Once in a while, we come across a game that is more than a game; more like an experience, something that hits you deeper and offers a message more profound than your average coffee break pastime can supply. Take Gray, by Intuition Games (Effing Hail, Dinowaurs), a very curious entry, but a potentially enlightening one as well.
There's not much to the gameplay. You are a white or black androgynous person in the midst of a rioting mob, filled with people of the opposite shade. Your goal is to "talk" to the people who are highlighted and attempt to convert them to your point of view.
This conversation mode provides Gray's only actual gameplay. When you stop one of the rioters, an interface opens up. No, you will not be convincing this person using well-crafted arguments or a firm command of facts and figures. Instead, you simply wait for their signal to head your way, and you hit the [space bar] to send your own signal to meet it. Ideally they will meet in the middle, and if you get enough signals to meet, you will convert this person.
You keep doing this until you have converted the entire mob, at which point you change to the opposite color and start right back from the beginning. After a bit, a twist will be thrown your way. This twist is essentially what the game is all about, and so I won't ruin it for you.
What you take away from the final revelation is up to you and will probably rely upon your own life experiences. One of our staff thought the game was broken. Me personally, having spent four years in political blogging before coming here (off topic, working at Jay is Games is way better than political writing, hands down!) I was absolutely floored by what I saw, and amazed at how accurately such a simple little game could hold a mirror up to modern political discourse.
But don't let my own political take on things scare you away, or even shade your interpretation of what happens. Since first playing Gray I have thought of many ways that the final twist is analogous to different facets of life. Could it be making a statement about popularity? Fads? Gullibility? It's up to you to decide.
Thanks for the suggestion, Thezeu!
I not sure about ending. If there was other options when I become gray. Maybe I was not need to talk to anyone.
But I played this only cuz of review. It was boring or something. I just wanted to see what's the ending. The happening didn't impress me at all.
Was it something really conceptual? Maybe. but more like just a trance effect. Nothing really meaningful.
I dunno, I enjoyed it...but I'm easy to please.
I guess I'll be the first person to admit that I'm not, in fact, jaded, and am still a naive dolt, because
when my character became gray and the new position rendered my dude's waves useless
I had a "whoa" moment that hit pretty hard.
At first, I was thinking "okay, this is an interesting mechanic I guess. Not very complex, but good for a short game" But then as the character kept changing his mind, I started thinkin "Come on, little dude! Make up your flippin mind! This isn't going to go on forever is it?"
And, of course, the irony of it was, the more waves you're forced to defend, the easier it gets - because when you have a bunch of waves flying at you, you can just mash spacebar and not worry about timing like you did when it was just one or two.
So it sort of devolves, abstractly, from carefully-constructed argument into political rhetoric and the like. Dogma, really. Arguing by way of quantity, rather than quality.
And then, BOOM
you suddenly become enlightened, and now nobody cares what you say, because it's logical, grounded, and based on compromise, rather than the agenda of one particular group or another. Which of course holds no value, because nobody wants logic, they just want the quick fix. You're suddenly arguing against argument, when all everyone wants to do is argue. Or various other cathartic, non-productive actions in the same vein.
It successfully depressed me, and I think part of that comes from my own personal experiences which have shown this phenomenon to, in most situations, often be the case. Maybe if you've never known circumstances of group-think or mob rule, you won't get what's going on here, it may or may not fly over your head...or perhaps you're in the middle of or support that kind of philosophy, in which case you'll find the game vaguely insulting perhaps. Whichever the case, I can assure you, the game very much does have a point. And a heavy one, at that.
I don't even know if spoilers are warranted for a game this mechanically simple, but I figured I'd be nice to the users who are foolish enough to read comments before playing. :p
Can you reveal the ending? I played long enough to switch once and then a while after that and got bored.
I don't know, I thought the message was rather obvious and cliched. But I am a social scientist so... :-)
only the first "switch" takes a lot of time, the latter ones are easier. Also, the post above yours actually gave up an ending. But if you want to have it summarized:
After changing your "stance" a few times, your character becomes gray. However, once you try to talk to people (both black and white) your waves/arguments just pass through theirs. The screen then gets crowded with people with opposing views and your now gray character gets drowned in it.
Simple, yet pretty deep. I liked it.
Heh heh, the little white guys look pathetic when 99% of the population is against him and he is still running around protesting.
I know I'm going to catch some flak for this, but I really can't stand these games that were written with the sole purpose of making you think about life or any of its social/cultural aspects. I play games to free my mind of realistic thought, not be drawn to it. I mean it's different if it is, well, actually a game. In other words if there is some challenge to overcome or puzzle to solve; give me a reason to play other than that I'll come to an obvious conclusion after, in this case, pressing the space bar over and over.
This game has nothing much except for that one heck of a logo. Otherwise, it's just scurrying about and tapping the spacebar talking to everyone around you.
Here's my take on the game (since it's always fun to read someone else's interpretation and disagree wholeheartedly!):
The game is a simulation of the process of argument, especially as seen on the internet.
You start off taking one side of the argument.
At first, it's easy to convince your opponents, because the argument is being waged on simple terms, and everyone can pitch in; but that also means that the people who are present don't have lots of deep and logical arguments for you to knock down.
