Diehard GameFAN Hall of Shame Nomination: The Path

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: The Path
Developer: Tale of Tales
Publisher: Tale of Tales
Release Date:3/18/2009
System Released On: Windows, Mac OS/X
Genre: Art

Who Nominated The Game: Alex and I more or less agreed that he got to nominate Daikatana, and I got to nominate The Path.

Why Was It Nominated:There tend to be two camps on the “games as art” debate. On one side – we’ll call this “Team Ebert” – are people that think video games cannot be art, and reduce them to little more than a base act, the digital equivalent of scratching one’s ass. The other side – “Team Spector” sounds about right – believes that the interactivity that video games allow the player allow them to tell their own story, and immerse themselves in what they’re looking at in a way that a movie or a book does not make possible. Much like the Green Party to the Liberals, however, there’s an offshoot of the artsy sector that seems a bit extreme: those that think games should ONLY be about artistic statements, gameplay be damned.

It’s that last segment that didn’t appreciate Alex’s review of The Path.

Allow me to quote one little passage that says all you really need to know about today’s game:

I knew going into this that the development team, Tale of Tales, made some Avant-Garde artsy titles that really aren’t games per say. The Graveyard, for example, is a game where all you do is sit and wait to die. Although you might not. Compelling, no? Well, the weirdness of The Graveyard is nothing compared to the what awaits you in The Path. I’m going to warn you all now that instead of the original metaphor for LRRH, that The Path is nothing more than one giant metaphor for rape. Rape and murder. All you do in the game is walk around, get a girl raped, and then you take her bleeding battered form to Granny’s house where she gets murdered. Young children and sensitive folk should probably stop here. Hell, *I* should probably stop here, but I promised to review the game and review it I will.

Let me emphasize one part:

All you do in the game is walk around, get a girl raped, and then you take her bleeding battered form to Granny’s house where she gets murdered.

I thought Alex was exaggerating when he said this, so I decided that I had to try the game myself to see if Alex was right. Yes, in the interest of “journalism”, I actually paid for The Path so that I could investigate for myself how bad it was. Unfortunately, he was correct in everything he said. All you do is walk, get raped, and die, all with various girls. Most Avant-Garde art games have a statement they choose to make, but I literally have no clue what they’re trying to say. The game’s NAME is The Path, but there’s no reward for staying on the path. Going off the path gets you raped and killed. Playing the game – a bad game, mind – is pointless, which counts as double jeopardy when the only possible result of the game is the brutal rape and murder of adolescent girls. That’ll teach me for being a “journalist”.

So imagine my susprise when I see the shitstorm that resulted from Alex’s review. Commenters on our own site, N4G and other aggregator sites either agreed with him or ripped him apart. He didn’t “get” the game, according to some. One guy said – and I’m quoting – “I found there to be a certain poetic tastefulness to the proceedings”. That was from a GOOD commenter! Most of the dissenters on other sites weren’t so polite. To a lot of these people, The Path was OK because it didn’t *show* the rape happening, it only *implied* it.

This argument is like saying that mommy got the shit beaten out of her by daddy, but it’s OK because she didn’t loose any teeth this time.

Needless to say, the reason I nominated this game is because I don’t buy that argument one bit. Not only is this a bad game from a gameplay perspective, it’s a pretentious, insulting failure form an artistic standpoint as well. Rape is never artistic, especially when it’s presented in such a way as The Path presents it.

I feel that to be considered for our Hall of Shame, a game shouldn’t just be bad. It has to literally set the industry back a bit. The Path is one of those games that detractors of our medium can point to and go “that’s why I say this shit’s for deviants and losers!”

All in Favour:

Alex Lucard: The Path is pretty much the worst game I have ever played. It’s an attempt at being artsy at the expense of barely being playable and filled with more bugs than a house in the ghetto filled with syrup. I honestly can’t think of anything positive to say about it. The plot ranges from non-existant to outright offensive, the music is terrible, the game has severe issues in just moving the characters, there is no replay value unless you are purposely trying to bore yourself and it exists simply to make money off of schmoes who are desperate for games to be artsy for art’s sake even if said art is a horrible mess and set forth to purposely create controversy in order to sell even a few copies of the bloody thing and then backtracked on the controversy claiming it wasn’t their intent even while it was right there in the reviewer only guides. The stupidest mistake they could have made was saying “We’re going back to the original core message of Little Red Riding Hood” to a folklorist and then actually being shocked when the anti-rape card was pulled on them.

For me personally, the game was a great example across the board awful. Not only in regards to the game itself but how the people involved with the game comported themselves and their product.

Christopher Bowen: I don’t get it. I seriously don’t fucking get it. What are other people seeing about this game? What about this game makes it art? Is this one of those cases where, if we call something art, we have to pretend we respect it so we don’t hurt the “artist’s” feelings? I’ll bet if I took a giant shit in a cardboard box, and put it in a museum and called it art, people would gather around it and call me a God damned genius while going on about my motivations, my foresight and other things that I didn’t care about as I was shitting into a cardboard box.

