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2-23 Passage

Page history last edited by Matt King 14 years, 2 months ago

For this in-class activity, we will play Jason Rohrer's Passage and analyze its procedural rhetoric.


1) Go here and download the game.

2) Play it several times (it only lasts 5 minutes) and take different approaches each time to figure out how the scoring works.

3) Once you are done playing, add your answers to the following questions as a comment at the bottom of this page.


Rhetorical Analysis - Procedural Rhetoric (Bogost)

- What are the rules of the system?  [In this case, how does scoring work?]

- What is the significance of these rules (over other rules)?

- What claims about the world do these rules make?  [Using the language we have been using, you can also ask what attitudes and orientations are embodied in these rules.]

- How do I respond to those claims?

Comments (15)

Andres Quintero said

at 2:11 am on Feb 23, 2010

There is basically only one rule that I can see, which is that you have to choose a certain path through life for this little character. As you move forward you gain points, which can be interpreted as wisdom from experience. You get big boosts in points if you pick up the presents scattered around which can be seen as material things and money in a way. However, the score really means nothing because you don't really gain any rewards from it. The game seems to last the same amount of time regardless of which "path" you take through life. The first time I took my "wife" with me and we eventually both die anyway. My character does become sad and slower once she dies however, this could mean that the creator of this game holds value in having a significant other. Ironically, however, it is funny to see that you cannot get to some presents when you're with your wife, that you could other wise reach on your own. So in contrast to holding value in your significant other, the creator possibly also felt that they could hold you back from some things you want to do. Perhaps, he felt means to show that most people feel this way when they are younger, but grow to love another person. The second time I played I didn't take a wife and just roamed around collecting as many presents as I could. I ended up with over 3000 points. The third time, I didn't even move the entire time, so I ended with a score of 0. All three times, the game lasted basically the same length in time. The creator wants to project his beliefs about life through this game. He seems to believe that no matter what happens to you in life or what path you take, we all eventually die. Personally, I agree. We are all born the same way and we will all die the same way. The best you can do is take whatever path you feel is right for you.

Sam Kinard said

at 11:43 am on Feb 23, 2010

1) Moving to the right gains you 1 point per unit distance... 2 if you have a spouse
2) Opening chests give you 3 digit point amounts
3) You can travel further with a spouse
4) Having a spouse restricts your movement through smaller spaces
5) The game ends with you turning into a tomb stone

Getting a spouse makes a big difference. With a spouse, you can move much further through the world. However, by taking a spouse your "hit box" size is increased, and you can't explore any of the tighter spaces and are unable to get to most/all of the chests. The result is a trade-off you must make: either move further along or achieve a higher score.

This game seems to make a commentary on life, and the decisions we make. It shows that the decisions you make have different trade-offs. Your overall goals and values will dictate which path you want to go down. The points could be equivalent to wealth, and the distance traveled could be equivalent to length of life or happiness.

How do I respond to these claims? Makes sense to me. I think its silly that anyone would choose wealth over happiness and longevity, but ironically in this game I'd much rather get the highest score possible. This illustrates the ability games give us to participate in a roll we wouldn't normally have the opportunity to or want to in our real lives.

rochelle said

at 11:43 am on Feb 23, 2010

The game has interesting side effects, one it makes a person thinks and two help explains a big concept with simple steps. The object of the game is to live and find the path with the least resistence to live longer but, the more obstacles the character comes in contact with the better chances for finding points, the only down side is that the characters had to back track a few times. Basically live longer just staying at the top but with few points or have a little adventure in life. The lesson it teaches that people have choices and those choices makes the biggest differently. Also, the only guaranteed to a person is death and each day we live we get a little closer to our life's time clock to strike 0. So, live life like it is the last day you might breathe, I do.

Sean Green said

at 11:45 am on Feb 23, 2010

The basic scheme in this game is to guide your character through his life. You are rewarded with points for progressing forward (in life) but not backwards. Occasionally you encounter items that give boosts to your points and presumably represent material possessions, houses, etc. You also receive more points for moving forward with your character's wife. Eventually, after progressing though a set amount of time, both your character and his wife die.
The scoring system is interesting in that you are rewarded points for progressing forwards, but not going backwards. You are rewarded for material possessions, but in the end regardless of how many points you have, in the end you die. Also, regardless of how far you explore the game, you still die after a set amount of time, and once you are dead your score is forgotten and not recorded. This indicates an idea of the transitory nature of life's achievements and progression, and presents the idea that regardless of the path one takes in life they still reach the same conclusion, and their "score" is not recorded. The extra reward (but in turn, slowed movement and inability to collect certain items) of picking up the wife also tells us of the author's opinions on marriage and relationships and the effect on one's progression through life. All in all, Passage presents us with a story of Life being about the journey, the progression, rather than stagnation or the end.
In the end, I agree with the game's creator. In life, it is the journey that holds the significance, and no matter what path one takes, they are all rewarding in their own way, and in the end the conclusion is always the same. It is up to each respective person to find the significance of their own passage not in the score they collect, but the path they travel.

