The Path: Rose

By Shamus
on Sep 16, 2009
Filed under:
Game Reviews

Her bio from the website:

Rose is mature for her age. But there is a certain air of innocence about her that is charming and disconcerting at the same time. Barely a teenager -Rose is eleven-, she is discovering the world around her with fresh eyes. And all is beautiful! The wind in the trees, the birds in the air, the flowers along the path. Rose is taking it in voraciously. So much so that she will defend even nature’s smallest creatures against anyone who might wish them harm. But who will protect sweet Rose herself, when she is lured off the path? With a promise of unearthly bliss, of light in abundance where no sun will ever shine? You’re just a little girl, Rose! Just a fragile little girl…

Hey. A bathtub. In the middle of the woods.  This is the most labor-intensive form of littering I’ve ever seen.
Hey. A bathtub. In the middle of the woods. This is the most labor-intensive form of littering I’ve ever seen.
I saved Rose for last because her story is the one that has raised the most questions and inspired the most incredulity.

Rose has her encounter at a small lake. She finds a boat, gets in, and drifts along without visible means of propulsion. Her boat passes between two trees, and an apparition floats down from above. It’s a man, wreathed in clouds. He hovers above her boat. She flies up to meet him. Fade to black.


Link (YouTube)

What. The. Crap?

Rose’s Wolf

This maneuver is clearly in violation of established boat-safety protocol.
This maneuver is clearly in violation of established boat-safety protocol.
Now, I don’t actually want to talk about this one, because it involves stuff I wouldn’t even bring up on my blog. And of course I’m by no means certain my understanding has anything to do with what the designers intended. But I can’t come this far and then pull a Braid and tell everyone to make something up for themselves. Well, I can, and to a certain extent that’s the point of the game, but it would sort of defeat the purpose of this entire series. Anyway, my take:

Rose’s journey has a lot of water in it. There is a lot of stuff with steam and clouds, and her trip through Grandma’s house is packed with bathroom imagery. It rains at the lake and we hear running water in our trip through the house. Her rowboat is not unlike a bathtub, the only thing that changes is which side the water is on. Even when she is lifted above the boat towards the cloud-man, she doesn’t seem distressed or even upset. She’s just floating.

“[…] But who will protect sweet Rose herself, when she is lured off the path? With a promise of unearthly bliss, of light in abundance where no sun will ever shine? You’re just a little girl, Rose! Just a fragile little girl…”

A girl is riding a boat between two trees with a man hovering between them.  Dr. Freud could no doubt explain this image in a way that would offend everyone.
A girl is riding a boat between two trees with a man hovering between them. Dr. Freud could no doubt explain this image in a way that would offend everyone.
I think Rose discovered (And I really hope you’ll keep a clinical head on when I bring this up and try to be polite even if you disagree, and furthermore I hope we can keep this discussion civil and remember that this is all open to interpretation.) that the bathroom is a useful place, and that you can do more in the bath than simply look to your own hygiene. She discovers this, like most human beings, with no small level of confusion. This will likely be intensified by the fact that her mother isn’t around. She probably also discovers that, as stuff that human beings have to do, masturbation isn’t half bad.

She knows she’s attracted to men but she doesn’t know what men look like yet or how sex works. And thus her “man” is a cloud of steam, of which she will have plenty in the bathroom.

This is another part of growing up. We don’t usually talk about it because talking about kids and sexuality is pretty taboo, and also because there isn’t usually a need. Everyone seems to figure it out without any lasting trauma, although at the time a lot of people experience a sudden yet paradoxical desire to know about highly personal things you’d rather not discuss with other people, especially your family members.

This would explain why Rose’s encounter is so mystifying. If I had to tackle the idea of a pre-teen struggling with this issue – and I would need a gun to my head to do so – I would make the references as oblique as possible. It’s part of growing up, and its part of the journey on the path of life, but its not something that is discussed in polite company.

Aftermath

Rose has her head down as she walks to grandma’s. She’s probably feeling a bit of needless (albeit predictable) shame. Still, I think in the long run she’ll turn out fine. Well, as fine as everyone else in the species. She’s not hurt, anyway.

Gameplay Notes

Since this completes the list of girls, I thought I’d mention some of the bits of gameplay that have been overlooked.

  • The Map: There are these little icons that float around the edges of the screen. It’s easy to miss them with all of the other flitting marks that adorn the view, but they actually serve as a compass. There is an icon for each of the major locations in the game (one for each sister, where they encounter their wolf) and they are revealed as you play through. Just turn until the desired icon is at the center-top of the screen and run straight ahead. You’ll get there. The forest girl has an icon that looks like a swirl, so you can find her as well. There are also icons for the lesser locations (the well, car, bathtub, etc) but they usually only appear in special circumstances.
  • The Flowers: Everyone was asking what the point was of collecting all 144 flowers. Some suggested it was just satire: A deliberately pointless achievement. But they do serve an in-game purpose. I noticed that every twelve flowers, it gives you a hint about where you should go. Note that this carries over between girls. Any time the counter is a multiple of 12, one of the key locations will appear on your “compass” so you can find it. (You’ll hear some singing voices when this happens.) I noticed it happening a few times, but I’m not 100% sure this is how it works.
  • The light through the trees can help you find important locations. All six of the destinations will appear as a bloom of white light through the trees once you’re close enough.

