What's in the basket?
We have found more than 500 reviews and articles about The Path. Most of them are in online publications, but many were in print magazines as well -- mostly the games press. It was highly amusing to read how our game inspired literary adventures that may or may not have informed the audience.
But while unusual, we were enormously flattered by the recognition from an area that we admittedly hadn't expected it from. It felt like many journalists welcomed The Path, even if they didn't like it, as something that added some weight to their profession.
Here's a handful of quotes from English language publications.
"I kind of don't like the game. This is not a criticism. If anything, it's the highest compliment I could pay it." - John Walker, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, March 2009
"In the end, The Path is a little bit like getting punched in the nose by a centaur. It's momentarily painful, but you get to spend the next few days trying to figure out precisely what the hell just happened to you." - Justin McElroy, Joystiq, March 2009
"It feels like being the only person laughing in a cinema -- except the film you're watching is Schindler's List." - Joe Martin, bit-tech.net, March 2009
"The Path is a strange, unusual, progressive and unique game, which may even be important for the industry and the development of the form in a handful of ways. It's also so arty that it makes Braid look like 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand." - Kieron Gillen, Eurogamer, April 2009
"The Path is a sort of anti-game in a way, a game turned inside out in service to something deeply personal, human and disturbing." - Mike "Scout" Gust, Tap-Repeatedly, May 2009
"The Path found those long-forgotten ideas laying around in the back of my mind, and woke them from their decades-long slumber. For a moment I was able to be an adult seeing myself as a kid picturing myself as a grown-up. The game reached into my childhood and played with old fears that never even had a name." - Shamus Young, Twenty Sided, August 2009
"For me, The Path is about what a remarkably fine line it is that separates childhood from adulthood, innocence from cynicism, and how utterly not black-and-white most things in life are." - Heather Chaplin, Filmmaker Magazine, October 2009
To a lot of journalists, The Path became much more than a deeply moving experience. It seemed to confirm the high hopes they had always had for the medium, or at least ignite a desire for a different kind of game, a game that was more mature and that delved deeper into narrative and meaning. Some writings became so hyperbolic, it made us giggle. It's one thing to boast about one's own work because one is always aware of one's own bias or naiveté. It's something entirely different to read that another person thinks it's important.
"The Path challenges the very core of what you think a video game can be and what themes they can tackle." - Iain McCafferty, Videogamer.com, March 2009
"The Path represents a prime paradox in the world of games. It is simple to play, but incredibly deep in its execution. It's mystical, often perplexing, and more disturbing than pleasant."- Dan Liebman, Game Zone, March 2009
"This is the game that real gamers scream for at the top of their lungs. This is something new. This is what needs to be heralded from rooftops, shown to every new developer; when you bought FEAR or Doom, you didn't know it, but that disgust on your face was you screaming 'WHY CAN'T YOU BE THE PATH?!?!?!!'" - Ophilye, Couple Gaming, April 2009
"If you don't play video games at all or if you think most of them are plain stupid, brutal, vulgar or meaningless -- this one may be the first made for you." - Tetelo, Femina Ludens, April 2009
"The Path is probably the best independent game ever made. And it's one of the best adventure games, period, even when compared against the big boys. But it's also an outstanding piece of non-linear interactive narrative, which proves again that entertainment can legitimately double as art. Playing The Path is as rewarding as reading a literary novel." - Christopher Lim, The Business Times, April 2009
"Without titles like The Path, games risk being relegated to permanent insularity. Audiences and designers who care about games must play -- and buy -- these kinds of games, and accept their role in the future legitimacy of the medium." - Leigh Alexander, Kotaku, April 2009
"Many won't enjoy it and some won't understand, but this is an important step in the evolution of gaming. This sort of experimentation deserves recognition and reward and I only hope we'll see more like it." - Dave James, PC Format, June 2009
This doesn't mean that there wasn't any opposition. A few journalists and bloggers have written scathing reviews of The Path. But these tended to be so filled with passionate hatred and deep disgust that it was difficult to take them seriously.
Usually the criticism boiled down to the reviewer blaming the designer for making a game that they didn't understand. Which must have been all the more painful to the writers -- because clearly a lot of other people did enjoy the game tremendously, so the only possible conclusion was that all these people were delusional or snobbish, and that nobody dared to admit that the emperor wasn't wearing any clothes.
To some extent, those critics were right. The Path only wears imaginary clothing. You have to be willing to put yourself in the game, to let it touch you in places where you might not want to be touched. The Path is about you, your life, your memories, your stories.
There's an inherent risk in such a design that some people will not be able to enjoy it because they either have no life experiences that correlate with anything in the game, or they are unable or unwilling to open up to the experience, which is entirely understandable and perfectly fine. And it doesn't mean that The Path is beyond criticism. But if you're going to judge the flavor of a dish, you need to chew and swallow -- even if it makes you sick.
When we dropped all of our analog artwork -- a change that took place in from one day in 1995 to the next -- we did it mostly because of the opportunities that the internet offered to communicate directly to an audience, without having to go through galleries or publishers, and without limitations of state borders and even culture and language, to some extent. This has remained the driving motivator behind many of our work decisions to this very day.
Being able to release a title whenever we please and being able to talk about it with the people who experience it is the best part of being a digital artist. And it also greatly improves the quality of our work. Our multiplayer screensaver The Endless Forest deserves a special mention here because it allowed us to observe how other people play with our design and because its community of players has been a continuous source of encouragement and inspiration.
So, no matter how much praise we get from the press, no matter how many high profile exhibitions our work is shown in and no matter how the game sells, the thing that really satisfies us is the personal response of the people who enjoy our work. That's why we started using this medium. And that's why we continue to do it.
Since The Path was designed to be as open-ended as possible (within the theme of Little Red Riding Hood), we were expecting players to actively interpret what is going on in the game. What we did not expect was the enthusiasm with which they would be sharing and comparing their interpretations. It almost became a game on top of the game. And it was a delight to see that people were not looking for a single definite explanation that everyone could agree upon, but instead tried to come up with as many plausible stories that would make sense.
Some of these interpretations were moving confessions of players who had come to understand or accept something really bad that had happened in their lives, while others were delirious fantasies that even we could never have come up with.
This was especially gratifying because the potential for multiple meanings to actively co-exist in a single piece has always been one of the key features that attracts us to the medium. It looks like The Path really worked as the tool for exploring a certain theme that we intended it to be. We're really happy that players were able to use it to explore their own psyche. It's the most meaningful reward any artist can expect.
Fanart & Cosplay
The openness of the design naturally attracted players who were very creative. The Path inspired many to create fan drawings and paintings. Somebody even made a fan song!
And of course, the iconic design of the Red Girls is hard to resist for any cosplayer worth their salt.
Some fans even contributed to the software itself, by offering to translate the text in the game for free. Since a lot of this text is quite poetic and cannot be translated literally, we did screen these people for having the required skill and talent. Thanks to their hard work, The Path can now be played in Danish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish next to the original English and Dutch and the publisher-localized Polish, Russian, and Japanese. We've also been contacted by volunteers to translate The Path into Arabic, Czech, Farsi, Korean, Lithuanian, and Swedish. So this story will continue.