Jessica Lane said

at 11:45 am on Feb 23, 2010

There are no real limitations in this game except for the boundaries in which your character can move. At the beginning you can choose to have a wife or not, and although you earn double points as you move through the game you are also limited as to where you can move because the two of you will not fit in some spaces. The point of the game is to earn the most points and the quickest way to do this is to search the area for the multicolored boxes that hold stars or firework type explosions. These small boxes can help you gain hundreds of points. Walking through the game to the right earns you points in very small measures (by one or two). There isn't much to this game besides wandering around using your character who ages as time passes. The closest thing I can compare this is to moving though life and either staying behind to explore (and find surprises) or keep moving on slowly and steadily. I don't think there is any way to earn all the possible points in this game due to the time limitation. Again, one could compare this to life where you can't accomplish every single thing and there is only a limited time in which you live and are free to 'explore' life. This game is a clever metaphor to life itself, although it is obviously overly simplified and condensed down into 5 minutes.

Christy said

at 11:46 am on Feb 23, 2010

The game “Passage” lasts around 5 minutes and over the course of the game, your character ages. As you move forward you accumulate points. There are also boxes which when you walk over them reward you with more points At the beginning of the game you can “marry,” but this limit’s the amount of paths you can take. This is sort of a symbolism for real-life in that the paths people take differ when they are single. They can obtain notably more ‘points’ (especially at the middle stage of life) than when they are married but at the cost of being alone. When the character is married and his wife dies, this impacts him in that becomes more sluggish and pitiful-looking. This is as if to say that the loss of a loved is more harmful on that character than if he were to have stayed alone throughout the game. The character also seems to progress farther in the game alone than with a wife, but the terrain seems to become bleaker and more barren (this is just my interpretation).

Brittany Weaver said

at 11:46 am on Feb 23, 2010

Basically the rules are that you can walk through solid objects but other than that you just have to decide which way you want to go. You score points by moving forward and by walking over little multi colored squares that give you a bonus. These rules are very fluid and not strict at all, basically you decide where you go and how many points you get, you can go any direction you choose. In other games there is usually a more regimented set of rules, there is a goal and there is a few ways to accomplish that goal and you have to encounter certain problems and obstacles and you have to solve them. The world is also a very fluid place, you make your own rules in life, you decide what happens to you and where you go and how you get there. This game is more about this fluid journey through life and making decisions on how you will get through life. This game has an attitude of free living and being in control of what happens to you. You can respond in which ever way you see fit. That is the idea of this game, it does restrict you to following a certain path and accomplishing goals, you follow the path that you see fit to follow and gain the amount of points that you search out.

Sam Kinard said

at 11:47 am on Feb 23, 2010

Output is produced after a game session is complete. When multiple sessions are completed without closing the program, the additional output for each session is appended to the original. This data can be found in the "stdout" file.

As a programmer this looks a lot like part of a debugging tool. "stdout" is a programming term used in C and C++ programming languages. I'm lead to believe that this is debug text not meant for the player because the player's score is not recorded. It seems like a significant statistic to leave out for someone looking for details about how well they performed in a particular gaming session.

Andrea Meyer said

at 11:47 am on Feb 23, 2010

The scoring is pretty confusing. At the beginning of the game there is only one character but then a few steps later, a woman is introduced. When the woman joins, the rate at which points are acquired increases. I supposed the rules signify a very universal concept,; in youth we are more agile than later in life and two heads are better than one. The gist of this game is simple, we are born to die. No matter how many points you earn while dodging all sorts of obstacles, everyone's fate is that of death. The very symbolism of the environment of the game as it progresses is a clear portrayal of several major stages in life. In the beginning the game starts out with bright colors and young character, later the scene changes in to less and less brighter ones than before. Another very important characteristic of the game is that of the viewing screen. The screen is narrow and only allows the player to see a few steps ahead, forcing the player to have to "think on their toes." Though this concept is rather depressing, it rings true for all.

Ricco Garcia said

at 11:48 am on Feb 23, 2010

This game seems to portray a very important concept of human life in a very unique way. It begins seemingly no rules, just the opportunity to walk forward, and rewarding the characters progression with points the farther and farther that he goes. So the one rule if any would have to exist would have to be that to earn points which must symbolize either wisdom, wealth, memories, or experiences or potentially a mixture of them all your character must continue to progress forward.

