When Fantasy and Reality Collide

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Posted by patrickklepek (2212 posts) -

(This story features spoilers for Papo & Yo. If you haven’t finished the game yet, you should stop now.)

A certain song, a passage from a book, a flashing dream, a quiet moment in the shower. We never know when our emotions might overwhelm us, and the best anyone can do is ride the wave until it crashes and disappears. Video games are, more and more, becoming a place for people to tell personal stories, rather than the same tale about the hero saving the galaxy from an alien threat (those are still okay, though). Video games may have a long ways to go, but games like Papo & Yo, in which understanding of a troubled childhood is made interactive, are taking us there.

Ever since finishing Papo & Yo, I've been following developer Minority Media's Twitter feed, which often features the powerful reactions players are having to the game's narrative. One reaction, in particular, stuck out to me.

It's one thing to say a game has affected people, it's another to see it actually happening.

Chris Aponte’s father passed away of cirrhosis of the liver in 2004, a consequence of alcoholism. He was just 24-years-old at the time, and when Aponte turned 31-years-old, he decided to give up alcohol.

A photo of Aponte with his mother and father, a snapshot in time that hides a troubled reality.

Aponte was not aware of the emotional motivations behind creating Papo & Yo when he originally bought it last month. As a fan of Team Ico’s games, he figured Papo & Yo was a game created for the same kind of person patiently waiting for The Last Guardian.

“Before the introduction of Monster,” he told me, “I figured the game was about an escapist little boy using a wonderfully creative & artistic imagination to help him cope with poverty.”

(We spoke over email, a place Aponte felt more comfortable, given the nature of the conversation.)

Obviously, that’s not what Papo & Yo is about. It’s a interactive expression of creator Vander Caballero’s troubled childhood, in which he and his family dealt with an alcoholic, abusive father.

Once the monster was introduced, Aponte put the pieces together.

When there's an opportunity, he plays games with his girlfriend, and during one of her turns, he looked up interviews about the game.

“I read Vander Caballerro said his father was an alcoholic, so I kind of knew before the gamer is probably supposed to know that it was related to alcohol,” he said. “Before I read that, I knew that I profoundly understood something that was happening in the game. I had to research it to scratch that itch.”

It doesn’t become explicitly clear the substance in question is alcohol until the end of the game, when the player is no longer tossing playful, colored fruit at the Monster. Instead, the player passes him (it?) bottles of liquor.

When Aponte picked up on where the game was going, it actually provided him a sense of comfort.

“Knowing that while playing through the game made me feel like I wasn't alone in my pain,” he said.

Aponte, now 33-years old, has been without alcohol for two years now.

“After years of partying, getting fired from job after job, and dropping out of college after college, I finally got my act together,” he said.

He’s currently in the second of a five-year apprenticeship program to become an electrician, and just prior to finding this path, found himself faced with his own profound questions about his relationship with his father’s demons.

“When I decided I had enough of the guilt, shame, and self-torment I gave myself with alcohol, when it was time for self-reflection, I would finally look in the mirror and see my father,” he said. “He died at 47-years-old, I had just turned 31 when I finally quit. I would see his face in the mirror and ask ‘Do I want to give myself a chance, or am I only giving myself 16 more years to live?’”

The emotional climax of Papo & Yo involves the player, as Quico, saying goodbye to the Monster. At this point, it clearly represents Quico's alcoholic father. Even though Aponte was aware of Papo & Yo’s allegorical origins hours ago, in this moment, everything came crashing down, and the weight of his experience collided with Cabellro’s.

He was crushed. His girlfriend put the controller down. He cried.

“I was just watching, stunned, and tears were flowing down my cheeks,” he said. “I think it startled her at first, I mean, it is just a video game--but then she quickly understood what chord this story probably struck with me. We didn't say much through the credits, just held each other and watched them while I let some more tears out. It's the saddest, most painful thing any person has to go through, letting go of a loved one. When they suffer from a substance abuse problem, you have to let them go at their own peril. You almost know they won't survive. And then you have to live with it when they finally DON'T. That scene captured that allegory flawlessly. It was the most emotive I've ever been to any type of story dealing with this situation since my father passed.”

Touched by Aponte’s story, I reached out to Caballero, and I read him a passage from my exchange with Aponte. There was a lingering silence on the other end of the Skpye line.

Caballero used to work at EA Montreal, but can't imagine making big, commercial games again.

“Now, I’m gonna cry,” he said.

Aponte has not been the only player to express their gratitude to Cabellero and the rest of the team at Minority Media for Papo & Yo.

Cabellero spoke of a single father who wrote in, distressed at how he’d let the stresses of his life prompt him to yell at his children. Papo & Yo gave him a glimpse into what it was like for them.

