Passage and Gravitation- Deeper Meanings

As previously stated, Jason Rohrer is the video game designer of both “Passage” and “Gravitation.”  While both games have almost no words involved in them with very simple controls, they include meanings that are far more deep and profound then many of the games that we have studied thus far. The two games are somewhat cynical metaphors for the journey of life and they both complement each other nicely.

During the game of “Passage”, the gamer starts out with a simple blonde sprite. There are simple controls to this game (up, down, right and left).  From the beginning, the player is confronted with what appears to be a female character.  It was mentioned in a previous blog entry, “Gravitation/Passage Analysis Paper” that the choice of companionship was a limiting as well as an enabling factor of these games.  In this game companionship is definitely a limiting factor with mobility.  A single sprite can fit through routes easily, whereas a pair could not.  Also, after an allotted amount of time, the companion will die and the single sprite will remain traveling until the time runs out.  In this game, relationships are portrayed as very limiting. The game raises the question: “What is the point of even joining with the female sprite?” And if players play a second time, they tend to play without the companion.

Not only does “Passage” have a rather cynical portrayal of relationships, but also on the notion of life in general.  Weather the player stands completely still the whole game, or they collect all of the stars they need to collect, they die at a specific time.  It has a very mournful tone, and leaves us with the message of no matter what you do in the game, death is inevitable.  This message is unique to most video games; in most other games the player has a sense of control…they can get extra lives, go on to new levels, and prolong their “life” as much as possible.  This is a startling concept to put into a video game, because most people cannot fully comprehend the inevitability of death in real life.

An introduction to the game of “Gravitation” is “A video game about mania, melancholia and the creative process.” This game begins and ends with the word “gravitation.”  This is significant not only because it is the title of the piece, but also because the meaning of gravitation is an unstoppable force that pulls all objects down to earth.  This is interesting because during the game, the player is given the option to jump to higher levels and retrieve stars.  These stars produce blocks of ice which are on the land; the player needs to move these blocks of ice into the furnace to increase their score.  However, to jump on the cliffs that lead to the top, the player needs to be able to jump very high. The point that the player can jump the highest is when the character hair catches on fire, and the point that the player can jump the lowest to the ground is when the screen closes in around the character.  Does this aspect of the game symbolize “gravitation?” I think it does.  This is an unstoppable aspect to the game, and it is limiting; just as gravity is limiting. I think there are multiple aspects of this game that express the theme “gravitation”.  Another aspect of the game that portrays this limiting factor is the child at the bottom of the screen that is throwing the ball.  If the gamer decides to throw the ball back to the child at the bottom of the screen, a big heart appears…and if they miss or do not wish to throw the ball back to the child tears spurt out of the character.  As in “Passage”, after an allotted amount of time, the child will disappear (as long as you are not standing right next to her.) This is also one of the many unstoppable forces of this game. The last unstoppable force that is similar to the concept of gravity is the time limit.  As in passage, the player will die (no matter what the score) at a specific time limit.  However, in this game you have the option of not dying alone.  If you remain on the ground throwing the ball with the child the entire game, the child will stay with you.

Both of these simple games have similar aspects and similar overall hidden meanings or messages.  These works in particular are excellent for literary criticism and analysis because there is so much that Rohrer leaves up for interpretation.  While “Passage” seems to be more about the journey of life and the dangers of relationships, “Gravitation” seems to be about the journey of life and the dangers of working.


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