* * *

Well, this has been an interesting series. I didn’t think about how much time it would take when I started. Still, watching an engineer explain art is probably like watching an interpretive dancer design integrated circuits. We’ll all be much happier once we get back to discussing more concrete things.

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From the Archives:

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  1. Vladius says:

    Drat… I was looking forward to this one… and now this…

  2. Eric(Ninjews) says:

    This “game” would not work if men were the focus.
    @nbsrdan: I don’t if you meant that to be funny. but I took it as such.

  3. NBSRDan says:

    A girl discovers masturbation. What a deep and meaningful game.

  4. Drew says:

    You’re suggesting she found the little man in the boat, then? I love how completely straightforward that makes the imagery.

  5. Pickly says:

    The way the setup was going, I thought you were going to mention the other thing that happens with females at about that age.

    (am actually curious as to what any other interpretations might be.)

  6. SolkaTruesilver says:

    You are sick, Shamus! talking about… these things and little girl!!

    /Stupidity

    To be honest, I think you kinda strike home, but I’ll be very honest with you: I think the way many grown-ups are behaving about kids’.. discovery of the world is silly. They completely forgot what it is to be a kid, and what it is to go trough puberty. Or just to grow up. They overdramatise some sexually-related events, and they forget the core struggle that we went trough.

    I think this game, as a whole, is meant to go and reach for that forgotten struggle of growing up. You said it when you began the review: the game made you feel like a child again, gave you back memories of the time.

    Adults are stupid when it comes to childhood. They always say: “These are the best years of your life!”, talking their ass off.

    You should look at each of the girls like a step in the process of growing up. Rose discovered sexuality. It’s the most basic, the first kind you actually discover, and if you haven’t been religiously brainwashed as a kid, you probably won’t have any psychological trouble arising out of it. Regardless, it’s a freaking step.

    The little girl actually reached the age when she could run alone out of the house and get herself lost in the woods (figuratively). It’s also a big step, especially the first time you get close of having a dangerous accident.

    The last, oldest girl, is simply… her reaching adulthood. She became parts of the grown-up.

  7. Nick Pitino says:

    Ok, wow.

    So my music playlist just got to the song ‘Young Turks’ by Rod Stewart and I hear the line “Young heeeearts be freeee tonight…” RIGHT as I read the word ‘masturbation’.

    …and I nearly fell out of my chair.

  8. Darius says:

    I completely didn’t see that interpretation, not that I think you’re wrong, it just didn’t occur to me. I saw this one a little more like Robin’s. Robin liked furry animals, and found out that some of them can hurt you. Rose likes nature, and found out that nature isn’t all sunshine and happiness, it can really hurt you. I saw a lot of storm imagery, there is a lot of rain when she’s walking through the house, and figured that it was alluding to the fury of a real bad storm. I figured the man was just an embodiment of the fury of nature. He looked like a God of nature or something to me. Your interpretation sounds more correct than mine, but I think I like mine better, it isn’t as cringe inducing.

  9. Yar Kramer says:

    I think there’s something about SolkaTruesilver‘s interpretation which appeals to me. An underlying message of “Excuse me? I think you silly adults have forgotten what it’s like to grow up.”

    But speaking of interpretive dance, I believe I can answer this most successfully … in mime. (Sorry, that was the first thing that came to mimed.)

    @Darius: I think if you want something that isn’t cringe-inducing on some level or other, you shouldn’t be paying attention to this game, if it hadn’t been … um … engineer’s-interpretive-dancingly obvious at this point.

  10. Barry Bosnick says:

    “light in abundance where no sun will ever shine”

    oh god

  11. King of Men says:

    Possibly irrelevant: I believe you are somewhat overestimating the fraction of people who discover masturbation early on. Even in this hypersexualised age, apparently there is a large fraction of women who do not masturbate, and/or who have never had an orgasm. (I’m at work and don’t want to google for statistics, so I’m going from memory – bear with me.) This feels very, very un-intuitive to me and I suspect to most males, but such are the numbers, AFAIK. Presumably it has something to do with not having the relevant bits projecting right out into the open.

  12. Randy Johnson says:

    One of the two characters I skipped. Reading this makes me regret it, as I can’t help but imagine how much I would have laughed. Also :

    “Playing Champions Online. I’ve created about a dozen characters. Have yet to find a name already in use.”