“One of the most difficult things is that when you suffer,” said Caballero, “when you have some type of abuse--either mentally, physically, or whatever--it is that you think you’re alone. And, suddenly, when people play the game, they know they’re not alone.”

Cabellero said he couldn’t imagine working on a traditional game ever again, and hopes more developers will take life experiences and express them in games.

Interviews are often a one-sided affair, but Cabellero was not a normal interview. While setting up a question, I mentioned that my father passed away recently, and how the ending of Papo & Yo spoke of a universal truth about the relationship between parents and children. In my case, there was no abuse. My dad still died, though.

“How did you feel when you played the sequence?” he asked.

I was taken aback, and realized no one had asked me that question. Or any question like that, honestly. When a life-shaking moment occurs, like the passing of a parent, you find most people err on the side of not asking anything at all. Here, Cabellero cut right to the heart of it. The blurring of reality and fantasy, I told him, came from the last moments I had during the viewing services for my father, when, at some point, you have to leave. It’s the last time you’re going to see this person’s body, but you also have to walk out the door. Eventually, you have to say goodbye.

Saying that out loud caused me to give myself a moment to pause.

Hearing stories like this and others has been a reward all its own for Cabellero.

“I cannot put words into it, as an artist,” he said. “Something that is so precious to you and...other people get. It is...[pause]. It gives sense to all the suffering that I had all this life.”

Despite our completely separate lives, this act of creativity forged a bond between Cabellero, Aponte, and myself.

“When your character throws the monster over the ledge, it broke my heart,” said Aponte. “There is nothing harder in this world than letting go of someone you love.”

Though our experiences are worlds apart, I know what you mean, Chris. I know what you mean.

#1 Posted by patrickklepek (2212 posts) -

(This story features spoilers for Papo & Yo. If you haven’t finished the game yet, you should stop now.)

A certain song, a passage from a book, a flashing dream, a quiet moment in the shower. We never know when our emotions might overwhelm us, and the best anyone can do is ride the wave until it crashes and disappears. Video games are, more and more, becoming a place for people to tell personal stories, rather than the same tale about the hero saving the galaxy from an alien threat (those are still okay, though). Video games may have a long ways to go, but games like Papo & Yo, in which understanding of a troubled childhood is made interactive, are taking us there.

Ever since finishing Papo & Yo, I've been following developer Minority Media's Twitter feed, which often features the powerful reactions players are having to the game's narrative. One reaction, in particular, stuck out to me.

It's one thing to say a game has affected people, it's another to see it actually happening.

Chris Aponte’s father passed away of cirrhosis of the liver in 2004, a consequence of alcoholism. He was just 24-years-old at the time, and when Aponte turned 31-years-old, he decided to give up alcohol.

A photo of Aponte with his mother and father, a snapshot in time that hides a troubled reality.

Aponte was not aware of the emotional motivations behind creating Papo & Yo when he originally bought it last month. As a fan of Team Ico’s games, he figured Papo & Yo was a game created for the same kind of person patiently waiting for The Last Guardian.

“Before the introduction of Monster,” he told me, “I figured the game was about an escapist little boy using a wonderfully creative & artistic imagination to help him cope with poverty.”

(We spoke over email, a place Aponte felt more comfortable, given the nature of the conversation.)

Obviously, that’s not what Papo & Yo is about. It’s a interactive expression of creator Vander Caballero’s troubled childhood, in which he and his family dealt with an alcoholic, abusive father.

Once the monster was introduced, Aponte put the pieces together.

When there's an opportunity, he plays games with his girlfriend, and during one of her turns, he looked up interviews about the game.

“I read Vander Caballerro said his father was an alcoholic, so I kind of knew before the gamer is probably supposed to know that it was related to alcohol,” he said. “Before I read that, I knew that I profoundly understood something that was happening in the game. I had to research it to scratch that itch.”

It doesn’t become explicitly clear the substance in question is alcohol until the end of the game, when the player is no longer tossing playful, colored fruit at the Monster. Instead, the player passes him (it?) bottles of liquor.

When Aponte picked up on where the game was going, it actually provided him a sense of comfort.

“Knowing that while playing through the game made me feel like I wasn't alone in my pain,” he said.

Aponte, now 33-years old, has been without alcohol for two years now.

“After years of partying, getting fired from job after job, and dropping out of college after college, I finally got my act together,” he said.

He’s currently in the second of a five-year apprenticeship program to become an electrician, and just prior to finding this path, found himself faced with his own profound questions about his relationship with his father’s demons.

