thedeadparrot (thedeadparrot) wrote,

The Beginner's Guide (video game)

So I played The Beginner's Guide, which I will need to spoil in depth to talk about with any sort of coherence, but if spending 1.5 hours on a loosely interactive experience that tries to talk about the relationship between the creation of art and the consumers of art told through a very odd metatextual story about a guy who makes video games through a bunch of small video games, well, you should pick it up (in the latest Humble Bundle!) and then come back and read this.

Or you could read this and spoil yourselves. Either way.

The game starts off simple enough, going through the work of a video game developer named 'Coda', narrated by the developer of The Beginner's Guide (Davey Wreden). Wreden adds a whole bunch of commentary to the games as you (the player) make your way through them. They tend to be strange, metaphorical spaces. Not really game-y as you might expect. 'Walking simulator' might be the most accurate term for them.

As the game goes on, the commentary becomes more and more personal, speculating deeply on how Wreden thought Coda was lonely and depressed and needed Wreden's help to 'fix' him, ultimately leading to one of the last games containing explicit text directed towards Wreden, asking him to stop contacting Coda, to stop reading things into Coda's mental state, and to stop modifying Coda's games to add 'meaning'.

I've read a lot of interpretations of the game where people say that the game is a repudiation of criticism, possibly even a repudiation of the Death of the Author, of reading things into works that 'aren't there'. But I think that's a little too simplistic of a read.

This is partially a factor in the fact that I grew up in an era of fandom where interpretations are valid, modification of the original text is encouraged and celebrated, and interactions with the creators of our texts is verboten. In video game fandom, it's a larger part of the culture to reach out to the creators of things, to get angry when they don't give you what you want (the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy is probs the biggest, most bizarre example of that).

I think The Beginner's Guide is more about the darker sides of the interactions between fans and creators than it is about the problems with fans appropriating texts. The taking meaning out of the work, the reading the loneliness and depression that Wreden relates so deeply to, that isn't awful. The awful thing he does is to try to force Coda to keep creating.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just projecting too much onto this game as well. But I'm okay with that. I'm okay with my interpretation. I won't force Wreden to make games for me. I'm just happy to consume them as they are and take away from them what I can. Isn't that what art is for?

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Tags: video games
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