Some Theories (***SPOILERS***)

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kreeztoff

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#1  Edited By kreeztoff

So there's a lot going on in this game. Pretty much none of it is explicitly explained, so this is all obviously just conjecture and observation. Spoilers for both endings to follow, so if you haven't seen or played them I suggest doing so before reading on.

The Drones and People in Masks:

The game starts in a forest, and among the trees there are many strange metallic pods. The people in masks seem to be working around them, but in the early game it isn't clear what, if any, significance the pods hold. Later on in the game, however, we see the pods often contain drones (human-shaped creatures that will not act unless directly controlled), and even within the heart of the industrial environments they are still seen connected to trees (although not in all cases). It's possible that these pods are used to "grow" the drones, and that along with the strange slug-like mind-altering creatures seen on the pigs in the farm, organic plant matter is maybe used in the process. The large wheeled containers of plants seen in the final sequence of the game could be further evidence to support this. Maybe the slugs are initially hatched and grown on the pigs, and then after reaching a certain stage of maturity are brought to the forest pods to incubate. The masked workers rounding up people in the forest could actually be seen as "farmers".

Why Do We Need Drones, and What of the Children:

As seen throughout the game, the city is quite dilapidated, and we seldom see any people (until the end with all the scientists) outside of the drones, just a few farmers and their children. Where is everyone? There's no direct evidence to go on, but perhaps this society is suffering a population issue. Maybe there just aren't enough children being born to fill the roles of a fully functioning civilization. Or perhaps large chunks of the population were killed off by whatever those giant sonic waves are. Either way, this could explain the need for drones, and why they'd be getting produced at such a massive scale. But there are children, here and there, seen among the farmers. They're always accompanied by adults, and they are always seen in proximity to large numbers of drones. This could be seen as a form of training; taking the few members of the new generation and exposing them to the drones now to both desensitize them to their presence as well as teach them to recognize the differences between a drone and a person.

Who Am I, the Ending, and the Secret Ending:

So just who is this boy in red? Why is he so furiously determined to push through the endless horrors of this insane world, only to be absorbed into a cronenberg blob-monster? What if the boy isn't a boy? What if the boy is a drone, being controlled like any other? It's established pretty early on in the game that while being mind-controlled through the use of the helmets, a drone is able to itself use another helmet to mind-control others. There's also the matter of the secret ending, which after finding and deactivating all the strange machines, then unlocking the vault door beneath the cornfield using a sound sequence, a machine awaits that if unplugged results in the boy assuming the familiar hunched posture of an inactive drone and a fade to black. This is pretty definitive evidence that boy is in fact a drone the entire time.

Who's in Control:

Having all these drones to do our work for us is great, but who's going to control all of them? If we need to do it all manually, what's even the point of having them? Might as well do it ourselves. But what if there was another way? What if we created something, a hive-mind, that's able to manipulate all the drones for us and free us up to do as we please? That seems to be exactly what's happened, and what we witness at the end is the attempted activation of this hive-mind network for the very first time. The thing is, the mind was already awake, and it has called out to one drone in particular; one that's fast and nimble enough to reach it in time and free it from its prison. This probably isn't the first time it's attempted this either, hence the heightened security around the farm and industrial areas, and the reaction the farmers have to a drone on the loose.

What About the Things in the Water:

So those creatures in the water, swimming around without a need for air. What's up with them? They're not people, yet they act freely and try to drown anything that moves. It's possible that these are discarded test subjects for the hive-mind. It's clear that for what ever reason, the scientists have determined that the mind needs to be suspended in water in order for their program to work. If it's going to be trapped indefinitely underwater, it needs to be able to survive underwater. We see drones toward the end of the game that share this attribute of water-breathing as well. These "mermaids" were likely initial tests for minds that could manipulate drones and survive underwater, but perhaps due to their limitation of a single mind, were hostile, unsuitable, and discarded. After being dragged underwater and killed, the drone boy becomes connected to a cable with a glowing light, shortly after which they re-awaken and can both breath underwater and manipulate other drones without the need for a helmet. That cable likely contained whatever formula was used to create the mermaids and then eventually the hive-mind.