    Champions has a system so the only name you reserve is your login, and thats how people contact you. You can then use any name you want, and so can anyone else. If someone else is using fullmetal jackie, we would have to contact you as “Fullmetal jackie@shamus_young”

  13. Rutskarn says:

    Huh. This one seems almost a little more open-ended than some of the others, even as open to interpretation as they were. You could draw any number of conclusions about this one. Yours makes a lot of sense–I also do like Darius’.

    I wonder if the makers of the game had a specific meaning in mind? I’m guessing they did. If so, we could take the BS English-class route of guessing which one they meant, but it really all comes down to reader (er, in this case player) response. Just like how no good English teacher will tell you your interpretation of a book is wrong, even if the author specifically said it meant something else.

    Yeah, this was an interesting series.

    PS: Apparently the servers need a reboot. Recent update, dont’cha know.

  14. Ergonomic Cat says:

    I would simply like to say that in no non-hobbit world is eleven a teenager.

    Eleventeen yes. Eleven no. It lacks a certain key to being a teen (like the suffix teen).

  15. Phil Ken Sebben says:

    Ha HA! Man in the boat.

  16. Maldeus says:

    Rose’s livejournal is smothered in “nature is great, hug the trees, love the animals” type hippie stuff. I’m not entirely sure your Freudian interpretation is fully accurate, Shamus.

  17. John Tomorrow says:

    Shame on you, Shamus. With a game this powerful, why shirk at explaining what your interpretation is? Why wax lyrical about not wanting to discuss such a ‘touchy subject’, when murder and periods are not so bad?

    I have to give you credit though – you did speak your mind on it. But this is the new millenium – you shouldnt feel sick about something natural and ‘taboo’ as masturbation.

    Perhaps the thought of a little girl doing the deed put you off. Fine. But unless that turned you on, i wouldnt be worried by it.

    If it makes you better, think of it this way – better to be prepared to speak of it with your own children then have the notion of it being ‘taboo’.

  18. Adam Greenbrier says:

    A few points:

    In terms of gameplay, in addition to the icons that show up at the edges of the screen, the black and white noise also serve as compass points. The black scratches act as a compass point toward the wolf, and the white swirls of paint act as a compass point toward the girl in white.

    Regarding Rose’s wolf specifically: I’m not sure about your interpretation, Shamus (as someone mentioned above, most women don’t being to masturbate for sexual gratification until their late teens), but it’s an interesting one. When I played the game, I had to turn down the graphics settings to their bare minimum levels in order for the game to play, and when you do that the encounter becomes much more creepy. Without the fog and bloom lighting, the man hovering over the lake is clearly visible from the shore, making Rose’s journey feel more dangerous. He has also obviously been skinned.

  19. Maldeus says:

    That’s another thing that struck me when watching the YouTube. Doesn’t that man kind of have…Not quite enough skin?

    So, yeah, I think there’s more to this than just being a vague representation of a man as an object of sexual attraction.

  20. Mike Has Answers says:

    What’s with the bookshelves spinning every which way?

  21. Cuthalion says:

    Hmm… I disagree with the whole “religiously brainwashed” comment and the idea that it’s natural and even healthy. But I think the interpretation Shamus gave sounds correct, and I for one don’t blame him for being reluctant to bring it up. It’s silly for people to say, essentially, “You’re a bad person for not wanting to talk about it.” How self-righteous.

  22. Juni says:

    Hmmm. Uh, I didn’t think of it that way. Maybe I need to get my mind back in the gutter, where it belongs.

    Actually, I didn’t really have any thoughts about this one. I had a vague feeling that maybe she ran away from home, and the cloudman represented something about that experience… I guess I need to think it out a bit more, though.

    Edit: I can understand why Shamus doesn’t want to talk about such things… It’s not really what I would call a pleasant topic of conversation.

    • Shamus says:

      Uh. What is with the people saying my interpretation is “not correct”?

      Are you kidding, or missing the point on some epic scale?

      And I even gave ample disclaimers that I have no idea what was intended by the designers. This is what I got. YMMV.

      • Shamus says:

        Neil: Sure. Here’s the discussion we’re having now.

        ME: I think this inkblot looks like a butterfly.

        YOU: Wrong.

        If it says something else to you, that’s fine. But the whole “you’re wrong” instead of “I got something completely different out of it” makes me think we’re having two different conversations.

  23. Hal says:

    So . . . how would any of what we see at Grandma’s house fit that interpretation? Or ANY interpretation? I don’t get it.

  24. Sho says:

    Huh. I didn’t think of that one, but it does make an awful lot of sense.

    I came up with the “nature is dangerous!” message. To me, most of the wolf encounters described specific dangers. Generally the things that the girls seem to have liked before, and had no fear of them prior to the encounter. Eg: Ruby liked decay. Robin liked animals. Carmen liked being all flirty. Scarlet liked…. well, art and/or order? Still works though. I had other thoughts on each which didn’t exactly run with this “x is dangerous” idea though, but yeah.