What happens when you convert everyone to your side...?
The argument evolves to the next stage, where everyone now has a fairly good understanding of the subject. So it becomes harder to convert people.
Your own arguments need to improve accordingly: the delivery of those arguments in particular has to keep up with their increasing complexity. You also have to defend yourself against your opponents' arguments by watching them develop as early as possible.
Fortunately, converting people at this higher level or argument is more valuable (because they have a bigger impact on the people around them). So the wave of people in the game changes more quickly to the other side.
What happens when you become...
You've realised that there is an excellent synthesis of both sides of the argument; a grand conclusion that both sides can accept. If only they would listen! You're drowned out by people whose arguments have a more powerful effect on others simply because they are more extreme; you become part of the silent majority, who don't need to bother participating in these arguments because really, you know better.
And we're back to square one: the argument rages on (does any Internet argument ever get settled?) with one fewer person being part of the madness.
ahh... the ancient dilemma of binary thinking. No one wants the middle path, they just run from side to side because thats what currently seems like the best alternative.
I loved this short little game, and how it generated so many thoughtful responses.
My take on the ending was
that if you change your mind about something too many times nobody will listen to you any more, like the boy who cried wolf.
It was fascinating seeing how other people saw it.
Uber long comment, so I'm using spoilers for courtesy.
About general opinions of interactive art and games with morals, etc.
I get really apprehensive about posting interactive art mainly because there's always a risk that it will be poorly received, and there have been, of course a few of you that did not appreciate this.
That's totally fine, games are meant to be fun and act as a kind of escape from the real world, and that's a valid opinion to have. And for those of you who did not like this for that reason, I totally respect that opinion.
But I happen to like it when a game goes for that extra sense of meaning and becomes serious. Partly because I think interactivity is a great medium to impart a message, and partly because I see each instance as an example of video games growing up to be more serious and valid forms of entertainment. I remember when they first started and they were little more than toys, but when I see something like this it shows how far this media has gone from being just something kids did after school.
I really didn't want to go too in depth on how this affected me in the review because a) I didn't want the review to be that long, and b) I didn't want to color anyone elses view, and maybe c) I really didn't want to inject my politics onto the main body of the page.
But to really understand why I was so taken by this game, you have to understand that I was a liberal political blogger for four years. I am, for all intents and purposes, an idealogue.
But while I subscribe to the liberal political faith, I'm also as many of my friends would call me, an extreme pragmatist. That's to say that my personal beliefs on governance always takes a backseat to pragmatic solutions and accomplishing what is possible instead of wishing for what is not.
To a certain degree, this has led me to be at odds with many who would normally be political allies. The reason being that I exist in the gray, and I have often felt like our indecisive protagonist in this game here.
You get into politics, and you start with so much passion, and maybe you keep that passion from the beginning. You rail for one cause and you rail against another cause and then something happens, somewhere along the line you realize that that you're not always right, and neither are the people you're constantly arguing with are always wrong.
But the problem is, once you get to that realization, you can't go back to the people you once railed with. You can't tell them, hey, maybe the other side has a point here and there, you can't tell them anything because they are just so passionate about what they are protesting or fighting for that the fight has enthralled them. In a way, it has nothing to do with the issue being argued, just that the wrong people are arguing the wrong side, and if you are a decent person, you'll be on the right side fighting the good fighting.
And ultimately, it's all just so banal. One of the reasons I hung up my metaphorical pen when it comes to politics, really.
Awesome review Kyle, it's always really gratifying to know people appreciate our work!
Oh, the twist was better than I expected. Going into it I was convinced it was going to turn out the game was all the conversation wave in an enormous peson's head, but it was much more interesting.
My take on the ending was a bit different to what it seems most people have gone for:
I read Grey as a middle-ground waffler. Attempting to reconcile both sides, he has effaced his individuality, and now has nothing to say that either White or Black are interested in.
I think it's fine for games to be art. Why wouldn't it be?
@judacris: Isn't that logo great? I love it. Honestly, I sort of feel as if that logo (well, title page) was just as effective in getting a thoughtful message across as the "game" itself. And a lot more concise. Nice idea, though.
This game reminded me of ones like Mondo Medicals, mainly due to its graphical style and obscurity of purpose. Gray is less about playing the game and more about the point it makes, which probably will bore people who want playing the game to be more interesting than thinking about it afterwards.
After a while, you find black people carrying white signs, or vice versa. From my first play-through, it looked as if those people were easier to sway
I couldn't help but feel that no actual point was intended in Gray's creation, but was made with "black and white points of view" as a theme to get people to interpret it as if it was a freshman English Lit lecture. For that idea, here's where I can take it:
If you're thinking about the main character, it's about personal enlightenment and discovery, not the futility of falsely dichotomous debate. After you win people over to your point of view, you develop it or realize what the other perspective has to offer, and switch sides to progress the debate.
Finally, after a cohesive understanding of both sides, you either come up with your own comprehensive solution that nobody will listen too because the debate's too polarized, or realize that all this wishy-washy black-and-white debate isn't getting anyone anywhere and withdraw from the whole issue. Essentially, to win the game is to become the Nietzschean Ubermensch or achieve Buddhist Enlightenment, or whatever you call the understanding that makes you reject fallacious societal constructs or whatever you think makes the black and white arguing inherently inferior.
