Limbo

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It’s hard to think of another work of art that has such a strong narrative and yet manages to conceal so much of it. Danish developer Playdead’s game Limbo broke new grounds with a story that is shaped as much by the player as it is by its creators.

3.Shaping this story however, is not done through the platform’s potentially interactive nature. Limbo is a linear journey through darkness that doesn’t allow the player to make choices – there is only the right way or death in many unexpected ways. Waking up as a dark silhouette of a child with bright but nevertheless lifeless eyes is the beginning of a story where not a single word will be spoken or written. We’ll have to solely rely on the depressing and yet mesmerising black and white visuals inspired by German expressionism to decipher who the protagonist is and where he came from.

The speculations that came after Limbo’s release are as fascinating as the game itself. I have of course got my favourite and finding an interpretation that suited my views on the narrative was integral to my experience of the game as a whole. Reading blogs, forums and comments online about Limbo is more fun than ever since so much is left for the player to click into place. These stories are wonderfully elaborate, almost as if many scripts were written for Limbo after the fact.

4.While in the context of the industry Limbo is a 2D platformer generally aimed at a younger audience, this game should be kept away from the younglings as it is deeply unsettling throughout. Limbo is designed so that the traps and various obstacles are mostly unavoidable without prior knowledge, which means that death scenes aren’t sporadic on the player’s first attempt. This is no doubt deliberate; in spite of only seeing a silhouette, the young protagonist meeting his end over and over again is really disturbing and weighs increasingly on the mind as the game progresses. The environment equally brings elements of surrealist horror to the surface with corpses locked in cages and floating in swamps, frequent attacks by various creatures and the shy but nevertheless hostile inhabitants who don’t want our protagonist to trespass on what seems to be their home.

Many have said before me but it‘s worth re-stating nevertheless: Limbo is a prime example of why games should be dissected in classrooms with a serious academic approach. It’s a goldmine in the domain of narrative criticism and I really think that the contents of those blogs, forums and comments I mentioned above should be taken to universities for further analysis.

 

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~ by arpadlukacs on September 9, 2013.

3 Responses to “Limbo”

  1. I spent so much time reading theories about this game after I completed it and I finally had to come to the conclusion that there is no right answer. That is what makes the game so beautiful though! I love that everyone is able to interpret it differently. Definitely game design at its finest!

    • Thanks for your comment! The “right answer” is left to the player, but Arnt Jensen still had a very specific interpretation in mind while making the game. I think that is why theorising about the plot is fascinating – there is something there Jensen specifically meant for the game, but he never made it public.

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