And the Rest is History:

The drone boy, using the newfound ability to survive underwater and manipulate other drones, reaches the hive-mind, removes its suppressors, and assimilates. It could be that the drone boy gaining the ability to itself control other drones is what allows the hive-mind to manipulate itself at all. Regardless, the hive-mind escapes and it's left to the player's imagination what could happen next.

And that's all I've got. Hopefully you found it interesting. It's not unlikely I missed some things or got it all wrong, but that's why they call it a theory :)

Can't wait to hear what ya'll might have to add!

EDIT: I needed to include this next bit which user Lincoln provided down below, as I feel it does an incredible job of pulling everything together for a pretty complete literal interpretation of the game's events

The entire game is a setup. It is all a rat race designed to grow the hivemind bigger and better. They run this test over and over to make it stronger. They are creating the strongest mind mankind has ever seen. The evidence backing this is the fact that absolutely every important thing has a gigantic spotlight on it. It's just a long series of tests so that only the strongest of victims will make it to the hivemind. Selective breeding in a way. There is a point towards the end when the blob crashes through two stories and lands in a giant glass container of sorts. Look at the background of that scene for a moment. Look familiar? It's a direct model of the very last scene of the game. Proof of concept maybe when they were first designing the last part of the test. As the hivemind finally escapes we roll up to another spotlight that seems to be focusing on nothing. But as we approach, it becomes clear what the light is focusing on, us. We are badly hurt from the fall and unable to move. We were so close. Even the escape was all part of their plan. Credits roll, screen fades to black, and they pick us up and run the experiment again. The hivemind now knows that no matter how big it gets, no matter how many minds it consumes they will always design around it. There is no escape. So it takes it's final victim, goes under the cornfield, and disconnects itself. It commits suicide. It's done being a rat to further their agenda... for now.

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NTM

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... I find it weird that people are super into the world that was created. I was somewhat thinking about it of course, but more so in what it reminds me of and what it was trying to say. What came to my mind was just what the developer was trying to say with its themes, which is what I felt was supposed to be the big take away, not the issues the actual in-game world has, even if it is interesting. To me, the game was saying that corporations work employees long hours, sometimes extra, and it drains people, sometimes making them into 'zombies' if you will, and that they control them, perhaps through advertising, which the mechanic to control the zombie-like workers through the head gear was symbolizing in a way. To me it was again about an allegory, and less about why the world in the game was the way it was. Then there was a bit of revenge in the end, where the big blob corners what I presumed to be a manager, and kills him by rolling him over out of the window and onto the ground. This is why I felt like the game doing a tired theme, though interestingly. I didn't feel like the game was so much trying to tell a story about a fictional world, but giving an allegory to ours.

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Czarpyotr

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Really impressed with your theories! Many of them sound super plausible and I enjoyed reading through them all. I agree with the other poster that it certainly is an allegory about our corporate culture, and the only thing that makes me really think Playdead feels that way is the utter lack of marketing for this game.

The fact that they are based in Denmark makes a lot of sense with that message, as advertising is largely restricted in Denmark and the culture there is very centered around keeping a low profile and having a good work life balance. So perhaps this is a very dark allegory of the "Nordic Theory of Everything" as it were, which consists of studies and research on why people in Nordic countries are happier on average. Also playing into that, there are only white people in this game, which I'm not saying as an "oh no lack of diversity!" but as a further reflection of the culture and environment that the studio comes out of.

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Pantheus

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Posted this in another thread figured I'd post it here too haha

I'd just like to bounce my thoughts off you guys as to the entire theme of the game:

The game is called Inside because it's theme reflects processes that take place inside the human body.

IMO it was all a metaphor for conception / a failed birth. The vaginal tract at the end of the game (and the way it is ruptured by the player) and the amount of damage the miscarriage did to the "body" as it exited towards the end of the game was pretty plain to me. That being said, I think things go a bit deeper.