“When I decided I had enough of the guilt, shame, and self-torment I gave myself with alcohol, when it was time for self-reflection, I would finally look in the mirror and see my father,” he said. “He died at 47-years-old, I had just turned 31 when I finally quit. I would see his face in the mirror and ask ‘Do I want to give myself a chance, or am I only giving myself 16 more years to live?’”

The emotional climax of Papo & Yo involves the player, as Quico, saying goodbye to the Monster. At this point, it clearly represents Quico's alcoholic father. Even though Aponte was aware of Papo & Yo’s allegorical origins hours ago, in this moment, everything came crashing down, and the weight of his experience collided with Cabellro’s.

He was crushed. His girlfriend put the controller down. He cried.

“I was just watching, stunned, and tears were flowing down my cheeks,” he said. “I think it startled her at first, I mean, it is just a video game--but then she quickly understood what chord this story probably struck with me. We didn't say much through the credits, just held each other and watched them while I let some more tears out. It's the saddest, most painful thing any person has to go through, letting go of a loved one. When they suffer from a substance abuse problem, you have to let them go at their own peril. You almost know they won't survive. And then you have to live with it when they finally DON'T. That scene captured that allegory flawlessly. It was the most emotive I've ever been to any type of story dealing with this situation since my father passed.”

Touched by Aponte’s story, I reached out to Caballero, and I read him a passage from my exchange with Aponte. There was a lingering silence on the other end of the Skpye line.

Caballero used to work at EA Montreal, but can't imagine making big, commercial games again.

“Now, I’m gonna cry,” he said.

Aponte has not been the only player to express their gratitude to Cabellero and the rest of the team at Minority Media for Papo & Yo.

Cabellero spoke of a single father who wrote in, distressed at how he’d let the stresses of his life prompt him to yell at his children. Papo & Yo gave him a glimpse into what it was like for them.

“One of the most difficult things is that when you suffer,” said Caballero, “when you have some type of abuse--either mentally, physically, or whatever--it is that you think you’re alone. And, suddenly, when people play the game, they know they’re not alone.”

Cabellero said he couldn’t imagine working on a traditional game ever again, and hopes more developers will take life experiences and express them in games.

Interviews are often a one-sided affair, but Cabellero was not a normal interview. While setting up a question, I mentioned that my father passed away recently, and how the ending of Papo & Yo spoke of a universal truth about the relationship between parents and children. In my case, there was no abuse. My dad still died, though.

“How did you feel when you played the sequence?” he asked.

I was taken aback, and realized no one had asked me that question. Or any question like that, honestly. When a life-shaking moment occurs, like the passing of a parent, you find most people err on the side of not asking anything at all. Here, Cabellero cut right to the heart of it. The blurring of reality and fantasy, I told him, came from the last moments I had during the viewing services for my father, when, at some point, you have to leave. It’s the last time you’re going to see this person’s body, but you also have to walk out the door. Eventually, you have to say goodbye.

Saying that out loud caused me to give myself a moment to pause.

Hearing stories like this and others has been a reward all its own for Cabellero.

“I cannot put words into it, as an artist,” he said. “Something that is so precious to you and...other people get. It is...[pause]. It gives sense to all the suffering that I had all this life.”

Despite our completely separate lives, this act of creativity forged a bond between Cabellero, Aponte, and myself.

“When your character throws the monster over the ledge, it broke my heart,” said Aponte. “There is nothing harder in this world than letting go of someone you love.”

Though our experiences are worlds apart, I know what you mean, Chris. I know what you mean.

#2 Posted by LikeaSsur (1586 posts) -

Interesting read.

#3 Posted by Porkellain (253 posts) -

uhm, i might decide to buy it now.

#4 Posted by Giantstalker (1727 posts) -

Three out of five stars.

#5 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -

Goddamn. Phew.

#6 Posted by Yummylee (22539 posts) -

Still really want to play this, but I can't help but be discouraged by the £12 tag...

#7 Posted by XTraFries (213 posts) -

Really liking these kind of stories that Patrick has been doing lately.

#8 Posted by Mesoian (1574 posts) -

The biggest problem I have with papo y yo is that, as a functional game, it's fairly poor. I had a lot of trouble with simple progression detection through the majority of the game, getting events to trigger correctly and graphical glitches around every turn which forced me out of the experience it was trying to offer. Conversely, with a game like Journey, which is out to do the same thing Papo Y Yo is only with a different subject, you never feel taken out of the experience, even as entire environments change.

It's not enough of game to keep you challenged and motivated to conquer each puzzle due to the nature of the puzzles alone, and it's too much of a game to keep you emersed in the, mostly silent, narrative it's trying to have you embrace.

The ending did get me though. But...Sturgeons Law. Just because the ending is amazing, it doesn't make up for the pitfalls of the rest of your game. I've played Journey 7 or 8 times and been effected by it each time. I really don't even want to touch Papo Y Yo again.