Catherine said

at 11:49 am on Feb 23, 2010

My understanding of the rules were you had to go through the game and rack up points by picking up the present along the way. While you are progressing through this maze, your character grows older. I didn't notice a significant change of racking up points between a young, fast-moving character and an older, slow-paced character. It kind of is a little strange though because in the end the character just dies without any kind of warning. Having a wife either helps or hinders your character. The first time I played it I played with a wife and there were some spaces and presents that we could get to. This kept me from getting a high score and i ended up with only 109 points the first time! :( The other two times that i played, I did not have a wife and I did much better. I got through more spaces, but i noticed that some presents won't unlock unless there is the wife.

I think that the claims that these rules make is that there is no right or wrong way to go through the game or life. You can go through the game with a partner and earn the same amount of points if you were alone. Also, another claim that the game makes is that in the end you are alone. The character dies by himself; him and his wife do not die together. I think the game is trying to say that even though we may have a spouse or partner, eventually we will all be alone at some point.

Darien Femal said

at 10:44 pm on Feb 23, 2010

The more tiles you gather and surround together, the more points you gain on each of them; even more points are awarded if a “chain reaction” occurs, meaning a set of boxes you have surrounded changes the color of the surrounding boxes which may be the same color (have something in common) with another set of tiles next to it, linking the sets. As the game goes on, getting harder point values for each tile and group goes up. Other than this rule as well as being able two choose from two paths after the first tile is laid down there is little significance.

The author in a way is making claims about life itself. Colors and movement represent age, points being the accumulation of ability to overcome obstacles, and the changing color of the tiles being the affect you have on others and then being able to link society together. It has a similar concept to “you made your bed and now must lie in it”. The younger tiles have more space to move and make decisions with while the older tiles have a limited space to move in, because of the decisions they had made before but being awarded more points for overcoming this difficulty and shape others as well. The decisions from the original game also affect the next generation of tiles by giving them a path to work and make decisions with.

I would have to agree with these claims. You are shaped from another person’s “game” even though you are new but can still make choices that form what your path will look like later on while changing your surroundings at the same time. And as life goes on you must learn how to deal with the obstacles your past decisions have made and how they will affect others in future generations.

Danny Hayden said

at 2:49 am on Feb 25, 2010

Scoring in "Passage" uses a point system displayed in the upper right-hand corner. However, there are a few different ways to earn points. The most straightforward way of earning points is by moving... straight forward. Toward the beginning of the game there is a girl standing there waiting for you (which is perhaps the part of the game that is least representative of real life) and if you walk by her then you and her will move as one for the rest of the game until she dies. The plus side to this is that you gain points faster but the downside is that she prevents you from exploring certain areas that only a single person could fit in to. Besides that you can also gain points by exploring the map for boxes, and certain ones will end up being more rewarding than others. Oh and you get 5 minutes despite what you do or how many points you have.

After these 5 minutes you die. Your points don't change anything, in fact towards the end of your life the amount of points you've earned seems meaningless. When you go through life with a companion, your overall life is more rewarding, but still there are some limitations on what you can do because of your spouse. This is one of the claims made by the game. Other than that, the developer feels that everybody has one life, but they can go about it in different ways. Also in the beginning you don't have much of a past and you're always looking to the future, but then in the end you spend your time thinking back over your life and all the memories.

To an extent these claims appear pretty accurate. In fact, I showed it to a couple other people and they figured out what most of the symbolism meant as well. However, there are many things it doesn't address such as a family with kids. Also like I already mentioned, the girl standing there waiting for you right at the beginning seems a bit unrealistic. Besides that it does a great job of presenting life in the form of a simplistic video game.

Trina McLean said

at 7:54 am on Mar 2, 2010

Trina McLean

In the game Passages, you are encouraged to explore and take different paths in your life. You are rewarded with point when you avoid mistakes. The first time I jumped right in and explored many different avenues, acquired a spouse and focused on team effort. After a few tries of following these rules I decided to try to walk alone and take a straight and narrow path. I rewarded for my efforts with a very high score. However, it was not interesting and seemed less rewarding just like it would be in real life.

In the real world as with the game when faced with critical situations we have to rely on our instincts, persuasion, trust, teamwork and creativity to arrive at our goals. I believe that these are valuable skills that we can use throughout all aspects of our lives.

davey151@aol.com said

at 10:13 am on May 17, 2010

The game basically is an attempt to show people how the different choices you make in life can impact the way you function and the activities and lifestyles you can participate in depending on the path you choose for yourself. Basically, if you look at the way the scoring works, the game is trying to say if you have a spouse you have access to opportunities but at the same time you are hindered and if you dont have a spouse the same rules apply but just in a different sort of way. I absolutely agree with what this game is trying to say. We have many different choices to make in life and we have to respect the boundaries that come along with those decisions.

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