Gravitation/Passage Analysis Paper

I decided after class on Monday that I wanted to write my analysis paper on the games Gravitation and Passage.  The two games are very similar.  Both were created by Jason Rohrer.  I am thinking about using a compare and contrast approach for the paper.  In my paper, I’d like to identify and dive into some of the themes that are present in both works.  By examining these two works together, I hope to gather a deeper understanding of the underlying messages that Rohrer attempts to convey in his work.

One of the elements of Rohrer’s games I can examine is the way the screen changes.

In Passage, the character you control (and his wife if you choose to marry) start on the left side of the screen.  You have the ability to move the character up, down, left and right through a narrow passage.  Regardless of how much the charater moves around, his orientation in relation to the screen will always move from left to right.  So even if you don’t move your character at all, he will still end up on the right side of the screen.  This is a way Rohrer depicts time.  It gives the player the sense that death is eminent and whatever you manage to accomplish during the game is inconsequential.

In Gravitation, the screen is very small, focussed only on the character you control.  By playing with the child, you can cause the screen to expand, allowing you to view more of the playable surface.  Unlike Passage, the Gravitron map goes upward.  The further upward you go, the more screen visibility you lose.  By playing with the child you can gain back that screen visibility.  However, if you stand still, the visibility will fluctuate regardless of the amount of time spent with the child.  Also, when the screen is small, everything is snow-covered and wintery.  As the screen expands, the snow melts and everything begins to look like spring. Also, at the climax of spring, the character’s head catches fire and gives him the ability to jump higher.  I would like to see what meanings I can draw from these elements of Gravitation using scholarly essays.


Another element I can examine for my paper is the way family/companionship enables/limits your performance in the game.

In Passage, you have to chose (almost immediately) whether you’d like to marry or not.  If you chose not to marry, you are able to navigate your character through smaller openings to get stars.  If you get married, those stars are unobtainable because the passages are to slim for two people to fit through.  If you chose not to get married you have the benefit of being able to collect more stars, however, you will eventually die alone.  Rohrer made the game this way almost certainly to show the limitations as well as the benefits marriage and companionship can give an individual.

In Gravitation, the limitations/benefits are more obvious.  By building a relationship with the child, you are enabling more of the screen to be viewed as well as improving the weather and increasing jumping height.  However, by leaving the child and going upwards to collect stars, you lose the vision, weather and jumping power.  The relationship is simultaneously enabling the game to be played further as well as restricting it from progressing too far.

Those are just a couple of themes that I plan to dig into with the help of scholarly essays.  The only roadblock I can foresee is finding Scholarly works on these two games since they are both relatively recent (’07 & ’08).  My favorite thing about Rorher’s games is how simple they are.  He doesn’t try to wow you with mesmerizing graphics or fascinating game play.  He really cuts it down to the bare essentials and forces the player to think about the deeper meaning behind the game.  That’s what I enjoy most about Rohrer’s work and it’s why I chose to analyze it.

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