The Beginner’s Guide: A Not Review

the beginner's guide - listen

The Beginner’s Guide is a very personal game and playing it made me feel like I was reading someone’s secret diary. Later, when you find out more about what happened between Davey and Coda, the guilt grows and it unease starts to set in. I shouldn’t be playing this. But of course, you have to get to the end. I mean, you already found the diary and started reading it, don’t you want to know all the juicy secrets?

On the surface, the game is about a few things, notably a game developer’s relationship to creating games, their fans, and the critique and analysis of those games. While the game might be about the relationship a developer has to success, I saw pieces of myself in it despite not being a developer in any sense of the word. A need for validation, the search for meaning in something, and trying to analyze and define people not by who they are but by what they produce are all phases I have gone through and still carry part of with me today. The scene with the stage being particularly memorable. I don’t think I will replay the game for a while, but like my favorite books or movies, I can see myself coming back to it a few times a year.

I am glad I played it, although I suspect it is a game a lot of people won’t enjoy. It’s raw, it’s emotional and I know that turns a lot of people off because vulnerability is hard for some to deal with. Which is OK. The Beginner’s Guide is not really meant for you and me anyway, just like that diary we found one day and started reading.

But anyway, while playing the game I was reminded a lot of House of Leaves, which incidentally is also hard to digest, but perhaps for some slightly different reasons. Both works contain layers that can be interpreted in different ways, both are unconventional works within their respective mediums, both comment on criticism, and the “true” meaning of both works are deliberately hidden by their authors (at this point anyway).

But to be honest, this game is hard to write about. I could tell you what I think it means, but it somehow seems wrong to do that. So much has been said already, there are a lot of theories, a lot of speculation, about what this game means, and if the story is real or not. The game tells us to not tell anyone if we figure it out anyway. I reckon that, like House of Leaves, it is going to take a lot of playthroughs and views from different angles to see what everything means. But maybe it doesn’t mean anything special at all. That would be fun.

However, considering the games message and critique of analysis, maybe that’s true. Maybe everything in the game is a lamp post, something that is placed there in the place of meaning, but having no significance. The game then becomes less a personal project, a game made solely for the creator, and more like a piece of modern art, in that the art is more about people’s interaction with it than the piece itself.

I feel the real answer probably lies somewhere in between.

A small part of me wishes that I had written something profound and insightful about the game. But for the most part, I am quite fine that I didn’t, and it somehow seems strangely fitting.

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