#9 Posted by Sgtpierceface (645 posts) -

Keep up the interesting articles Patrick. You're doing great!

#10 Posted by namesonkel (412 posts) -

Too bad it's packaged in a not so very interesting game.

#11 Posted by JayCee (624 posts) -

Beautiful piece Patrick. Thank you for sharing.

#12 Posted by Phatmac (5727 posts) -

As someone that has dealt with an abusive father due to alcohol I've been scared of playing this game since it would be too close to home for me. I may give it a shot thanks to this read.. I don't know, but I appreciate a game hitting such an emotional topic. Thank you for doing this, I really appreciate it.

#13 Posted by Jazz2 (151 posts) -

I started reading, but now i'm thinking about playing it if it ever comes out on pc.

#14 Posted by patrickklepek (2212 posts) -

@Jazz2 said:

I started reading, but now i'm thinking about playing it if it ever comes out on pc.

Since the money came from Sony's Pub Fund division, Minority Media should own the IP, so it's not out of the question.

#15 Posted by chrispti (226 posts) -

Very nice article Patrick. Good job.

#16 Edited by buckybit (1455 posts) -

I am getting annoyed with this overhyped 'autobiographical' game bullshit. The game is mediocre. Mechanically meh. Technically rather on the lower mid-end.

Nobody writes about how Trenched/Iron Brigade is one man's vision about 'Love'.

Just because Sony's PR was clever enough to sell this game on this premise, you media clowns all jumped on it, because you like writing about 'deeper meanings' in games. But it's nothing you should emphasize. I don't think James Joyce's novels are any better because I know the mans biography or that he liked his coffee with milk but no sugar.

Demon Souls could be equally about the Emanation of Souls as written by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. Or Borderlands could equally be a game about deconstructivism - it's all in the eye of the beholder?

[edit] And "be hold" you should. Every piece of art comes from one way or another of suffering. So what? Even if it's only the crunch time EA slaves have to go through. Nobody writes about the tears of the EA wives (anymore) ... for a reason?

#17 Posted by billyhoush (1194 posts) -

I got the same feeling playing Double Dragon Neon.

#18 Edited by Xeirus (1370 posts) -

Fuck dude, I'm tearing up.....

My step dad recently had a heart attack and is actually in the hospital as I type this having surgery. I'm not as close to him as I am my real father, but I feel like losing -anyone- is hard. Like it was mentioned in the article, on same level it's all related.

#19 Posted by myketuna (1756 posts) -

Nice article. Really interesting to read.

#20 Posted by mrfluke (5341 posts) -

@JayCee said:

Beautiful piece Patrick. Thank you for sharing.

#21 Posted by phantomzxro (1583 posts) -

@buckybit said:

I am getting annoyed with this overhyped 'autobiographical' game bullshit. The game is mediocre. Mechanically meh. Technically rather on the lower mid-end.

Nobody writes about how Trenched/Iron Brigade is one man's vision about 'Love'.

Just because Sony's PR was clever enough to sell this game on this premise, you media clowns all jumped on it, because you like writing about 'deeper meanings' in games. But it's nothing you should emphasize. I don't think James Joyce's novels are any better because I know the mans biography or that he liked his coffee with milk but no sugar.

Demon Souls could be equally about the Emanation of Souls as writing by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. Or Borderlands could equally be a game about deconstructivism - it's all in the eye of the beholder?

I really don't see what you have a problem with. How many games do this really? It's nothing wrong with games trying to have a deeper meaning, some gamers will care others will not. I don't think sony is expecting this game to sell gangbusters because of this and in fact will most likely have average to disappointing numbers.

#22 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@buckybit: So... because you think the game is bad, it's impossible for it to have been created with this vision from the start? That's a little insulting to assume.

It's not about what he experienced, it's about expressing that. It was created as an abstraction of an autobiography. The assumption that everything is written as Tolkien would write, without allegorical qualities, is silly. It's fair to critique the game, but just saying "oh bullshit it's just a bad game that had some shitty PR scam strapped to it" is silly.

Still not sure if I'll play this one. My father was a pretty bad drunk, bad enough that I'll never ever drink a drop myself, and I'm intrigued, but at the same time I'm just not sure I wanna drag that stuff back up. It's not that I have it bottled deep down inside of me, I've just moved on from that part of my life, and that history has been dealt with. Now if someone were to make an abstraction of their experiences in Iraq of Afghanistan...

#23 Posted by Xeirus (1370 posts) -

@buckybit said:

I am getting annoyed with this overhyped 'autobiographical' game bullshit. The game is mediocre. Mechanically meh. Technically rather on the lower mid-end.

