The Path is a real bummer.
There are numerous ways I could mean that. The most basic intention would be to state the obvious; that it is a rather depressing game with a pessimistic message. I suppose there’s really no way to tell the story of sisters being kidnapped and/or murdered by unseen forces in an upbeat fashion. I mean, it makes sense. Its not as if fairy tales themselves (Red Riding Hood in this case) aren’t typically steeped in some very dark territory, so an adaptation of such is certainly prone to being a bit of a downer.
But to actually interact with that story is something different altogether. That’s what initially drew me to The Path years ago. It’s visually engaging from the outset but quickly turns into something unpleasant. As with any good piece of psychological horror, it then forces to you to continue engaging with that unpleasantness to go forward. You see, The Path gives you a choice that isn’t really a choice. You can stay on the path to Grandmother’s house, but you can’t help but feel like there’s something interesting happening in those woods, just outside of your view. All you need to do a wander around for a bit. What’s the worst that could happen?
After that initial playthrough, I felt like it was a game that I needed to champion, to show other people in hopes that we’d get just a little bit closer to ending the gaming medium’s seemingly never-ending quest to prove its artistic merit. It’s an “art game”, for sure, but it also feels like an important game, a study in narrative and how stories can be told or untold with our actions in an interactive space.
The problems that I see now are mostly of context, experiencing it in a time and place long after the developers outed themselves as being fairly thin-skinned and pretentious, that voice seeming to bleed through the experience I have playing one of their games now. I still see The Path as important, but I can also tell that it sees itself that way, each movement and detail now coming off perhaps even more self-important than it was originally intended, every line of dialogue a bit too ostentatious for its own good.
That’s why The Path is such a bummer. It’s something I actually quite like created by people that I don’t. I suppose it’s a rather minor issue in the grand scheme of things. It’s not like listening to a lostprophets album or watching a Chris Benoit match, knowing the horrible life-altering things done by the artists involved. It’s more like bobbing my head to Sweet Child o’ Mine whilst knowing what an egomaniac and all-around shithead Axl Rose is. It doesn’t make the thing he created any less good, but I absolutely believe that a creation’s message can be diluted by its source. I want to see more games like The Path, but wonder if our own self-awareness, as critics and creators, will get in the way; as if acknowledging the profound things a work does will automatically poison the well and make us unable to learn anything from it.
Considering how infrequently I see or hear anything about the game, that may have already happened.