Or maybe Gray's about a computer's binary system, and the bit you're playing as needs to get defragmented?
Whatever it's about, even now it's causing the very kind of debate that takes place within it. Let's just look at each others' reviews so it won't get too one-sided, okay?
I too really enjoyed this "game" and wanted to see it live beyond the thrashing that Kongregate users were giving it. And as judacris said, one heck of a logo.
Oh right! I didn't even think about anything like that! It can all add up to that, but I thought the, let's call it "avoidance", was on the part of the main character, not everyone else!
I thoroughly enjoyed this little commentary, and as a "communication arts and sciences" major (basically rhetoric), I second everything that zbeeblebrox said. another way to put it,
Society breaks arguments down into opposites and rarely recognizes the gray area in between. This may be simplifying it a lot, but if you look at major areas of dissenting opinions, the public argument nearly always ignores the middle ground. It often feels hopeless trying to defend an opinion on the middle of any spectrum.
I think this is a beautifully made game.
While as I agree with most of the commentary posted, I think there are some deeper sentiments.
I feel that the waves/messages meeting at the middle, rather than just trying to get to the other sides adds another depth to the ideas of argumentation and biases: by having them meet, the author seems to be emphasizing not a sense of quantified arguments (many arguments made), but rather strategically qualified arguments. In other words, by having the waves meet the author shows that it is not the arguments, but rather the argument (the act of arguing) that shifts beliefs.
and that when one becomes grey - focused on the arguments and their validity - one is no longer influential.
This game actually made me think a lot about the concept of dialectics. I had several teachers in college who spent an inordinate amount of time trying to explain dialectics. It's a fairly complicated concept especially when you get into its various applications.
Everyone else is posting their thoughts in spoiler tags, so I guess I'll do the same as I explain more fully what I mean. In a dialectic exchange you start out with a thesis. And the thesis always has an anti-thesis, the opposite point of view. In a dialectic conversation/argument the two come together to create a synthesis. Sort of a merging of the two points of view.
You can see already how the game sort of simulates this. You start out with one pov and converse with those who have the other by meeting them in the middle--the synthesis.
In the next step the synthesis becomes the new thesis, which again has an antithesis. And again the two sides meet to create a synthesis. This cycle goes on forever and the idea is that with each cycle the conversation will come closer and closer to the 'Truth'. It can be easy to think of dialectics as a sort of 'recycling' process with everything traveling in a circle from thesis to antithesis to synthesis, but this is wrong. Dialectics is best looked at as being a spiral, ever moving towards a conclusion.
However, as you've probably noticed if you actually read this far (my god man, are you a glutton for punishment?) the game doesn't fit dialectics perfectly. In fact I think it can be almost seen as a commentary or even critic of the concept.
In the game rather than a spiral you have more of a tug of war between thesis and antithesis. From white to black to white to black...ad nauseum. And when the player character finally reaches a synthesis and becomes gray no one else listens to him.
The commentary then seems to be that people are trapped in binary opposition to one another, completely unable and unwilling to create or listen to any kind of synthesis. It's a form of dialectics that moves no where...where progress is impossible. Very intriguing.
Sorry for the uber-long post, but this game really got my brain going.
@steve: I disagree that this is a game with any single 'message'. Already there are a number of different ideas being presented. The game leaves things open to interpretation on the players part.
My suspicion is that as a 'social scientist' you looked at the game through a particular lens. Try using a different critical approach and you might see something different and a little less cliched.
A very interesting game. The ending is very subtle yet effective, and it doesn't state the meaning and hammer it into your head (unlike some pieces of interactive art I can think of)
As Ax said, I don't think there is one 'message'. The fact that the ending is so ambiguous shows that anyone could interpret anything from it. The first thing I thought when I played it was that the people were fleeing from an earthquake.
But here's my take, if anyone's remotely interested:
It shows how it is hard to convince one-sided people to take a more balanced view. It can be hard to tell the difference between people that feel strongly about an argument, and just pure bigots, and as the grey area in reality gets bigger, but in some people's minds are simply black and white, the war of the ideas continue. There's no good. There's no evil. There's just the grey area, but people think that their ideas must be right, and other ideas must be wrong, but it obviously isn't as simple as that.
That may be why it's hard for agnostics to promote themselves. You get protest saying 'There is a God' and others saying 'There is no God', so if someone comes along saying 'But what if it's impossible to know?'. Not many people are convinced to join that side, because, as I read from one of the creator's comments, 'there's technically no side to join'
Of course, I've probably gone completely off-track, and used the excuse of a simple game to explain political problems. Ah well.
I find it interesting that JIGuest's and sonicscrewdriver's interpretation - of the player character as
almost an antagonist of sorts who is punished for his social manipulations through censuring - is diametrically opposed to my own interpretation of the player character as a sympathetic figure who discovers a way the two ideas can coexist and is then rejected for it.
