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Passage, a primitive game about companionship 2008 Aug 18

Posted by Karl in : games , trackback

Passage is a primitive little game that investigates ideas about companionship.  Despite the simplicity of the game, I was surprised how much it got me thinking.  Here is the story of my journey through the game.

If you want to learn about the game on your own, stop reading now.  You can get it for free at http://hcsoftware.sourceforge.net/jason-rohrer/

Here is the character at the beginning of the game.  See the blonde guy on the left.  Yes, I know, the game is really pixelated.  :p

You can also see a jumble of stuff at the left.  This is because the view is warped. Objects close to the character are clear. Things further away are distorted and compressed. Think of it like looking through the side of a round glass of water.  You can look through the side of a glass of water to see something on the other side.  However, this only works when you look in the middle of the side of the glass.  The closer you look to the edge of the glass, the more the image is distorted.  There is a similar effect in the game.  Things far from the character appear highly compressed.

You can also see a brown thing closer to the middle.  As we get closer, this brown thing gets less compressed and we see it more clearly.

The brown thing is really a girl.

The character falls in love with the girl.  From this point on, they walk together.

They journey on through the world.

…and on.

…and on.  You can see that the main character is aging.  He is going bald.

Eventually, they are both old.

The woman dies.  The character, now an old man, feels sad.  He now walks at half speed.

As he moves on, the character looks back in memory of his companion.

As he moves further on, the tombstone becomes distorted.  If the character continues to move on, the gravestone will become further distorted and shrink out of view.

As I was playing, it felt as though the memory of his companion was becoming weaker as the tombstone shrunk from view.  I did not want the character to lose the memory of his wife.  Instead, I ended up making him hover near the grave.  I was thinking, “the game is almost over.  I might as well hang around here.”

The old man dies beside his companion.

This hovering at the graveside surprised me.  When I’m playing a game, I like to progress.  I don’t hang around inanimate objects.  Still, it felt more meaningful for the old man to stay close to the memory of his companion than to move on.


I was curious about how it would feel to play through differently.

 

This is the moment that the companion dies.

Saying good bye.

Starting to move on and looking back.

The tombstone is only a smudge now.

It feels lonely to go on alone.

Dying alone.

Playing through a second time, I was surprised at how different it felt to move on without the companion. The old man shuffled on slowly with his head hanging low.  He felt lonely without the presence of his companion, even when the presence was only tombstone.

Passage is a primitive little game that carries a big impact for its size. The game was created by Jason Rohrer. You can find Rohrer’s games at his website or learn more about him from a Salon article.

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