Nobody writes about how Trenched/Iron Brigade is one man's vision about 'Love'.

Just because Sony's PR was clever enough to sell this game on this premise, you media clowns all jumped on it, because you like writing about 'deeper meanings' in games. But it's nothing you should emphasize. I don't think James Joyce's novels are any better because I know the mans biography or that he liked his coffee with milk but no sugar.

Demon Souls could be equally about the Emanation of Souls as written by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. Or Borderlands could equally be a game about deconstructivism - it's all in the eye of the beholder?

[edit] And "be hold" you should. Every piece of art comes from one way or another of suffering. So what? Even if it's only the crunch time EA slaves have to go through. Nobody writes about the tears of the EA wives (anymore) ... for a reason?

You sound like you also have personal issues to work out. Maybe you should play the game, or make one, based on your obviously troubled life.

#24 Posted by Rahf (126 posts) -

@buckybit said:

I am getting annoyed with this overhyped 'autobiographical' game bullshit. The game is mediocre. Mechanically meh. Technically rather on the lower mid-end.

Nobody writes about how Trenched/Iron Brigade is one man's vision about 'Love'.

Just because Sony's PR was clever enough to sell this game on this premise, you media clowns all jumped on it, because you like writing about 'deeper meanings' in games. But it's nothing you should emphasize. I don't think James Joyce's novels are any better because I know the mans biography or that he liked his coffee with milk but no sugar.

Demon Souls could be equally about the Emanation of Souls as written by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. Or Borderlands could equally be a game about deconstructivism - it's all in the eye of the beholder?

[edit] And "be hold" you should. Every piece of art comes from one way or another of suffering. So what? Even if it's only the crunch time EA slaves have to go through. Nobody writes about the tears of the EA wives (anymore) ... for a reason?

Nobody writes about Trenched or Iron Brigade in that way, because it hasn't been mentioned anywhere. It's not a core part of the actual story. In Papo & Yo, it is the one singular thing that ultimately drives the story.

Buddy, if you want to go around and think that everything is bloody meaningless, and that we should just pay & play & forget, then by all means.

As for this particular story; you clearly haven't been a victim of alcoholism. I have, and this story is really digging deep into me.

#25 Posted by thatguywiththedeepvoice (21 posts) -

I don't have any experience with this alcoholism first hand, but my girlfriend does. Her father was an alcoholic and died when she was about 10 years old from alcohol poisoning. She watched me play this game and ended up crying, calling it brutally accurate. Though she was pissed about the ending when Quico pushed Monster off the cliff, she interpreted it as ignoring your family member until they die. This is an interesting read, but I wonder how many other people with this kind of experience under their belt interpret it the same way.

#26 Posted by Doomshine (150 posts) -

I'm tearing up as I read this...

My father died last month and he was an alcoholic. He was not abusive or mean in any way when he was drinking, but any addiction in a family obviously takes its toll. I think the worst part was watching my granddad, who had late stage cancer at the time, complete break down in tears and barely able to speak a coherent sentence. I have never in my life seen a man so distraught. He died three weeks later in hospital.

I am currently on sick leave and taking medication since the last 3 months have completely drained me of energy.

Thank you for stories like these Patrick. As Cabellero said, it helps to know you're not alone.

#27 Posted by Vexxan (4612 posts) -

Great story, Patrick! Even though this article was more of a "sad" case, it's great to read about people getting truly affected by video games.

#28 Posted by Krakn3Dfx (2502 posts) -

My dad was a massive alcoholic, and it eventually killed him. He was mentally and physically abusive as well.

I'm probably never going to play this game.

#29 Posted by buckybit (1455 posts) -

@Rahf: it is mentioned in the game. Loading screen. Also the creator repeatedly said it. But I was polemic. Why NOT a story about Brad Muir?!

@MordeaniisChaos: @phantomzxro: etc, ... my argument is this: the biography stands in the way of the game.

The game should - ironically, just like a son - stand on it's own feet?

Independent from it's father/creator. Indendent from Sony PR or 'video game' journalists jumping on that part of the background they heard of, because the Official Sony Blog talked about it publicly (first) in freaking June 2011. (That's the main reason, why I felt the itch to shit on this. Because I am getting fed with this 'story' for so long - again and again) The biography is in the way of the game and becomes an excuse for a 'bad' game. Suddenly everyone is all teared up and emotional & everyone else saying 'meh' to the game is a bad, heartless person - or a sociopath ... or is accused of having a "troubled life", like @Xeirus: suggested. You should keep the personal from the professional. The game website "The Escapist" has its name for a reason.