    That one just didn’t occur to me.

  25. Neil Polenske says:

    Maybe I’m confused about the comments section. Is this not the appropriate place for discussion Shamus?

  26. Vladius says:

    Well, could you explain why this is happening at the age of 11?

    Also, why the cloud man is gray and has pieces of flesh missing?

  27. Maldeus says:

    This isn’t an inkblot. Inkblots are randomly generated. The makers clearly had something in mind. Whatever they had in mind could be considered the correct answer. Further, any interpretation which fails to fit the symbolism and imagery (i.e. “Rose was eaten by a dragon”) could be considered dead wrong.

    • Shamus says:

      Hey Maldeus: I said explicitly at the start of this series, and in this post, that I was giving my interpretation. Why the hell are you even bothering with this if you disagree with the premise?

  28. BlckDv says:

    Vladius:

    Asking a player of the game who does not even know the designers, “Why is Character X not like I would have made her?” is a bit odd. Shamus did not elect to make her 11.

    Maldeus:

    But we have it from the makers’ own mouths that their intent was to make a story that was open and could have many interpretations. It is even possible that different members of the creative team may have come at each story with diverse opinions. As with Umberto Eco electing to name his novel The Name of the Rose as a conscious choice to not predispose the reader to a meaning, an artist can strive to make a work without any ‘correct’ interpretation.

    More General:

    I like the ideas I’ve read here. I was very vague on what this story meant when playing, and did not take away an overtly sexual message at all, which is not to claim that finding one is far fetched.

    I felt that Rose ended up doing something dangerous and stupid; likely connected to the feeling of Flying. My ‘best guess’ was that she had either jumped into unsafe waters (A flood or strong current?) or had possibly jumped out of an upstairs window, like a bathroom (my weak attempt to explain the bathroom “hall”) during a storm. I thought that she had likely ended up badly injured, and had perhaps seen either her own injuries or someone else killed by the danger and had been forced into a rapid and unwelcome awareness of the messy, painful part of nature that is not comforting or safe. In my story, the misty man was a symbolic representation of trying to claim the wilderness itself or some aspect of it, as a father figure.

    I still think that the deepest meanings for her story need to include both a flight and a fall analogue to be complete for me… if self gratification is the flight analogue; could she have been discovered or had something bad happen as the fall analogue? Does anyone who got a sexual message initially want to offer a thought on that?

  29. Vladius says:

    Yes, but as people have said, you don’t really have problems with that sort of thing until your later teen years. I’m just asking how it fits into the “theory.”

    The simplest explanation for all of the girls is that this is supposed to be a horror game and they all died by interacting with strange people. So there. Although, if you want to spice it up with metaphor, then she most likely drowned, but that’s not as interesting as the possible explanations for Cloud Zombie Man.

  30. Juni says:

    Vladius: So you’re taking the cloud zombie literally? Or is your point something else? I’m sorry, but I don’t quite understand.

  31. pneuma08 says:

    This is the fourth plausible explanation for Rose I’ve heard (the others being; drowning, first period, and actually terminally ill – possibly the most interesting one). And it does make a lot of sense.

    Also: why does there have to be only one interpretation?
    Counterpoint: how is, “I don’t understand how you can see that; it makes no sense to me” an unacceptable statement?

    Finally, from what I understand, 11 is not too young for this sort of thing. I’m no expert, though. Furthermore, the ages of all the girls are highly suspect, and there’s no need for these girls to fit into what happens to “most” people.

  32. Nova says:

    @BlckDv: I get what you mean about her drowning – that’s certainly what I got from the water imagery, but I’m not sure about ‘flight’ so much. Part of the reason that I felt that was that she was certainly heading out onto the lake during or just before a storm – something an experienced sailor wouldn’t do. Also, when you reach the cloud zombie thing, the water turns really muddy and orange-y, like the lake has been stirred up by something.
    I thought the cloud-flayed-zombie-thing was really interesting; he made me think of Nucklavee (except the whole not being a centaur thing), who apparently has an aversion to running water and a reputation for making people ill and ruining crops etc. I think maybe the zombie-thing is a representation of her own death.
    Maybe the whole thing is to do with mortality? When you’re eleven, you don’t really think that you will die – so Rose goes out on a boat, or does something similar, when it’s dangerous, and comes face to face with death; I’m not sure whether she really dies or not (she does step into the light in Grandma’s House), but if she doesn’t, she’s learnt something valuable about her own life. Alternatively, she may have been drowned by someone else – maybe some school bully held her down too long in a toilet?

    On the other hand, water imagery tends to generally be about purity/fertility/life, so maybe drowning is wrong…

  33. IronCastKnight says:

    I’m just going to take the lowest road and assume this story was about air dancing with flying zombies in a house with lots of bathrooms and an exploded bed, with a levitating mattress and spinning frame and such.