The fact that those two interpretations are possible in the reading of a single game is fascinating. I also like how some people took the ending to mean that the player character has grown beyond petty argument and, enlightened, leaves the field of play willfully, rather than because indifference and sensationalism has forced him away.
Quite a game, to be able to sprout so many divergent thoughts.
I still have trouble identifying with the negative response, though most of it is off-site. I guess I'm too eager to find motivation and purpose behind things to understand why a gut reaction would be to criticize that very element. I can respect a desire for thoughtless entertainment, indeed I like that sort of thing too, but the idea that the two can't or shouldn't coexist, well...that sort of goes back to my interpretation of this game, doesn't it?
First: My personal experience, etc.
Personally, I love this sort of game. The point is not that it's a game, but that it makes you think, or feel in a way you don't on a regular basis.
I am not any sort of sociologist. I'm actually that freshman english lit. class you (@gar) mentioned.
I don't care if the point has become cliche'd. I was raised on many shades of gray and I believe it, even if I happen to be incredibly biased/prejudiced/mob mentality etc. I think the point of meeting arguments in the middle, where the gray area is is exactly that. You have to make people think in the murky gray area if you want to accomplish anything. The point of argument, at least in my mind, is compromise.
Second: My interpretation
Lots of people here have lots of really good interpretations, many I didn't even think of. The trouble though, in my mind, is everyone seems to be missing what the game actually puts forward: a mob. This is not the senate, this is not an internet chatroom, this is not a protest, this is not a man preaching to a crowd. This is a sane person in the middle of a riot.
Now, regardless of how ridiculous a riot is, it always starts for a reason. It's rarely if ever a good reason, but it is a reason. People get caught up in the riot and rarely listen to anyone, but some are willing to listen to the other side. So obviously our protagonist takes that other side. He wants them to stop rioting and go home. Wouldn't you? He argues with them, trying to make them take the other side, because at the time the other side is being reasonable, right? But when he's argued his point to the bitter end and it looks like everyone's calmed down (If you look there are groups of your current side doing nothing) another riot breaks out. Who would want that? So our hero is not flip-flopping, he's trying to stop the madness the only way he knows how. Unfortunately, at the end he's created two groups of the craziest people who wouldn't listen to him (there's always a few who leave before being converted, more later on) and the city is in all-out war. He's the messiah of both sides, but no-one's noticed the real point he was trying to get through and when he starts blatantly speaking it everyone is way too biased for you to win (each round you have to argue for longer until winning the argument is impossible) and you are killed by your own success. Shame.
I'm really loving reading this conversation...
Now, a divergent theory.
This is somewhat ill formed as it's not as profound or as serious as the others, and even I feel like a nutter when I'm pushing something unserious when there's all this seriousness around, but...
One thing that struck me that was divergent to the more profane concepts of ideology and the fruits of argument and mob mentality was the idea of popularity and fadism.
I mean, there's the fickleness of the mob, and the player character can be seen either catering to it, being a slave to it, or attempting to manipulate it.
In the latter interpretation, think of the hapless trend setter, or the hipster who like something when no one else has heard of it, but the moment it becomes popular, all of a sudden needs a new thing no one has hear or worn whatever before.
The former interpretation, well, I say this theory is incomplete.
But in either case, if we were to look at this not as a commentary on social interaction in the realm of intellectual or ideological debate, but instead were to impose upon it a guise of cultural trends what we see at work here is the ever present tug of war that exists between the desire to attain individualism vs. the desire to belong. In other words, I want to be unique, just like everyone else.
And of course, at the end of the story, the player character realizes it's all pointless, that understanding the self, being comfortable and confident in the self has nothing to do with "belonging" or "being unique" but instead ACTUALLY doing your own thing and not really trying to chase down or promote a fad.
But, like I say, I'm loving the conversation. There's another game we've got coming up soon that I think you guys will also appreciate along similar lines.
Used to see this game on FGL. Unfortunately I only took a quick glance, felt it was repetitive, and never know that 'converting' process gradually need less people to talk with and what is this game about.
It is good that game discussions exist, so I found from people posts that this game isn't about fun, but about meaning. I regret though I don't know it earlier.
Good job, IntuitionGames!
Hey everyone, I just wanted to give a big thank you to all of you for your thoughtful interpretations as well as to Kyle for writing the article. These kinds of responses are exactly what we were hoping for.
I thought this game was a simple, but fantastic way of going deeper into the theories behind communication and "converting", if you will.
Though I must say...
I agree a lot with xdrngy in the whole theory about the mob/riot. When I first loaded up the game, I noticed that you're continuously pushing against the crowd of people who aren't like you; even when you convert them, and get a group who doesn't flee in a blind panic, you're still getting pushed to the side by the mob mentality.
That being said, I also liked the view put forth by several people of how the person at the end realizes of his own accord that the mob mentalists will no longer listen, and chooses to bow out of the argument; however, I don't know if the end of the game necessarily supports that, because it almost seems like you're trampled under the feet of the converging waves of arguing people.
All in all, though, this game was neat and it made me think. I definitely enjoyed it. :)
I played this game twice, because, honestly, the first time I've played this, I was "What the ****?" So I read the comments on the forum, and I read the comments here, and played it again. And this time, I saw things in a different light.