"Reading" your OWN meaning into the games is part of the fun of playing videogames? If you get the 'official' version by the author, the authorship - like a dictator, like dominant figure, you might say, like an alcoholic abusive father - stands in the way of your (players/consumers/Sony-customers) own imagination, you cannot enjoy the work for what it is. In literary theory this is called "close reading". It kills your own independent thinking/imagination. You get every aspect of the work chewed for you before you get to eat it.

#30 Posted by monster9999 (393 posts) -

Very good article, well done

#31 Posted by Sackmanjones (4761 posts) -

Very nice article. I probably will never play the game but after reading this, I'm very glad it exists.

#32 Posted by Doomshine (150 posts) -

@buckybit said:

@Rahf: it is mentioned in the game. Loading screen. Also the creator repeatedly said it. But I was polemic. Why NOT a story about Brad Muir?!

@MordeaniisChaos: @phantomzxro: etc, ... my argument is this: the biography stands in the way of the game.

The game should - ironically, just like a son - stand on it's own feet?

Independent from it's father/creator. Indendent from Sony PR or 'video game' journalists jumping on that part of the background they heard of, because the Official Sony Blog talked about it publicly (first) in freaking June 2011. (That's the main reason, why I felt the itch to shit on this. Because I am getting fed with this 'story' for so long - again and again) The biography is in the way of the game and becomes an excuse for a 'bad' game. Suddenly everyone is all teared up and emotional & everyone else saying 'meh' to the game is a bad, heartless person - or a sociopath ... or is accused of having a "troubled life", like @Xeirus: suggested. You should keep the personal from the professional. The game website "The Escapist" has its name for a reason.

"Reading" your OWN meaning into the games is part of the fun of playing videogames? If you get the 'official' version by the author, the authorship - like a dictator, like dominant figure, you might say, like an alcoholic abusive father - stands in the way of your (players/consumers/Sony-customers) own imagination, you cannot enjoy the work for what it is. In literary theory this is called "close reading". It kills your own independent thinking/imagination. You get every aspect of the work chewed for you before you get to eat it.

The blog post is written by Cabellero...

are you seriously going to use this article as your platform to champion independent thought? If that's your mission, why should I let you tell me how games are meant to be enjoyed, experienced and judged?

#33 Posted by patrickklepek (2212 posts) -

@buckybit said:

@Rahf: it is mentioned in the game. Loading screen. Also the creator repeatedly said it. But I was polemic. Why NOT a story about Brad Muir?!

@MordeaniisChaos: @phantomzxro: etc, ... my argument is this: the biography stands in the way of the game.

The game should - ironically, just like a son - stand on it's own feet?

Independent from it's father/creator. Indendent from Sony PR or 'video game' journalists jumping on that part of the background they heard of, because the Official Sony Blog talked about it publicly (first) in freaking June 2011. (That's the main reason, why I felt the itch to shit on this. Because I am getting fed with this 'story' for so long - again and again) The biography is in the way of the game and becomes an excuse for a 'bad' game. Suddenly everyone is all teared up and emotional & everyone else saying 'meh' to the game is a bad, heartless person - or a sociopath ... or is accused of having a "troubled life", like @Xeirus: suggested. You should keep the personal from the professional. The game website "The Escapist" has its name for a reason.

"Reading" your OWN meaning into the games is part of the fun of playing videogames? If you get the 'official' version by the author, the authorship - like a dictator, like dominant figure, you might say, like an alcoholic abusive father - stands in the way of your (players/consumers/Sony-customers) own imagination, you cannot enjoy the work for what it is. In literary theory this is called "close reading". It kills your own independent thinking/imagination. You get every aspect of the work chewed for you before you get to eat it.

You're allowed to like (and dislike) whatever games you want, including Papo & Yo. That said, the person I've cited in this story blows apart part of your own theory. He didn't buy the game because he knew about the story behind it, he bought it because it seemed like a game in the style of Team Ico games, specifically The Last Guardian. He only discovered what the creator had been talking about to the media and to the public after the game made it apparent. He put it together himself, then looked up what the creator had been saying.

All that aside, who are you to say how a person should and shouldn't feel about a game?

#34 Posted by CaptainCody (1521 posts) -

@mrfluke said:

@JayCee said:

Beautiful piece Patrick. Thank you for sharing.

#35 Posted by cooljammer00 (2044 posts) -

The thing keeping me away from the game is, as a person who didn't really suffer any overt abuse in his life...what if I don't get it? What if the game isn't just a simple puzzle platformer with an amazing allegorical story, and just a crappy game about something I'll never understand?

#36 Posted by TheHT (11777 posts) -

:'(

#37 Posted by buckybit (1455 posts) -

@Doomshine: exactly! You should give a rat's ass about what I say or think about a game (especially, since we don't know each other in person!).

