for liking it, according to some chap over at Penny Arcade! Nice to see my work is doing the rounds.
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|EmP - March 20, 2009 (07:22 AM)
I'll see if I can grab a copy of this over the weekend and hurl my throughts into the ring.
|Lewis - March 20, 2009 (07:34 AM)
Do - I'd be very interested to hear them.
Just so you can double-check, system specs are:
2GHz single-core processor
GeForce 6600 (or better) video card
Fuck all hard drive space.
|wolfqueen001 - March 20, 2009 (09:55 AM)
=/ I never got a sense of the game having anything to do with rape from reading your review. Sure I got the idea that it was dark and that they all died somehow in the end, but not from that. So either those people are blowing it largely out of proportion, or I'm just extremely innocent. I'm leaning towards the former, though, considering your defense of the thing (although both are entirely possible <_<).
This really did seem like an interesting game. I've always kind of liked the idea of turning yay-happy fairy tales into something much darker, especially where the Grimm ones are cocerned since those weren't really meant to be nice in the first place. But naturally, I am a bit wary of any of the extremes - as is mentioned here - but if there even is any of that in this game, it's subtle and not explicitly shown, so that makes it better. It also makes it easy to pretend it's not there. >_>
I doubt I'll actually play the game, though, especially if those are the system requirements. That's too high-end for me. Not like I have time anyway.
|EmP - March 20, 2009 (11:44 AM)
Yeah, I can't play that.
I'll keep in mind for the day that I can.
|Lewis - March 21, 2009 (03:29 AM)
WQ: Have a look at the video I've posted on the game page, for one of the wolf encounters.
This is the sort of thing that people are saying is "obviously a metaphor for rape."
EDIT: actually, you can see a portion of Ruby's wolf scene, the one that everyone's getting particularly angsty over, here.
Note that before we see them on the bench together, we see the man dragging something in a carpet off into the woods, before coming back and offering Ruby a cigarette. Then they sit down together, and, yeah, she wakes up "some time later" in the rain.
|wolfqueen001 - March 21, 2009 (10:50 AM)
Hm... Well, I watched both of those, and I can say that after seeing it, this definitely seems like a very creepy and disturbing game to play (though I'd had that sense from the review, too... but actually seeing it really hammers that home).
Still, it's not like you can tell all that well what's going on. Anything that does is very heavily implied, since I can say that from watching either of those, it was really hard to tell what the wolves even were or what they were trying to do (in the one you linked in your last pos especially). That being said, I can see where that metaphor comes from even if I can't really see what's going on. The circumstantial evidence suggests that, but they don't show anything outside of that as far as the event itself is concerned, and for that I commend them because otherwise that'd be... seriously messed up. That they made everything implicit doesn't suggest that the developers are sick freaks nor that the players playing it are as well, but it does suggest a sense of... morbidity and terror, a sort of alienation from the nice happy tales we grew up with. It's a very... almost abstract look at what death and violence are like. It doesn't cover it up in any cartoony fashion; it's stark and real, which is what makes it so powerful. The implicitness helps in this because it leaves the mind open to interpretation.
In a way, it sort of reminds me of Pan's Labyrinth (which was one of the greatest movies I've ever seen, I think). Though this game's probably a lot darker than that since your objective seems to be so... well, morbid. There's really no other word I can think of for that.
I'm not sure how I feel about the huge fusss this seems to have caused. I mean, considering what the game's supposed to be, it seems a bit silly, but on the other hand, with the way I argued myself in that other contoversial topic (ugh), I'm not sure how to feel about the whole thing (even if the two games are clearly completely different with completely different intentions).
Anyway, I will say that I might still check this one out now that I know how it really is, but I do know that if I play it, it'll be with a very somber mind and knowledge for what it is. I don't know that I'd be exactly comfortable with it, but it still seems like an interesting way to look at a video game, and at a rather common (and unfortunate) occurrence in the world and it might be worth exploring just because of the thing's sheer power to make you think, which seems better than what that other piece of trash game can claim. (not that the Path is a PoS - just that other one >_>).