Steam is a gigantic digital boutique of video games. Titles that begin through Steam Greenlight range from fantastic to shovelware, with more survival titles than you can count, and all kinds of copiers. The service includes also dozens upon dozens of RPG Maker titles, and stuff that ranges from innovations to rehashs. But we can all agree that in this ocean of softwares, some were so ground-breaking and incredible that their developers’ names will make it into the Hall of fame of video games. Toby Fox, Scott Cawthon… and Davey Wreden.
|Move around. That's all you need to do.|
Flick a switch or two, maybe.
By the way, the game came out on October 1st, 2015 - so it's been almost one year and one week since its release. Talk about a coincidental date to review it.
|Ah, the reassurring light of the lamppost. Surely we|
cannot expect anything bad from it.
And that’s already saying too much.
If you haven’t played this game, you should play it before you read everything else in this article. Major spoilers ahead, guys. And this will get VERY analytical. Like, very few jokes, if any. Therefore, either you play that game, or you watch a Let’s Play, or you ignore my warning. You have a choice in the matter, of course. Doesn’t really matter though, in the end. The analysis is still here, if you’re willing to scroll down just a bit.
Seriously though, go play it.
It’s about 90 minutes long.
At least go watch a Let's Play!
Are you sure about this? There’s no going back.
Once that knowledge of the game is in your head, it will never go away. It’s unforgettable.
No! Don’t seek info of this thing on TVTropes or Wikipedia. They unmark the spoilers.
*sigh* Fine, ignore me, but you should buy this game. Give brilliant game developers like Davey Wreden a chance, y’know? If you proceed, The Beginner’s Guide won’t have as much of an impact on you; you’ll know what happens in it.
Ready to get spoiled? Here we go.
There are four things to always keep in mind when playing and discussing this game:
|This is a maze, but I'm not even sure how I could|
get lost in it. Can't visit most other halls!
2. This game invites interpretations on multiple levels: It can be seen as a commentary on storytelling, on game development and design, on the game industry and on gaming in general. You could also call it a commentary of interpersonal relationships and certain personality disorders, if you’re willing to stretch that far.
3. At the same time, it’s a game that calls out, demonizes those who tend to offer interpretations of all kinds about a game and its meaning. More than that, it’s a denunciation of people who hazard guesses on an oeuvre’s creator based on these creations.
4. This game, if you experience it blindly, will make you go through all the freaking emotions and, like The Stanley Parable, is oddly self-reflective and existential.
|Stairs, AKA That Level That Turns The Player Into|
A Snail As He Climbs The Stairs.
|You have no idea where I passed to get here. A world|
of complete whiteness, a black void with floating
platforms, and I spoke to cube-heads.
|Usually that's not what "being shown the door" means.|
|Since Davey is such a knucklehead,|
Coda's message is as blunt as possible.
And I am not sorry for Davey at all.
|"Even if I had it, I wouldn't give it to you, you leech."|
In the end, it’s a game that exemplifies why we should never come to conclusions about a person through their work. It’s the mindset Davey has throughout most of the game, only to come to the realization in the last two or so levels that he didn’t get to know Coda better at all while revisiting these works. It’s actually a fairly dangerous and damaging assumption that an author pours their all into whatever they create and thus we’re allowed to theorize and judge on a person’s well-being and state of mind through what that person has put out.
There are many other interpretations that we can take from this game. These may or may not have been intended by Davey Wreden, so take this as my own ramblings and observations, and not as actual statements that can be found in the game or interpretations that were intended.
|The Epilogue, where Davey realizes part of his mistake|
(but not nearly enough of it), transitions between very
different locations. Quite psychedelic.
-The split between narrator and author. Never assume that the narrator is automatically the author of the story; in pure storytelling theories, a narrator is a character, omniscient or not, and the audience shouldn’t reason that the narrator is an author. The same way that viewers shouldn’t assume a narrator is trustworthy, as a common twist ending is that the narrator, whom we were led to believe as a form of authority on the subject of the story, is unreliable. In The Beginner’s Guide, this is exemplified by Davey apparently starting off with good intentions, only to pollute the narration with his own theories and narratives about Coda, until we find out he’s the reason Coda packed up and quit.
|"The game is nothing but giant blocks of text explaining what's|
happening." No thanks, I already have that.
It's called a novel.
-Without explaining them, I can say there are theories out there that say Coda has Asperger's syndrome, explaining some of the more bizarre decisions in game-making Davey mentions ("Like, when he had finished a game... that was it; it was dead to him", he says in the Stairs level). There is another theory that says Coda is actually a woman or a trans woman, as a few games use a female voice and others refer to the player character as female and this, despite these games supposedly meant to never be shared. There are hints for both, but as far as I know, neither has been confirmed. Then there are theories that say Coda is merely the fictional Davey's own creativity. Like I said, there are dozens of things that can be interpreted in this game, but in the end, you just need to remember that your theory and your wild guesses are just that: Theories and wild guesses, not facts set in stone.
-Lastly, it can also be seen as a commentary on game industry and development as a whole, with Davey representing the wider market, which wants “complete” games to show off and sell, and the creator’s personal experiments, which aren’t meant to be distributed. It’s implied that Davey and Coda worked together for a while, or at the very least were in contact close enough that Davey could take the games and show them to others. Let’s be honest here, many of these games aren’t all that great. Psychedelic, perhaps, and odd experiences for the player, sure, but these do look more like experiments than actual projects. Coda was even angrier that these games were suddenly given a spotlight, as he never wanted to show them.
|So my prison was actually... A furniture store!|
The environments look really good, and the music, whenever there's any to be heard nder Davey's narration, The narration itself is done really well, with Davey conveying just the right amount of emotion and the right intonations to go with the text - which sometimes adds to the meaning of what he's saying. I also like that the game has additional options for those who want to play sans narration, as well as a few very minor secrets in the narration if you actively go against Davey's orders.
|Gotta admit, this looks really neat.|
I have The Stanley Parable (HD Remix?) in my Steam collection, so I will probably discuss it sometime soon. Probably in 2017 or 2018. Either way, I heartily recommend The Beginner’s Guide. And if you don’t want to spend 10 or 11 dollars on it… well, wait till it’s in a bundle. Or watch a friggin’ Let’s Play.
Or, you know, maybe Davey of The Beginner’s Guide is just some guy who plays through games, passes judgment on them and on their maker, and makes a few jokes left and right along with his analysis, with some kind of bigger story around it. Everybody knows a reviewer like that, after all.