Friday, January 17, 2014

Broken Age Act 1 is satisfying, if short. A feminist reading of the ending.

I finished playing Broken Age Act 1 this morning. The ending was a clincher and I'm excited for Act 2. I'm happy to say that I figured out all the puzzles except for one on my own (maybe that means other people would find them too easy?). I've played some other adventure games recently, and one thing Broken Age did well was having the story move along enough that I felt engaged with it. I played Gabriel Knight over Halloween and it also slowly revealed things so that I wanted to keep playing to see where the story went. It had narrative urgency. Broken Age wasn't quiiiite as page-turny, but it was much better than the newer Sam & Max games and the Wallace and Gromit point-and-click adventures (which I stopped playing after an hour or so and feel no need to go back to).

So, not only does Broken Age have narrative urgency, which I consider important in any story-based game, but it also had an interesting narrative--two worlds with details to indicate that they have some yet-unrevealed histories; the feeling that the world is bigger than the little parts you're seeing. The game isn't so dominated by humor that it feels forced, although at times I felt like I was growing out of the humor it had (hanging by your underwear and tree barf are only so funny at my age). I recommend the game, and that you keep playing to the end of Act 1!

Okay, I wanna discuss the ending! Major spoilers!



Vella starts out sacrificed to this Mog Chothra, whom she escapes. Shay escapes mother computer to save creatures from hostiles... but his wolf guide seems to always want to leave before he picks the last one. Shay's ship sustains a hull breech in the last rescue. When Vella conquers Mog Chothra, Shay comes out of it. Basically, his ship was actually this monster, and when he thought he was saving girls, he was acting as a monster eating them. If I understand that right.

I was contemplating this situation. It lends itself to many interpretations, but a feminist/post-colonialist interpretation could see it as how those with more power are unaware of how they oppress those with less power, because they essentially live in different worlds. You really get a sense of how Shay thought he was really helping those "beings" he rescued. I felt sympathetic when he wanted to save every last one! But I think in the same way we can look back on, say, forcing indigenous people into Christian missions, or telling women they're inherently better in some ways because they're women (i.e., benevolent sexism), to one group they look like they're being helpful, but to the other they're not. I felt really insightful when I thought it, but now that I've written it down it seems kind of plain. Rampant Coyote saw it as a critique of the game industry, and I'm curious if he'll still see it that way after he plays the ending. What about you, who are reading this spoilery bit? I'm curious to know what other people thought of the ending.