My thoughts are based on one instruction that the game gives out:
After you make your first convert, the game says this: "Bring as many people as possible to the side of peace."
So here goes:
My thoughts is that you are trying to be a peace keeper in the middle of a riot/argument/war. At first, you merely try to keep the peace - your first view converts will realize the error of their ways and they join you in your struggle to stop the riot. However, as you convert more people, these people help convert other people (which helps convert more people) - but each time these other people convert others, the ideal for peace becomes lost and another fraction rallies up to "fight" for you. In fact, you will realize that the people you convert will always just stand there (until you change), the others of your colour who run in the other direction are the people I assume that others have converted, but lost the ideal for peace.
Anyways, you keep converting and converting, and suddenly, you realize that you managed to start another riot - you again try to establish 'peace'. The arguements become more difficult because the people who were formally under your belief are questioning why you are taking the opposite standpoint, but because your arguements are more complicated, the convertee uses it to convert even more people (though again, with the lost of the ideal for peace)
As you switch from side to side, you suddenly become enlightened to what it takes to be at peace. Both sides notices an air of difference with you, and decide to withdraw, both sides sending an envoy to talk to you. Unfortunately, both envoys simply could not begin to comprehend your concept, thus your words fell on deaf ears. Both sides hear their reports, and decides to go all out, with you in the middle, yelling and waving your arms to no avail...
So is can there ever be real peace? Yes - only if you're willing to turn yourself into an outcast. As an outcast, you do easily remove yourself from the problem, so you would be at peace. However, similarly, everyone would see you as an outcast, and will treat you as one.
One last thing to point out - as Grey, you fade into the background, forgotton... I wonder whether society decided to label our protaginist as an outcast, or our protaginist himself decided to live as an outcast...
Good thoughtful game, all in all.
My grayt experience:
When I turned gray, and no one would listen to me no matter what I would say, I ran towards the top of the screen, and just kept on trying to run upwards. The continued movement makes it look like I'm dancing! I was happy with this result.
Forget the rest of the world panicking and running this way and that- just dance!
and great interpretation anon
I thought the message in this game was interesting, if hardly novel, and it's really fascinating to see everyone's differing interpretations of it. Clearly, this game has succeeded in it's aim, encouraging discussion and debate.
My opinion on the game is condensed into spoiler tags, not really because it's a spoiler, but to avoid spamming up the comments. :)
I can't help feeling that it could benefit from better gameplay. It feels a little too much as though the game was built around the message, rather than the other way round, which is understandable, but a little disappointing. It was too easy, and to be honest, the ending wasn't much of a surprise for me (but maybe that just means I'm too jaded!)
I'm totally for games as art - I'd go so far as to say that games are an artform, in the same way any entertainment becomes an artform - and even games as a mouthpiece for a political or social message. I'm reminded of the excellent Electrocity, or that fun little game where you have to collect all the info in the house to give to the robot, I forget what it's called. However, what those two games have that this one lacks is immersive gameplay. This game feels very short, very easy and slightly incomplete. Spamming the space bar quickly becomes rather dull.
It's a real shame, because I really like the artwork, and it's nice to see a casual game that's about more than just mindless entertainment. It's just a bit of a problem for me when game-play is subservient to message - it's like writing a really insightful and philosophical novel, but failing to make the prose exciting and readable. Doesn't invalidate the point, but it does tarnish the experience.
As for the actual message of the game? I saw it as a simple commentary on how it's much easier to whip up support for a simple black or white opinion because you can employ rhetoric and emotion to push your point. Trying to argue a more rational, not so cut and dried point of view is much, much harder, because people are far more easily swayed by emotive language and perceived threat than logic and reason. Also, when it's just black vs. white, it's us vs. them, and support is easy to gain. When you throw out the idea of us vs. them and try for 'all of us together' you lose the combative element, and the competetive element, and people are for some reason rather loath to admit that 'us' and 'them' are ultimately just 'us.' Of course, this is only my personal interpretation, and it's fascinating to read and think about the ways other people react to the ending.
All in all, I guess this counts as interactive art rather than a game - it's just a shame that such a powerful and interesting point is presented in what is, for me, a slightly sub-standard way.
I have a gray oppinion on this game, so nobody will listen to me.
Xixen: It often seems to me like where the "arty" games tend to fail is in their gameplay. It's not up to the standard of the message they're trying to express. Sometimes this could be intentional, though. Grey is, I think, meant to be a kind of vignette - the online game equivalent of a short story, if you like? But longer games, like, say, Closure, got pretty painful.
I really didn't know what to think about this game, so I went on the forum for it and looked at the thread "I may have missed the point." I wasn't sure what message this game was trying to convey, so I figured this would tell me. Then I found out that, according to one of the admins, there was no specific message.
You can't just make a game like this without a message. Because then the game becomes pretentious and meaningless, like Gray has to me. Maybe I could forgive it for the gameplay, but as it was relying completely on its uniqueness or whatever it was supposed to have, that's not happening.
Skoodge80: That's a touch unfair, don't you think? I mean, say you don't get it, that's fine, say you don't like it, fair enough.