    Sometimes a skinless man near two trees in a lake during a rainstorm is just the after effects of summoning a horrible creature from beyond the stars.

  34. Hope says:

    I’m not sure if any of the commenters above are female, but several of you seem to have some strange ideas about female sexuality.

    Yes, eleven year old girls have sexual feelings. Without the obvious feedback indicator that men have, they tend to be kind of vague. A lesbian friend of mind says when she was a girl she used to watch a particular tv show because she had a crush on the actress, but she didn’t recognize it as such until years later. I used to get a warm, special feeling whenever a friend’s brother spoke to me as if I were an equal. And yes, I knew there were some places on my body that felt good when I touched them. I had my first orgasm at the age of 12 or 13, entirely by accident. The idea that girls somehow don’t experience sexual feelings until their late teens is, frankly, laughable.

  35. Maldeus says:

    @Shamus: I come here in an attempt to find out what the creators had intended. This neither invalidates nor condemns your more interpretative approach. If you could point me to another place where I can find this exact or else an extremely similar group of people discussing the Path with the intent of finding the message(s) intended to be sent by the creators, I’d be willing to discuss it over there, instead, if it really irritates you THAT much, that I’m discussing the series for a different reason than you.

  36. Leo says:

    I WANT TO SEE WHAT NEIL SAID

    p.s. why are the shelves spinning

  37. Juni says:

    Sometimes a flying cloud zombie is just a flying cloud zombie.
    -Freud

    (Well, I’m paraphrasing.)

    Actually, I like the “terminal illness” idea. Maybe she ended up jumping off a roof and committing suicide due to that?

    As for how many eleven-year-old girls masturbate, or even what ages are the likeliest suspects… I don’t see how you could possibly get accurate numbers on that. Even if you, for the sake of argument, go around asking eleven-year-old girls… the ones who do, won’t they mostly lie about it? And I think that almost no parents would let their children be asked such questions.

    And even if there were numbers like that, the fact that people in their “rebellious” teen years are more willing to admit to doing things their parents disapprove of seems reasonable.

    Of course, this is all beside the point that just because an “average” 11 year old girl would not, that doesn’t mean anything when talking about this particular eleven-year-old girl.

  38. rofltehcat says:

    Well, does this mean that the The Path features are over?
    Because to be honest I personally didn’t like them, but I guess that is up to everyone self to decide.
    Does this mean we go back to more geek stuff? :)

  39. Maldeus says:

    I’m pretty sure there’s one left. Shamus mentioned a wrap-up post. And I’m still waiting for the “surprise! You just got punk’d!” I’m not sure what the punk’d is gonna be. It just seems like having some kind of twist ending on a seven-installment series on The Path would be fitting.

  40. Arquinsiel says:

    NBSRDan, “A girl discovers masturbation. What a deep and meaningful game.”… this is what Anne Rice has based her entire career on.

    As an aside, I find it amusing to see that my “spot the non-native speaker” trick works so well even over the internet. The concept of “teenager” seems so fundamental to us that no-one ever bothers to explain it to those learning English, and if you do they look at you funny and tell you how silly it is…

  41. King of Men says:

    > The idea that girls somehow don’t experience sexual feelings until their late teens is, frankly, laughable.

    This seems to be in response to me, but it is a strawman: That’s not what I said. I said that there exist women – adults above twenty – who either have never masturbated or are unwilling to admit it in surveys; and also (some but not complete overlap) there exist adult women who have not had an orgasm. I have not claimed that such women are asexual, that they are doing something wrong, or that their existence implies anything about the sexual development of most women. I have not claimed that this is true of all or even most women. You appear to be finding gender politics where I intended to give facts that might illuminate discussion. Please don’t.

    As a side note, I’m prepared to find that I am actually mistaken on the point, and repeating an urban legend going back to blatantly wrong surveys done in the sixties, or something; “I read it somewhere” is not a source I put much trust in even when I did the reading myself. But it doesn’t seem impossible: There are surely many people who are ignorant of the workings of their own bodies, even though they are no doubt vastly under-represented among those with access to the Internet.

  42. BlckDv says:

    Nova:

    Fair enough, in many ways drowning is very much like flight, the floating, out of touch nature of it all, and I could see how the images that made me see airborne could be more water based.

    General Thoughts:

    I do hope we get a seventh post in the series. I would very much like to hear Shamus’ thoughts on Prologue/Epilogue girl, as well as any framework that links the six reds. I’m a fan of the theory that the reds are all symbolic parts of the girl in white, who takes the only real journey, the six graves in the graveyard seem a little too perfect to me for the six girls to be literal.

  43. David V.S. says:

    Having no sense of connection with Rose and no idea what else to say, I’ll toss out a new interpretation just to continue the discussion.