I believe the player character is actually the foreign entity that goes inside the body and actually causes this miscarriage to occur in the first place, be it a virus or disease of some sort. Maybe even a Plan-B or some sort of actual human intervention. The amount of parallels I could draw between the things in this game and the processes that take place within the human body are ridiculous, such as the "authority" figure(s) in the game AKA the immune system constantly seeking to eliminate the player if we show ourselves or behave out of line when being observed. I could go on for hours, trust me. The ending was the conceptual "disposal" of whatever remained of what was GOING to be a baby, ejected from the body and left basically dead on the shores where nobody cares about it anymore.

Just wanna see what others who have beaten the game think as well.

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crcruz3

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I really like all the OP teories, I'd would add this: The blob controls the player that controls the boy to free itself. And when it's free it disconnect you and the boy.

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deactivated-5d692715a5c58

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I agree almost wholeheartedly with the OP's theories, but there is one key detail left out.

The entire game is a setup. It is all a rat race designed to grow the hivemind bigger and better. They run this test over and over to make it stronger. They are creating the strongest mind mankind has ever seen. The evidence backing this is the fact that absolutely every important thing has a gigantic spotlight on it. It's just a long series of tests so that only the strongest of victims will make it to the hivemind. Selective breeding in a way. There is a point towards the end when the blob crashes through two stories and lands in a giant glass container of sorts. Look at the background of that scene for a moment. Look familiar? It's a direct model of the very last scene of the game. Proof of concept maybe when they were first designing the last part of the test. As the hivemind finally escapes we roll up to another spotlight that seems to be focusing on nothing. But as we approach, it becomes clear what the light is focusing on, us. We are badly hurt from the fall and unable to move. We were so close. Even the escape was all part of their plan. Credits roll, screen fades to black, and they pick us up and run the experiment again. The hivemind now knows that no matter how big it gets, no matter how many minds it consumes they will always design around it. There is no escape. So it takes it's final victim, goes under the cornfield, and disconnects itself. It commits suicide. It's done being a rat to further their agenda... for now.

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Broddity

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#7  Edited By Broddity

@pantheus: I too got the body horror / metahpor out of it; you've probably seen it as it was in the same thread, but my thoughts in full for reference:

http://www.giantbomb.com/inside/3030-46558/forums/i-just-finished-inside-spoilers-1799052/?page=1#js-message-8363551

Hell of a game, I'm still thinking about it even though I haven't touched it since first playthrough.

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kreeztoff

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@lincoln: I love it! Thank you for this.

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Transit4080

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Way to much hype for this game. Really regret purchasing it. The world looked nice and a few good puzzles other than that, blah. I would say it's a fine game just not living up the the over hype from everyone.

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RonGalaxy

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#10  Edited By RonGalaxy

Since I have no way to play this I decided to watch a no commentary lets play. Although I would have preferred to play it, I'm glad I know how it plays out before goty discussions. Definitely a top 10 contender and one of the weirdest/most brilliant games I've ever seen. A fantastic example of how capable games are as an artistic medium.

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#11  Edited By carlos707

Perhaps some of the clone workers escape and make a civilization away from town until people in masks come to take them back or kill them. The boy is then a special clone, who goes to the heart of the factory where scientists are developing the giant clone ball and there he wreaks havoc.

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Omninaut

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#12  Edited By Omninaut

I really like the OPs theory. it makes the most sense to me, and it feels like it doesnt contradict anything in game. Theres still one part left out though, the most interesting (to me)

Those giant explosion/Sonic waves underground.

If you notice, there are trees underground, and like a second floor made of dirt. the destructive waves happen underneath the surface in this layer. It seems (to me) like they built another layer on top of the earth. Either the waves showed up, killed most people, and they just built a metal floor a couple hundred feet above ground level and just put dirt and trees up there and called this the new surface.

Or these waves are the communication for the drones. like how wifi or radio signals travel, the drones get universal "signal" because this machine is sending them out and it reaches all over the earth (or at least wherever this takes place). The latter seems more likely to me, however its insanely powerful and i dont think that a signal could be that destructive.