This is the response I have when I hear people marvel about The Path and how it’s some kind of accomplishment for video games. If I put Alex’s review of this game on Wikipedia, it will be removed by some douchebag moderator with a made-up PhD from the University of Phoenix before I even think of hitting the “save edit” button, but then I have to read someone like Iain McCafferty of Videogamer.com give the game a 10 while saying it is “a hugely significant work in terms of what a video game can be beyond the realms of throwaway entertainment”? Why, yes, because the rape and murder of prepubescent girls by metaphorical wolves is less “throwaway” than a game like Persona 4. Remember, this site is on Metacritic! Wikipedia even points to one woman who it says was talking about how “feminine” the game was.

Feminine? Leaving broken and bloodied girls on the doorstep of Grandma’s house after they’ve been brutalized in the worst imaginable way is “feminine”? THE YOUNGEST GIRL IS NINE. NINE!!! THAT IS ONE BEFORE TEN! THAT IS STILL SINGLE DIGITS!

Look, I’m not against art games. I think the medium is art, and let me remind anyone about to flame me that I enjoyed Limbo, which one could loosely compare due to the horrible things that happen to the unnamed character in the course of going through it. But Limbo at least has a noble premise; you have to save your sister. What is the purpose of The Path? To show that life is a brutal motherfucker no matter what age you are? To say that life has a path – remember, if you veer, you “fail” – and that all destiny is unchallengeable? What are Tale of Tales saying? And if they’re saying any of these things, can we get them evaluated?

Michael Samyn, co-creator of The Path, once said that sometimes, “you have to go through something very cruel to get somewhere very beautiful”. He said this about a game that shows nothing beautiful; the girls lie, raped and murdered, and must end that way, before you’re allowed to move onto the next girl, at which stage the girl repeats. I certainly hope this isn’t what Mr. Samyn is referring to as being “very beautiful”. If it is, first, he needs to be quarantined. Second, it’s telling about why The Path ended up the way it did.

All Opposed:

Mark B.: So, The Path is a game that uses the story of Little Red Riding Hood as a metaphor for rape, whether metaphorical (IE “loss of innocence”) or literal (IE “the ol’ in and out”). It’s basically either a pretentious piece of shit or an artistic achievement, depending on who you are and how tolerant you are of “art for the sake of art”. On a personal level, I have little tolerance for artistic expression over functional and interesting gameplay, because while games should be artistically brilliant, the medium in question demands something more than just pretty visuals and crap gameplay. Rez, Okami and Shadow of the Colossus manage to be artistically interesting products that are ALSO good games in their own right, so I have no tolerance for something like Braid or Limbo showing me pretty pictures and/or pretentious writing attached to a bare bones platformer or Out of This World. Sorry. So, needless to say, I’m not at all impressed with The Path. Its “coming of age” tale is needlessly grim and exploitative, and as I am not a goth girl, not incredibly enthralled by The Nightmare Before Christmas, not terribly impressed by Anne Rice or Twilight, and not the sort of game critic who needs to fellate any game that seems like its developers attended half of an Art Theory or Psychology class at some point, I’m not impressed with this, either.

But is it Hall of Shame material? Nah.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think the game is boring as hell and the concept is inane at a best case, but I’ve played lots of games that fall under that criteria that I’d never nominate for such a category. In the same sense that we want only the best of the best gracing our Hall of Fame, so too should we only want the worst of the worst gracing our Hall of Shame, and while The Path is an unpleasant game with a pretentious sensibility to it, it’s not so much aggressively bad as it is aggressively pretentious. The game reeks of amateur night psychology and Tim Burton-esque presentation elements, but as a game, it amounts to a small company releasing a budget title that calls “pressing a direction for a while until something happens” gameplay and does nothing so horrendous that it’s worth acknowledging, let alone condemning.

James Hatton: There is a slow movement in games that can be seen in almost every corner of the genre. It is a blend of mixing narrative and game instead of being a pure button mashing adventure. The genre reached mainstream attention with Heavy Rain, but has been around for quite a few years as perhaps the next evolution of the mostly defunct adventure genre.

Perhaps the Path isn’t the greatest of its type, but Hall of Shame worthy? I completely disagree. There are plenty of games that have tried this sort of thing and failed even worse. Go ask Square-Enix about the Bouncer before you start complaining about The Path.

Result: 2 In Favour, 2 Opposed, 50% Approval = SPARED

Conclusion: It takes a truly atrocious game to make the Hall of Shame, and The Path was able to do just enough to spare itself of our wrath. If there’s one thing The Path did, it was at least make people talk about what an art game was. It does bear the question: would we rather see games like this that take extreme risks, fall flat, but continue to push the envelope, or do we want more of Generic Space Marine Shooter, put out by sequel-focused, massive corporations who don’t care about innovating so long as they please their shareholders? It’s an interesting debate, and if I had to choose one or the other… even with everything I’ve written, I think I’d take the former. Mistakes can be corrected, and though The Path was a mistake, the fact that it was spared our greatest indignity is indicative that there’s value in trying, at least.

Next Week: We look at a game that took a wounded franchise and figuratively shot it in the head, a game so bad, it received the lowest possible score we can give here at Diehard GameFAN.

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