    I’ll focus on her innocence, protective feelings towards nature, and need for protection herself (three items taken from the website paragraph).

    …there is a certain air of innocence about her that is charming and disconcerting at the same time…all is beautiful!..Rose is taking it in voraciously. So much so that she will defend even nature’s smallest creatures against anyone who might wish them harm. But who will protect sweet Rose herself, when she is lured off the path? With a promise of unearthly bliss, of light in abundance where no sun will ever shine? You’re just a little girl, Rose! Just a fragile little girl…

    A child encounters a story with animals, water and a boat…? My first association is Noah’s Ark.

    Rose thinks nature is lovely and wants to defend it. What if her “wolf” is realizing that nature is actually quite heartless and impersonal and often preys on itself. Death is amazingly common, and saving animals from danger is impossible.

    What if the heavenly skinned man is simply a half-eaten carcass, human or otherwise? Do you remember the first time you saw a half-eaten animal? A dead person?

    Rose would both be confident that the dead thing’s spirit was in the clouds while also horrified to realize that many things in the woods live by killing and eating each other. Both awe and mourning would wash over disgust.

    She cannot defend the woods against itself. Unlike Noah, she only has herself in her boat. The best she can do is bury the dead thing and cry — not because it is dead but because no one else cried for it.

    At the end, she feels a bit disturbed and unclean: not personally but as part of a larger world that is more merciless and dirty than she had previously realized. She feels a need to wash her hands, and in her room she cannot sleep as if the bed was spinning.

  44. Audacity says:

    After watching that Youtube clip and reading all the other posts on this game, without having actually played it, I’m going to propose my own interpretation.

    The developers were all incredibly stoned, and decided to make a game with random imagery that could be interpreted in any number of ways. Then they threw in some incredibly annoying music, set the player’s movement speed to that of a snail, and decided to call it an “artsy/horror” game.

    I guess my interpretation -Drawn from reading other people’s accounts of the game.- is that it’s not a game with a hidden message at all, just a crazy mindf@#$.

    EDIT: This has been a rather interesting series by the way, Shamus.

  45. IronCastKnight says:

    “Ah,” the six girls cried, “the wolf is coming.”
    And after the wolfen feast, a meal of dreams and hope, did it on a bed of broken bones lie, sate and full and dry
    And of girls there were no more
    Flying zombie disco

  46. pneuma08 says:

    @King of Men: Actually, #18, Adam Greenbrier, was the first to misread your post.

    In any event, the ideas were put out there, and not necessarily directed towards you.

  47. Neil Polenske says:

    “Neil: Sure. Here’s the discussion we’re having now.

    ME: I think this inkblot looks like a butterfly.

    YOU: Wrong.”

    Uh…what? Okay, let’s assume you’re referring to the ‘anyone’ version of ‘you’, I didn’t see anyone saying you were outright wrong in any of the posts, cept Maldeus and he certainly wasn’t being a jackass about it the way your playing it up, unless it was after ya got belligerent. I stopped reading after a point. I can only read down a thread for so long…

    Seriously, what is UP with the needless hyperbole?

    “I WANT TO SEE WHAT NEIL SAID”

    Point of fact, I didn’t actually ‘say’ anything besides what is shown up there in my post. Nothing’s been edited or deleted, if that’s what you were inquiring about.

    Side Note: While I am not a woman, I also had to laugh at whoever thought girls don’t do solo performances until their mid to late teens. I also hear they don’t fart…cause that’s icky! In fact, they’re immune to all unpleasant bodily functions of ANY kind…until they’re married.

  48. KnightT says:

    As long as a person provides something to support their interpretation then they cannot be called wrong. Shamus has done that, so you can dissagree but he can’t be wrong.

    David V.S provided a diffrent and equaly right point of view. Personaly I like his more, but that’s maybe because I’d rather have his version than Shamus’s, and I’m sure most other people would perfer that as well.

    P.S. Inkblots are not random, they are a set of cards used because each interptation gives a little bit of information about the viewer. Anyway they are not “random”, if they were what use would they be?
    Sorry, that just was getting to me.

  49. David V.S. says:

    In case this is your last post about The Path, Shamus, I would like to thank you for writing them.

    Although they were not everyone’s cup of tea, I found them intriguing.

    The series is evidence of your willingness to share the breadth of your personality, which takes more courage and patience than many people have (or at least extend to the internet).

  50. WILL says:

    Wait, women can masturbate?

  51. Sean Riley says:

    Shamus, one final question.

    You’ve analysed the parts, yes. But what about the whole? What is the game, as a whole, about?

    I mostly concur with you (and on the subject, I think your interpretation of Rose is brilliant and probably the author’s own intent — I can’t believe the boat imagery, water imagery and the name ‘Rose’ aren’t deliberate) but you’ve talked about a machine in light of which individual cog does.