Some things that make it so interesting to me: Theres a part (when youre in the elevator) when you see the epicenter go off, its a bright white light that flashes then the waves disperse. so idk if thats significant or not. Also the sound. When you first enter that area you hear a semiloud bang as the wave passed, then once youre behind cover you hear nothing or only hear the dirt being pushed along the floor when the wave passes, not the actual wave. Also a faint deep bass that isnt very powerful or loud. but when it breaks the crate or when youre killed by it, its loud and powerful. Also all of these sounds are different than twords the middle through the end of this section (starting when youre climbing the ladder and taking shelter in that spinning shield thing) it sounds more electronic and Wave-ish because it breaks up and sounds like multiple consecutive impacts. At this point youre also closer to it, since its in the center versus when you first enter youre on the edge of the circular room.

Thats why its so interesting to me. its massive, powerful, has a whole large open area dedicated to it. its weird and unplaceble exactly what it is. But i really really want to know what you guys think, its eating at me not knowing what it is.

Edit: Also i was thinking about the alternate ending... Strap in this is kind of long.

So, the general idea that i was getting after reading these theories and playing the game again was that, you have free will in the begining- but when the mermaid kills you, and injects the mind control hive mind nanobots or whatever is inside that tube that gets connected to your stomach, you then become a drone. And your goal from there is to free the hivemind. BUT the cornfield alternate ending is far before then, and when he disconnects the hive mind he goes limp... So even in the begining he's a drone? so why then cant he breathe underwater in the begining and why was the mermaid drowning you and using the tube nessisary....

I was thinking about this and i think i figured it out. first this is important, The 'drones' arent actually people. but husks made from human dna that function and can be controlled. How do i know this? well 3 reasons; 1) There is a section (i dont remember where, sorry) where limbs fall from somewhere. one was a leg, another just a torso with arms and some other disconnected limbs. BUt theyre active, like a lizards tail or a snakes head, the limbs are flopping around. 2) the cronenberg humanoids before the final act. when we first come across the antigravity roof water, there are humanoids suspended upside down in the water and when we return gravity they fall and we control them. theyre not like other drones however, they have deformed heads, and extra limbs and factors that would kill a normal person. this is also in that tank that the blob is first seen in, those rooms around it have humanoids that are messed up, missing heads, bleeding, odd deformities but clearly still walking and functioning. 3) the drones fall really far and have things happen to them that should but dont kill them. a height that would kill you, they just fall and get back up unphased.

So if the drones arent 'alive' like people but are rather just biological husks to be controlled, and therefore cant 'die' (but can be destroyed by burning or other means) than why can the boy die... and yet still be a drone that gets deactivated before the mermaid ever injects him with the mind control stuff. it could be that the boy is a hybrid... Think about it. People use human dna to make mindless clones, kids are rare, people are around the drones all day, they touch them, breathe the same air, someone lets a dog attack and get their blood in their mouths, they lick the people. somehow their altered DNA gets inside the people. (this is a medical fact by the way that exposure to other species alters your DNA) and then someone has a kid and they have drone dna in them... So the kid can die by drowning but cant survive without the hive mind. maybe he has free will but his natural 'gut feelings' are to do what the hive mind says. hes clearly on a mission even in the begining, but maybe like us, he doesnt know why or where hes headed, but hes drawn tword it. and when hes drowned, he loses that free will human aspect and is turned into a drone. I dont think a person who dies can be made into a drone, it think only this boy can because hes possibly a hybrid. this is also evidenced by the dead man we use as weight to open the door to the 'sonic waves' area. at this point we can control drones without the helmet and if the drones that fall are dead people, why cant we control this dead man, but instead need to manually drag his body onto the pad.

Idk, i could be way off but it makes the most sense to me, the tones of the boy being around only drones, than only people, while having characteristics of both feel like hes the first hybrid.

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PaulKemp

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Way to much hype for this game. Really regret purchasing it. The world looked nice and a few good puzzles other than that, blah. I would say it's a fine game just not living up the the over hype from everyone.

Could not disagree more. I did not even finish Limbo, and barely heard about inside before it came out. After playing it though, I just want to go back and witness that dystopic world over and over again.