What many don't realize - there is this 'meta-game' going on in recent 'video game journalism' ... and to some degree in the video game dev community: the authorship of video games. Since the indies became so popular and Minecraft's turned in to a megastar, certain people in the media love to push "the-man-behind-the-game" type of newspaper style writing.

That's fine, as long as it is true. But "one-man-one-game" scenarios are just a sign of the digital Boheme ignoring people who work in this business for 20-30 or more years in the shadows. Why don't THEY get an article written about them? No documentaries about them, neither.

How many personal dramas do you guys think happen every day in game development? Game designers losing their spouse to cancer, their child in a car accident - while they are in crunch time? Or leaving their fiancé & family to work in a foreign country for a video game company, just to escape the poverty they grew up in? Working class heroes are not interesting enough for you? Or how about an article about the sweatshops in Hongkong, Macao, etc ... where people work crunch time ALL the time for a fraction of the money EA slaves get, doing the most hidious, repetitive work you can think of? I was annoyed to see an "old story" - that's all. Why not dig for a real - may I say - original piece of work? (I'm going to stop now - sorry for spamming the comments, everyone. But I'm always up for real discussions).

#38 Posted by shakesvoltage (51 posts) -

I just wish I had a PS3. I'd buy it.

#39 Posted by theoracleofgame (96 posts) -

Patrick, thank you so much for this piece. I never thought twice about Papo and Yo, but hearing these conversations is moving. My own father died of cancer, so I understand how difficult it is at that last moment to turn around and never see his body again. Wish I had a PS3 to play through this myself, but I'm glad games like this are being made.

#40 Posted by digitalrailgun (21 posts) -

Great article, this discussion definitely made me think about a few things in my own life.

#41 Posted by shodan2020 (696 posts) -

This was an amazing read. Great article. :)

#42 Edited by studnoth1n (222 posts) -

@buckybit: why such strong animosity towards the idea of using this medium to communicate real emotion that draws from real life experience? i can't say that the game is disingenuous to these particular ideas since i have not yet played it, and i would presume neither can you, but it sounds like you're strongly against the idea of any game introducing any amount of human thought or feeling.

i agree with the fact that not every story has to be overwrought with emotion to be effectively moving, or that we need to know the author's life experience or politics, but most people aren't James Joyce or Thomas Aquinas, or whoever else's name you'd like to drop; at the end of the day, whether you're a writer, a photographer, a painter, filmmaker or gamemaker, all you have are your personal experiences to draw from.

also, you sound like a pedantic twat... and a cunt.

#43 Edited by studnoth1n (222 posts) -

@buckybit: sounds like someone is in their first year or po@buckybit: @buckybit said:

@Doomshine: How many personal dramas do you guys think happen every day in game development? Game designers losing their spouse to cancer, their child in a car accident - while they are in crunch time? Or leaving their fiancé & family to work in a foreign country for a video game company, just to escape the poverty they grew up in? Working class heroes are not interesting enough for you? Or how about an article about the sweatshops in Hongkong, Macao, etc ... where people work crunch time ALL the time for a fraction of the money EA slaves get, doing the most hidious, repetitive work you can think of? I was annoyed to see an "old story" - that's all. Why not dig for a real - may I say - original piece of work? (I'm going to stop now - sorry for spamming the comments, everyone. But I'm always up for real discussions).

so what are you saying exactly, keep it in the subtext or hold the emotion, or don't bother at all because it's not original enough? why not throw your own hat into the arena? anyway,i'm not sure what your argument is at this point. it sounds like angry, bitter white noise to me.

#44 Edited by Viking_Funeral (1896 posts) -

Yeah, that article hits a little too close to home. I've come to terms with my story, and having to let someone go. I'd be interested in playing this game if it ever came to PC, or even 360.

#45 Posted by Carlos1408 (1543 posts) -

It's great to see games like this being made. I had no idea this game represented Caballero's, although, I didn't really know anything about the game other than its name. I'm going to have to check it out.

#46 Posted by SpaceJamLunchbox (127 posts) -

Thanks for this, Patrick.

#47 Posted by AiurFlux (902 posts) -

@buckybit said:

@Doomshine: That's fine, as long as it is true. But "one-man-one-game" scenarios are just a sign of the digital Boheme ignoring people who work in this business for 20-30 or more years in the shadows. Why don't THEY get an article written about them? No documentaries about them, neither.

How many personal dramas do you guys think happen every day in game development? Game designers losing their spouse to cancer, their child in a car accident - while they are in crunch time? Or leaving their fiancé & family to work in a foreign country for a video game company, just to escape the poverty they grew up in? Working class heroes are not interesting enough for you? Or how about an article about the sweatshops in Hongkong, Macao, etc ... where people work crunch time ALL the time for a fraction of the money EA slaves get, doing the most hidious, repetitive work you can think of? I was annoyed to see an "old story" - that's all. Why not dig for a real - may I say - original piece of work? (I'm going to stop now - sorry for spamming the comments, everyone. But I'm always up for real discussions).