But to call the game pretentious just because it doesn't have a set message I think is a little much. Indeed, some of the best works, from music to fiction, don't have a set message, but instead provide a kind of mirror, or a template from which the viewer creates their own message.
That's what this conversation has been about. Not what we think the developer meant, necessarily, but instead what it means to us, how it affects us. At the heart, Gray holds a mirror to what is often complex and passionate facets of life, facets we may not necessarily take the time to stop and analyze. But through this medium, the developer gives us the opportunity to observe life through a slightly different lens, one that may provide some clarity.
But I mean, think of the greats. To Kill a Mocking Bird, Of Mice and Men, that kind of thing. The author doesn't just come out and say, "This is what the book is about, this is what I want you to take from it, and this is why." If they wanted to do that, they would have written essays instead of novels. And through those novels we get to glimpse ourselves.
To me, that's not pretentious. Pretentious is making something with no discernable depth but then acting as though you have created the most profane thing in the world. Here, I think the developers wanted to create something that would spark conversation and thought, and presented it as such.
I've just realised that this game is about
This may be why it's so easy to sway people at the end.
I think the grey area got smaller as the game continued. I might be wrong, but if it does, it could show that you're swaying people so much, people are getting tired and stick to their own opinions. That's why you can't convert anyone when you turn gray.
Kyle flatters us with the comparison to TKaMb and the like, but I think therein lies the power of interactive experience over other media. With player agency, certain games/systems can open up a wide variety of emergent interpretations based on the player's experience, history and viewpoint/personality. Though I think books are somewhat similar as I believe those to be interactive in terms of personal imagination and experience.
Nonetheless, when we set out to make Gray we did have a solid foundational message/motive to go from. If we hadn't had a concise concept to adhere to while developing it, the game would be much more indecipherable.
Now that this discussion is entering into its 11th hour, I figure it might be a good time to let you all in on where it came from. I don't think this spoils anything if you've already played it, it's just sort of where my mind was during the earlier phases of development. http://mile222.com/2009/04/im-working-on-a-game-called-gray/
Thanks again everyone for playing and sharing their experiences. This is the most constructive conversation I've ever witnessed on the internet. =D
What I want to add, it's important what you see in it, get in it.
I mean, I remember from my literature class, there was always the question "what wants the author to express"? And I always though phooey on this question. When the author wanted to say something, s/he should just have done that in a simple and clear meaning.
I hate the author created as a imaginitative entitity, that got it right and it's our task to decipher the message. No, it's our task to get what we can see.
The key difference is as author, once you put out your work, it's no longer "yours" to decide it's "true meaning".
As a popular counter example of an author doing it wrong is for JKR, when she after the sales of the last volume, opens up character details (about Albus, but I won't go into details) as "truthness" that she didn't dare to even hint about in the books, when money was still on the stake.... Also once she gets the work out, it's not longer hers to decide what the orientation of Albus "really" was, when she did not even hint it.
Long text, shorter meaning, I think we should be open, and not closed to find the "one true" message in the game, and btw, seeing the authors messages of this game in his forum, he does it the right way. He wants to see what people see in it, and not wants the "right message" to be just "decoded".
Oh I just read the blog, aeiowu, "A person is smart, but people are stupid. ", thats a philosophical very classic statement and there is a new group that just argues thats its proven to be just plain wrong.
Surowiecki, James tries to make in his popular(ly written) book "The wisdom of crowds" exactly this point in great breath.
And honestly I tend to agree with him.
Spoiler tag for my thoughts:
The first message I got from the game was "Don't change your opinion all the time, or noone will take you seriously anymore! I didn't like that at all - I hold the ability to change one's opinions after hearing other people's arguments in extremely high esteem. I simply hate it when people's believability gets challenged because their opinion has changed.
*I* viewed the player character as sympathetic, but suspected the intention of the game to be different, to portray him as a coward that bends whichever way the wind blows. So the game made me feel annoyed.
Then I recalled it was the player who is always alone with his opinion at first, and I started to view him as someone trying too hard to be very different and indivdualistic, someone that can't bear to be part of the mainstream, someone who's against everything just on principle - and suddenly the game looked much more lighthearted.
Then I thought about it some more and arrived at the message zbeeblebrox and others have already described so well I needn't explain it further - and the game finally left a deeply depressing and very bitter impression.
I'm all for games that do a little more than entertain - especially when it's done in such a subtle, unpreachy way that makes it possible to draw many different conclusions on what's it all about, depending on ones own previous views, way of thinking and preconceptions.
I posted a fairly lengthy defense of my position and a discussion of games/art that are subject to multiple interpretations but apparently the moderators did not like it because it never appeared. Ah well, this is not my cup of tea but I am glad many posters found value in it.
[Edit: I just checked and there are no other pending comments, nor any in the 'spam' bucket, from you. Perhaps there was a problem or internet hiccup when you submitted comment? If so, I apologize for the inconvenience. -Jay]
I like the concept here, but IMO a game that wants to make a social statement of some kind needs to succeed as a *game* first.
And this one really doesn't, like most of its ilk.
@Bob Montgomery: I do not entirely agree, even though you certainly have a point.