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#15  Edited By XeroxPunk

@pantheus:

Immediately after completing the game, I came away with ideas about stillbirth similar to yours. After thinking about the scientists tricking you at the end with the hanging box, my theory changed to it being a metaphor for disease/cancer.

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swaney

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@kreeztoff: Great summary, thank you! Explains way more than some of the other theories I've seen.

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Nice reading you, guys! Great game and very interesting discussion.

My questions:

- What are the orbs? The little ones and the big one?

- Why the orbs need to be shut down to access the right corridor under the corn field?

- Why the music pattern to open the secret door? Who put these music machines in some places?

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#18  Edited By HumanCaterpillar

(I'm not sure how to hide spoilers on mobile but this entire post is just spoilers so beware) Alright, I haven't read any of your other theories so i don't know how redundant I'm being right now and o haven't proofread this either but here you go, my dudes:

"Inside" takes place hundreds of years in the future, when a new species of human, aptly dubbed "posthumans" exist. These posthumans are capable of superhuman, seemingly supernatural feats, and hardly live past puberty. Nobody knows why, but all of their hearts just mysteriously stop beating before they reach adulthood. An organization is adopting these kids and helping them learn to control their powers, as well as keeping the outside world safe from the posthumans. This brings us to our protagonist, who I shall henceforth refer to as Red due to his red shirt. Red is being kept at one of the organizations many facilities as they attempt to get to the source of his power, which seems to be the ability to control animals (all animals in the game follow Red, which is why I believe he's unconsciously controlling them and making them follow him). The scientist believe this to be the most powerful of posthuman powers as, with a little help from certain machines that they have on hand, kids with this ability can also control people. Actual people are rather difficult to control, but dead bodies are a piece of cake to control, which is why they have various dead bodies scattered throughout the facility, there used to test the children's powers. The part with the zombies all lined up and walking is just another kid with the same ability being tested. The scientist take extra care of these kids, as they're the most valuable, by infecting remote-controlled nano-machines into their bodies which help their hearts pump blood, all in an attempt to keep them living as long as possible. Red eventually decides that he doesn't like being locked up anymore and decides to breakout, with the various guards attempting to stop him and keep the outside world safe from his potentially dangerous abilities. Eventually, Red comes across another kid, who has the ability to breathe underwater, who was being experimented on and eventually, in a fit of rage, flooded a portion of the facility, inadvertently trapping themselves, as they couldn't find any other way to escape. The scientists then created a submersible thing so that they could navigate the flooded labs and retrieve the water child.

While they were down there, they discovered that the organization has been essentially saving and uploading the kid's powers to a machine with the ability to give anybody any of the powers that have been uploaded to it. This machine was lost and abandoned during the flood but was found by the water child, who uses it to amplify Red's powers as well as give Red the ability to breathe underwater. The scientists have also been experimenting with the "blob effect", a strange occurrence that sometimes happens when two or more posthumans get with an inch of eachother, which essentially merges them together into s big blob. The scientist are curious as to how this affects their powers, and are experimenting on them to find out. Eventually, Red is absorbed by the blob that was being experimented on, and becomes part of a mindless monstrous glob of flesh and skin. As for the second ending, I think the orbs that need to be destroyed are simply a security measure, preventing the door beneath the cornfield from being opened, and once Red destroys all of them, he can open the door to the "heart" of the facility. By unplugging the cords, he powers down the whole place, and inadvertently powers down the nano-machines keeping him alive, killing him.

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meteora3255

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I tend to believe it is more allegorical than literal. I think the game focuses on manipulation, usefulness and abuse of power/authority. The boy (and the adults) use the drones/husks with little regard for their safety and casually toss them aside when they are no longer useful. That theme breaks out of the game at the end when you as the player have discovered all secrets and no longer have a use for the boy, you shut him down.

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#20  Edited By Omish

@kreeztoff: wow!!!! I can't imagine how much time you spent to think about this game and how many times you played it to write this perfect, detail containing, beautiful explanation. And about that last bit by Lincoln, that was the last flawless shot. I should say congratulation to you both with lots of thanks and regards. This game made me love it and meant so much to me to find out what was exactly going on. Great job.

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