    FWIW, my interpretation of the game was a fairly simple message: That breaking the rules is how we grow up. Off the Path is confusing. There’s no-one to help you there, and you’re on your own. Breaking the rules is hard. It will hurt you. It might even kill you. But the alternative is an lifetime spent in grandmother’s house.

    Gameplay mechanics, then, are designed to tie into this. Of course the game doesn’t give you any direction beyond the Path. If it did, you wouldn’t be off it. (The flowers, etc. are a quiet nod to helping the player while hopefully not being explicit about it.)

    I also think the Girl in White isn’t innocence, per se, but conformity. The pressure to be innocent, the pressure to obey the rules. That’s why she’s the one who’ll lead you back. But she’s not an ally. She is, in fact, the enemy of the game. (The Wolf is simply the price of walking off The Path.)

    That being said, I admit my interpretation falls down a bit in the epilogue: What is that about? And why does the girl in white have blood on her dress at the end?

  52. Yoshiko says:

    /bonk Will

    I actually interpreted it as the first period, but I can see the validity of your theory, Master Shamus.
    As for 11 year old girls and sexuality, yes, that is about the right age for the average girl in my experience.
    Hormones kicking in, first period, natural animal instinct to reproduce, etc.
    Of course, many girls find their “happy button” even earlier, in a non-sexual “Hey this feels good/funny” way.
    In certain Asian cultures, to calm a crying baby girl, the grandmother (usually the one taking care of the baby) will rub the “happy button”, which has actually prompted a few (cultural confusion) arrests when witnessed in the states.

    http://parenting.ivillage.com/tp/tpdevelopment/0,,3q9m,00.html

    http://www.drgreene.com/21_606.html

    http://www.parenting-ed.org/handout3/Specific%20Concerns%20and%20Problems/masturbation.htm

  53. Shamus, don’t pay any attention to the haters. Also, you shouldn’t have to post that careful disclaimer at the beginning. I mean, we are all adults here.

    Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto – “I am a man, and nothing that is human is alien to me”. I don’t get why people get worked up over something like this.

    I had no clue what to make of this ending, but I do like your interpretation. It makes sense.

    For one, I really enjoyed this series. Here is a question: which of the girls was your favorite? Which ending did you find the most intriguing?

  54. Davin Valkri says:

    Ah, man, Shamus, your interpretation and David V.S.’s (http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=4955#comment-131927) both sound great. I can’t choose between them.

  55. Tuck says:

    Hey. A bathtub. In the middle of the woods. This is the most labor-intensive form of littering I’ve ever seen.

    Bathtubs are commonly spotted in the Australian bush, not too far from human settlement — they’re used as water troughs for cattle/horses mainly. So seeing that one in your screenshot didn’t seem at all out of place to me…just figured that someone in the area used to keep animals in the forest.

  56. lluviata says:

    I tend to think that Rose came across the dead body of a man floating in water. This is very close to what David V.S. said. Supporting evidence: the floating cloud man looks to me like a corpse that’s been lying in a pond for awhile. He’s very pale, and missing skin like fish had been nibbling on him. The tub and the public bathroom scenes are about Rose’s horror at finding a dead body: she flashes back to finding the body when she sees water in the bathtub and toilet, and imagines the corpse when she looks in the mirror. The room where she gets submerged under water and then looks at some underwater flora is her thinking about his corpse slowly rotting underwater. The spinning bed room is the hardest to explain. All of the furniture is separated and looks like its floating (in water). The spinning bed is about her unable to forget what she saw laying in bed at night. (Her mind is spinning.)
    With this theory, we have a bit of loss of innocence-she sees her first dead body, cannot forget, and becomes more cautious and adult. Her view of the beauty of nature is tarnished-she saw something very ugly in her secret world. Perhaps she even feels a little betrayed-she was supposed to be the only person exploring this hidden world and now she discovers that someone was there before her. I would sum this up as discovering that there is no permanent escape, from life’s realities (death) or other people or unpleasantness.
    Problems: It seems too close to another girl’s story. The youngest discovered that animals which are cute and cuddly can also hurt her. Rose discovered that nature isn’t perfect? Also, it doesn’t match her walk back to Grandma’s. Her walk looks very detached and dazed to me, which possibly matches the shock of seeing a corpse but after discovering that perfection isn’t real and certain things are unavoidable Rose should look heavy and dragged down by her new knowledge.
    Anyway, it’s an idea.

  57. SolkaTruesilver says:

    21 (Cuthalion):

    @Cuthalion

    It’s certainly natural. Animals do it all the time, because it’s in our gene code to actually like to reproduce, and thus, liking the acts that are realted to it. “The purpose of life, is to live” and to create more life.

    And as for it being “healthy”, well, it’s certainly not UNhealthy, except if everybody around you hammers in your head that it’s a bad thing. Just like homosexuality.

