Gaming

The Path of Needles and Pins: Girlhood and The Path

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The Path - Family Portrait

Spoilers and Possible Trigger Warning.

I love fairytales in all of their iterations. The Path is, quite obviously, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Except this time there are six sisters, the Red Girls, and The Wolf is not so easy to spot in each of their stories. Some are boys, others are girls, a few are harder to articulate, and one is more of a werewolf.

The Game

The Path is not a game for everyone, which is something that can be said for all of Tales of Tales‘ productions. They are games because that is their medium, and their stories are only told by viewer interaction. They are glimpses of emotions and thoughts propelled by you, which as I type it sounds horribly pretentious and dumb, but  it is what it is. The Path is interactive art that challenges you to approach video games differently marketed as a Horror Game. There are no achievements, you see everything best if you take it slow, there are no QTEs, and there is nothing to win.

The Path - Rules

The only rule presented to you upon starting The Path and picking your first character is to visit grandmother’s house and “stay on the path.” Should you follow the directions, you are rewarded with a pleasant visit with grandmother and a “you failed! try again?” screen. The true experience happens when you ignore the rules and run off of the path into the woods, for you are now a young girl with very little regard for rules and punctuality.

The adventure is being these girls and seeing how they react in the forest, what they think of their lives and of each other.

There are objects in the woods, but they are not meant for every girl. Some can interact with each others’ objects, but usually you will see a transparent portrait of the Red Girl that the item is meant for. Finding these objects is completely optional, but your final walk through Grandmother’s House has more “oomph” to it if you find the ones meant for each Red Girl.

The Path is really a story about being a girl, from its early carefree stage (Robin) to the responsibilities of adulthood (Scarlet). It is about morbid teenage rebellion (Ruby) and the romanticism of being boycrazy (Carmen). It is about refusing to grow up (Ginger) and the curiosity of the world around you and where you belong in it (Rose). It is about friendship, love, and teen angst. It is about mistakes and trauma. Each part is messy and spills over into the others, shaping a narrative without dialogue or voices.

The Path - Girl in WhiteAnd the Girl in White… she is always there with each Red Girl, sometimes close to your side and sometimes out of sight, but she is there. Should you find yourself lost, she will lead you back to the path. She will wave you over to objects, and sometimes she will give you a hug. She never speaks.

If you’d like to try The Path before purchase, you can play the demo, a stand-alone chapter of the story as the Girl in White. The mechanics are the same, but the sisters are absent.

The Themes

Here is where the trigger (and spoilers) warning may be needed. Each Red Girl has her story, and while nothing is explicit, there are themes and hints.

The Path - Ruby & her Wolf

Ruby meets her Wolf.

Both Carmen and Ruby share the fact that their Wolves are men. There has been much theorizing what happens between them and their Wolves, and the purpose of the The Path is largely what you interpret it as.

That said, I personally do not think that their situations end in rape, but I do admit to the possibility.  There were criticisms for The Path upon its initial release that all of the girl’s stories end in rape, but that is a gross oversimplification of the outcomes, a lazy catchall in place of critical analysis. “… [T]he tenderness in giving in can defeat any power,” is what I think speaks the most about Carmen and her Wolf. She goes to the woodsman willingly, and she revels in her surrender.

It is actually Scarlet’s story that leaves the wrong taste in my mouth. Where Rose’s Wolf is a River Spirit, Scarlet’s Wolf is an androgynous Fey, and perhaps the most threatening aspect is how unknown it is. Scarlet yearns for adulthood and freedom from her sisters, and what this Wolf offers her has always been off-putting to me. The Fey Wolf seems to want something from Scarlet that she is not ready to give, though it is possible you can say that about all of the girls and their wolves.

Regardless of their motives, every girl finds herself injured and alone in the rain outside of Grandmother’s House after meeting their wolf, having been betrayed in one way or another. They must finish their journey up the path and inside, where they then must travel through non-interactable hallways of images hinted at if you picked up a few objects in the forest. Whatever has befallen the girls, by the time you are transported back to the Red Room, they are gone.

The Path - Red Room

Girlhood is messy. It is full of unknowns, some of which are happy and some of which are scary. It is changing moods and phases and fascinations. Whatever happens, it changes you into someone new. The Path is strange and drowning in metaphors, but if you have a free afternoon, it’s worth the experience of seeing the world through a Red Girl’s eyes.

Purple-haired Pepper Potts.

3 Comments

  1. Michelle

    October 23, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    This game looks brilliant! I’m really into the “alternative” games coming out lately, in the vein of Gone Home and Dear Esther, and this looks right up my alley! I appreciate the warnings as well as the recommendation. :)

    • Rachel

      October 23, 2013 at 7:22 PM

      I definitely recommend checking out their library, then! It’s all very surreal and meant for a slow pace.

      • Kelly

        October 23, 2013 at 8:25 PM

        This is always on my “gonna play it one day!” list but now it just moved onto the “gonna play it ASAP” list.

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