I see this little piece as more of a piece of interactive commentary - or even art, if you will - that just happens to use the means games offer as a medium. That's why I think it works - just like "Passage", I believe it's not primarily meant as fun and entertaining, but rather as thought-provoking.
It's really just the same as in the visual arts - on the one hand, you have pictures that are pretty to look at, on the other hand, there are pieces that aren't beautiful, but challenge you to think.
I won't argue that there aren't pieces of art that succeed on both levels, but that doesn't make those that don't any less valid.
I'd be interested to know, by the way, which games of Grey's "ilk" you think succeed as games, too - sounds like something I'd like to play.
I would check out Jonas Kyratzes' works, particularly The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge (search Desert Bridge here and that should do it).
If you like traditional shadowgate style point and click adventures, it's a very fun game, but it definitely gets WAY deep too.
@ aeiowu -
"A person is smart, but people are stupid."
Hey! Wasn't that a line from Men In Black? :D
Another thing the game could mean. Your character is a confusing hypocrite. Eventually, he wants to stop and becomes grey.
I'd be interested to know, by the way, which games of Grey's "ilk" you think succeed as games, too - sounds like something I'd like to play.
A few games featured here that (a) succeeded as games and (b) tried to make some kind of deeper statement about life:
Bars of Black and White
Super Energy Apocalypse Recycled
A few that kinda almost I can't decide just maybe succeed just as games:
The Linear RPG
Don't Look Back
The Majesty of Colors
One that just doesn't succeed as a game (IMO):
You Have to Burn the Rope
What a great game to have generated by far the best discussions in the JIG comments page.
Have donated $10 to them for that pleasure.
Oh, and Bob Montg - great list of those games, I am such a fan of them and haven't seen a couple you mentioned so shall check them out!
I'm actually trying to compile a referential list as a result of far too many pub converations reacting to..
"games? what like Tomb Raider? Nah, they're all stupid"
The list is sided to a less deep level than yours but it's so nice to find more!
My view on the meaning of this game? Basically, that if you try to make a game with Deep Meaning (as opposed to Deep Hurting, which requires robots and bad movies), then 99 times out 100 you end up with something that's just a boring mess.
More games for your list, jim, if you haven't seen them yet:
and Jason Nelson's work, although he's definitely working more from the direction of art than game.
You might also take a look at Interaction Artist, which is a website full of mini-games that experiment with various levels of philosophy and expression. Some of the bits and bobs there have a lot in common with Gray.
@Montgomery, Kyle, Psychotronic: Thanks for the game tips!
I already played most of them, but I'll definitely have a look at those I didn't know.
Another point I want to add to the 'successful as a game' discussion: What usually impresses me a lot is a message told (or at least supported) by the game mechanics themselves. Gray (I apologize for the previous misspelling, by the way ;)), Passage, Closure do it, Jason Nelson, Bars of Black and White (which I liked nevertheless) don't really.
Majesty of Colours doesn't, either, but there it's the superb, touching writing that makes it.
Even more interesting comments!
"I find it interesting that JIGuest's and sonicscrewdriver's interpretation - of the player character as almost an antagonist of sorts who is punished for his social manipulations through censuring - is diametrically opposed to my own interpretation of the player character as a sympathetic figure who discovers a way the two ideas can coexist and is then rejected for it."
My take on it sounds a bit depressing put like that. I suppose it is. My thought was that anyone who could change their opinion from black to white so easily isn't likely to be trusted. When people make such a U turn in real life, we immediately suspect them of ulterior motives.
"As you switch from side to side, you suddenly become enlightened to what it takes to be at peace. Both sides notices an air of difference with you, and decide to withdraw"
I love your outcast theory. It's almost spiritual, isn't it? But although achieving peace is fine for the individual, withdrawing to their floaty world of gray, what happens to the now even more stirred-up mob? Is there no chance of gray for all?
"As for the actual message of the game? I saw it as a simple commentary on how it's much easier to whip up support for a simple black or white opinion because you can employ rhetoric and emotion to push your point."
That was the main message I took from the game too. Unfortunately, we live in a soundbite world, one that shuns complicated issues. Gray is apt to be ignored like water off a duck's back.
And if you're looking for other games that include social comment, I recommend:
Metro Rules of Conduct (by Mazapan)
It's about how we try to avoid eye contact with other people. This one really made me see the world differently for a few days.
Well, as to gameplay, it's a bit short (sequel maybe?), but I played it again once I got that it isn't only the quantity but the timing. The first time I quit, the second I played through and "got the message" really well, and this time I just enjoyed the converting -- I felt like some puppetmaster, with the power to control minds...ugh, that's so evil of me. Maybe next time I'll get the message again?
Just some thoughts about the whole 'good gameplay' argument. It seems to me that there are many kinds of gameplay. I think sometimes we get caught up or confused by the word 'game', which conjures up the idea of a set of rules designed to entertain.
However, something like Grey has a set of rules designed to make you think. Take for example the fact that you can spam the space bar (which, oddly enough--I didn't do). This is actually pretty clearly a part of the theme of the game.
When you broaden the definition of game to include something like 'Gray' I think you have to accept that the only bad gameplay is gameplay that works against the theme of the game.