    @Shamus

    I will stand by what I said, and I will actually go deeper regarding “The Path”. “The Path” that they are all taking is the Path of childhood. How about taking them in order, from youngest to oldest?

    Robin: She discover the world and its dangers alone for the first time. Without anyone to protect her.
    Rose: She discovers herself for the first time.
    Ginger: She discovers that she will change, and she can do nothing about it.
    Ruby: She has her first love. Irrational, stupid, against herself, but she just crush him irrationally, like all teenage girl of that age do.
    Carmen: Her first sexual experience. Probably disapointing as hell, like most woman. She probably realised how empty it could have been. She realised how empty she had became… Empty like so many spoiled teenagers of that age are.
    Scarlet: She discover she will never be a child again.

    I think I might need a woman’s help with Ruby and Carmen. I am not sure about either of them… Now, I am wondering what would happen if a girl have had a somewhat traumatising reaction to all of these events.. and that the same girl would be each of the sisters?

    A girl that grew up, and got afraid alone in the woods. Then she discovered her sexuality.
    Then she had trouble accepting that she was becoming a woman. She became rejective of the world around her.
    She had her first love, which got trough her negativism of the world. He treated her probably too much, and she got spoiled with attention.
    Then, she had sex with a stupid, rubbish man. For the first time. She probably realised how a stupid mistake that was, and tried to grow up out of it. She realised that how she looked was only a small part of what really matters.
    At the end… she realised that she will never be able to get back. That her childhood escaped her forever, and that the only thing she can look forward, is to grow older…

    The Path leads them from their house to older age (their grandmother).

  58. Kojiro says:

    Hm, wow, you hit a completely different note from what I did, although I can see your points. I certainly can’t say you’re wrong (well I could but it wouldn’t matter and would only make me look like a jerk), and I actually like seeing a wholly different interpretation here.

    My point of view somewhat coincides with David’s up there. The main difference is that, while he sees it as her love of nature, and he used a religious metaphor, I saw it as related to religion itself. Rose, being a very kind girl, would easily be attracted to religion, or at least certain forms of it. Of course, while religion itself is all well and good, there are a lot of people who do bad things with it (and even more unfortunately, for it). The cloud man, as you can see through the few gaps in the steam surrounding him, is a sickly white and has numerous red gashes in his body. I think that (maybe) she got an up-close look at some of the more negative aspects of religion, and was disillusioned with her faith, perhaps.

    Another theory I had involved fear of water, drowning, et cetera, but people covered that topic already.

    Anyway, this was an interesting read.

    Edit: Looking at the game as a whole, though, your interpretation makes more sense, Shamus, especially through the “growing up” sort of interpretation like what the person above posted. Hm. I doubt that each girl’s story is entirely disconnected from those of the others, either, so if we are looking for a “more right” interpretation I’d probably go with yours over mine.

  59. Maldeus says:

    @Solka 60: You’re WRONG.

    Okay. No. Not really. But I find that to be an incredibly unreal person.

    It takes two years to go from Ruby to Carmen? To go from Rose, mature for her age, to Ginger? I don’t see it.

  60. Dix says:

    I’m cool with Shamus’ interpretation, but I think it’s also possible to believe that Rose has found God. (I am not a godly person, but I think I see some literary connections in this summary all the same.)

    What I really wanted to say, though, is that reading this particular engineer’s writing about art has been riveting, and Shamus, feel free to discuss the art aspects of other games (or of other arts) all you like. I’m reading. :)

  61. Stephanie says:

    Masturbation? Gosh, I never would have thought of that.

    My view of her wolf was very much informed by stories about Jupiter abducting Ganymede, or ravishing Danae in a ‘shower of gold.’ But how that was supposed to fit into the bathroom imagery was beyond my interpretive capacity, so your mileage may vary.

  62. Pumpkinetics says:

    You know, taking it from the youtube ending, I came up with another fairly standard “taboo” subject. Like people suggested with Ginger, this is about the age where peer pressure really kicks in. Rose’s walk includes a greenhouse, and the steam could just as easily be smoke.

    I reckon she just started taking, or being affected in some way by, cigarettes or something worse.

    The bathroom also implied this to me somewhat, as is the general “light-headedness” implied from Grandma’s bedroom and the room with the table on the wall (which is also seen in Ruby’s walk, also somewhat to do with moral decay as it were)

  63. Kotenku says:

    What I want to know is this:

    What was up with the upside down fan blades spinning in grandma’s house?

  64. David V.S. says:

    Kotenku asked

    What I want to know is this:

    What was up with the upside down fan blades spinning in grandma’s house?

    You obviously have been fortunate to only work with skilled contractors.

    That ceiling fan on the floor was also installed a week late, at half again the estimated price.

    And the wiring was messed up, causing the television to no longer work and grandma’s adjustable hospital-style bed to fly around the room.

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