All the people discussing the game as some profoundly effecting thing seemed to be driven by a past episode of personal loss that the Spiritfarer had dredged up, rather than anything that materially occurs within the game itself.
I guess my thesis statement here is that Spiritfarer is effective the same way that showing arachnophobes pictures of spiders is effective, only we are all susceptible to the grief of losing loved ones. I think the actual narrative it spins self-indulgent and lazy, but gets away with it because it strikes at a place where so many people are so open for manipulation.
I mostly agree with this first statement, but the last paragraph really seems like jumping to conclusions. Spiritfarer engaged players through two primary avenues. Considering the absolute shitshow of a year that 2020 was, Spiritfarer was hands-down one of the best meditative, relaxing, forget-about-your-worries experiences of the year, and people resonated with that completely apart from the narrative. What you called shallow gameplay was a lifeline of escapism for many people who were going stir-crazy or other kinds of crazy. But... I'll admit that also made the emotional narrative gut punches that much more effective for some of the players. Still, this whole premise approaches (but maybe doesn't cross) the "I don't like it = It's bad" logical fallacy.
I'm going to pick on your analogy, because exposure therapy is a real treatment used for phobias. "Showing arachnophobes pictures of spiders" could be perceived as dismissive, since it's not like this is done in a pornographic manner and is more akin to the arachnophobia sliders developers put into Grounded. "Manipulation" as a concept often has a negative connotation that brings up predatory images, but manipulation in and of itself is not negative or harmful. Socializing your child not to be a little shit is a form of manipulation. Therapy to address unwanted or problematic behaviors and thoughts is a form of manipulation. It's essentially intentional manipulation with consent.
Spiritfarer never marketed itself as anything other than a relaxing sim where you take care of animal people and then have to say goodbye to them. I think the fact virtually everyone who talked about the emotional resonance of this game mentioned it in terms of helping them practice saying goodbye to someone in the near future or revisiting how they said goodbye to someone in the past says everything we need to know about any predatory intentions behind this. Of course, that wasn't the case for every player (as people in this thread mention), but I think a "predatory" version of Spiritfarer would have people actively campaigning against its insincerity rather than just bouncing off of it because they themselves needed a different approach to addressing such sensitive issues.
Digging up a corpse and shoving it in your face versus lovingly going through a scrapbook of memories are both ways to remember someone, but I would say this roleplaying with animal archetypes is closer to the latter than the former. Really, I think it falls somewhere near the middle of all this, because it's a relatively neutral approach, and I'm always going to champion the degree of difficulty required to effectively create a game around this subject matter.
TL;DR: That's just, like, your opinion, man. But you don't have to ascribe any intentionality behind it.
Log in to comment