For the first part I would tend to agree that Patrick does tend to focus more on the independent developers, but the simple fact of the matter is that indie devs are the only ones MAKING games like this. If you can find an ActiVision published game about a child letting go of his alcoholic father that brought a grown fucking man to tears and caused others, myself included, to stop and think long and hard about losing loved ones then I'll eat a plate of shit. Because it doesn't exist. Typically the people with 20 or 30 years in the business are tied up with major developers and publishers and they simply do not work on things like this. There is a story about every single person on the planet, but the simple fact is that you cannot WRITE a story about every single person on the planet like you seem to suggest.

The anomaly with this story is that this is a game that brought a grown man to tears. A game, at a time when people are considering if games can tell a story or invoke real emotions, is getting people to fucking think about life and death. About letting go. This isn't about the developer or the dude that broke down. This is about people feeling something and actually giving a fuck when people are like robotic drones that are devoid of emotion going about their 9-5 days. That's what you need to read in to.

#48 Edited by buckybit (1455 posts) -

@studnoth1n: it wasn't clear to me neither why I felt the desire to jump on this in the first place. But now I remember, why I reacted almost allergic. It's the old art debate, repeated in literary criticism & lit theory in the 1960s and 1970s (French Structuralism, French Deconstruction (mostly Derrida) turned into American "gender studies" before it was even called that). I've read too many of these.

In Art History, all the way to the Italian Renaissance, the artist was seen as not important. He (maybe there were she's we don't know of today, aside from a few names) had a 'gift', a talent, given by the Gods or God. The Gods "spoke" through him, so to speak, in his work. The work was "divine". Individualism really only started with the painters in Tuscany alongside the greater movement during these turbulent times in Italy.

Same goes for writing. Jean Jacques Rousseau. His "Confessions" can be seen as the most prominent work in this line. It was not the first autobiography, but it sold itself as the revealing, intimate work, putting his own biography in the center of a book.

I remember all the endless debates and discussions in academic papers about the philosophical constructs and how the authors always 'shined' through. How the work was spoiled, just like Derrida deconstructed Tristes Tropiques in his La Différance. Basically: the author is always 'present' in the work. The work is never 'pure' of it's creator.

Yet, not everybody likes Rousseau, or Philip Roth, or Taylor Swift.

I am on the Nabokov side of life. I find it vulgar. Tasteless. The indiscretion of telling your personal story in public, in full consciousness that it is used to sell units. The next step is some kid saying soon: "my mom died of cancer, so I made this video game, I donno. Please like my PayPal button..." - am I the cynical one here? The personal story is in the way of the work. People use it for attention hacking. It becomes a sales pitch. A bullet point, tailored for emotional response. Just like advertisers - aside from the Sony Blog (he wrote his own blog article, so what? It's NOT advertisment anymore??) - use cute babies & dogs to sell you stuff on TV. Honesty, disclosure, becomes the Mother Theresa of marketing weapons, if you cannot score with, let's say, really innovative gameplay.

It comes down to personal taste - something the debates from the late 1960s to even the mid and late 1980s wouldn't agree with. It is also a part of cultural differences. Talking about yourself in public. Seeking attention for your work through your personal pains - I find it frankly disgusting. "Listen to this band, man. They sound like crap, but they lost their bassist, who OD'd, so they're like cool." Too many stories like this.

So, in the end, I felt the desire to defend "the work" vs "the author" concept - although it was not even clear to me, early on. Again, a very old debate - fought more eloquently in your native language by PhD's of all nature, in many articles, papers and books.

#49 Posted by AlphaZro (61 posts) -

Awesome story patrick and much love to all involved.

#50 Posted by Lionheart377 (57 posts) -

@patrickklepek: Not to get overly personal, but I couldn't relate more to that final feeling you described before saying goodbye, Patrick.

I lost my father to illness at the age of 11, and while I held strong throughout the weeks of hospital visits, it was that last time I saw his body that hit the hardest. Knowing you have to eventually move yourself away from that place and settle with never seeing someone so influential again is what finally made the reality of the situation feel, well, real.

It's been nine years, and just writing about it now still stings a bit. Articles like this, though, are truly special to me. No, I didn't have an abusive upbringing, but hearing of others coming to grips with similar tragedies and maybe even accepting what happened is refreshing. It's really amazing what video games can now achieve.

Thanks for the fantastic piece of journalism, Patrick.

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