If the world of literature has room for everything from Stephen King to Kant then surely the world of video games should make room for stuff like Gray.
I'm glad that there are people out there who can play a game for more than addiction or wannabe-1337s, just people who aren't brainwashed into thinking a certain way, the people who aren't the people, they are the individuals, the unique who can change the world.
This game is amazing, the message is so deep. and no matter who you ask about the message, you'll most likely get a diffrent answer from each person.
I saw the message as...
When you start, everyone else is against your position, after you change everyone, your ideals chang. You fight for the other side, this goes on and on till you learn the truth, no one wins in fighting, no one wins with war. You become Gray, in-between, the middle. But then no matter who you talk to, they do not listen to you, you get swept up in the crowd. The game tells me that no one wins, only by peace can you see the truth, but everyone ignores you. Fighting drives them, fighting is what humans live for, that is why we cannot have peace. Our way is fighting, and only we can change it.
very interesting. Simple but deep. I didn't understand the game till I read people's comments.
i think it's sort of like a traditional game. you start of easy, go against everything you know, again, again. then you reach an impossible point because of a cheap trick. then, ragequit.
I greatly enjoyed reading the examinations people have presented on the implication of this game and I greatly take pleasure in the game itself.
It's actually a good game for me to engage in since I am colourblind (pretty much entirely) and so it has significant meaning even from that observation.
I apologize now for the lengthy epistles I present.
View 1 (colour deficiency):
For me, say the white people state that colourblind people are handicapped because the deficiency makes it difficult to really determine the items around them or even to drive. Being the black person, I would argue that it is indeed possible to live without being considered handicapped and to live without even having others know about the deficiency in the first place.
After having persuaded people to my side, I would stop to think and state "the opposition's argument does have a large amount of credibility" and so I would completely change my mind to go against myself.
Immediately eradicating my previous statement, I would revisit my original argument until I once again reverted to the previous. Reaching the conclusion that yes it is possible to be handicapped and gain a "disability" from it. But why would I want to? Why would I want to be considered handicapped and be condemned or sympathized by people when I am fully capable of doing things just as anyone who can see colour can only it takes a bit more effort to remember what name each shade of grey has in accordance with the actual color it is.
The side of the other argument would be that I could get my license rescinded if I spoke about it because of the fact that colours are indistinguishable when, all things considered, traffic lights are set up in such a manner as to prevent confusion (then again, I can see why they would rescind my license when even people who can see color sit at the green light until it's turned red again.)
As the gray person, I would realize that there are cases not yet discovered that can impair me drastically such as picking out clothing for work or for something of a professional nature only to discover it is a vivacious yellow as opposed to that nice, light gray I have been seeing since the moment of purchase. Such a thing, though embarrassing, would then become minor since it is easily mended with the explanation of whaty happened and so, dismissed and forgotten later on.
Another view I have revolves around a highly sensitive subject that I have switched sides on many times until recently when I finally did become the true gray.
View 2 (Animal activism):
More recently I dealt with the white's argument that animals such as cows and chickens and pigs etc. are produced for human consumption with that being their solitary purpose and so it would not matter if they died painfully or not.
As black, I would form the refutation that animals are not made for our consumption and do indeed have feelings and souls and voices even though a grunt to a human is irrelevant in terms of speech. To see their view, I would then say that they are indeed made for consumption and that vegetarianism is pointless (this is mostly being stated as such because to most people on the white's side, vegetarianism is indeed pointless. I have heard those words too many times to not know their argument.)
Shortly after, someone in the gray area would come to me and say that vegetarianism may be all good and well but animals will die in the end and there is nothing to do about it. To expand on that, I would then come to the conclusion that indeed, animals will die in the end but there are less painful ways of killing them in the process of obtaining the meat while also providing a better way of tenderizing the meat at the same time because in a quick-kill facility the animals are slaughtered painlessly and the muscles remain relaxed as opposed to tense from the adrenaline that would course through them in a cut-throat kill.
Another argument to be put up by white from this would be that quick-kill meat is more expensive which is true to an extent since anything can be bought cheap including meat from such farms. It is mainly laziness that prevents people from making the trip but if they were, there would inevitably be less chance of people with such eating habits dying of heart diseases, certain cancers, animal diseases such as avian influenza, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and other such animal-related diseases that have proven fatal to humans and humanoids.
Again, the gray would attempt to instill the information that while all of this is true, the best thing would be to avoid certain meats while at the same time, make sure it came from a quick-kill slaughterhouse.
Even now though, people will not listen.
There are many people that think PETA and other animal activist groups are pushing for totality on the side of the black and attempting to sway those on the side of the white to their side when, in absolute honesty, they are in the area of the gray, advocating for kinder treatment and quick kills and the only way they know of protesting against the others is to do the opposite and devoid themselves of meat entirely to attempt to help get the point across. In doing this, they have become overly passionate and completely begun to shift over to the black viewpoint.
As for me, I am an animal activist but I still eat meat. I am still one of the few gray people remaining in the world of animal activism along with the founder of PETA Ingrid Newkirk who has herself been called a hypocrite for certain things she has done when she is just being gray as she intended her organization to be in its instigation. It is others who do not understand the true meaning of what these organizations are attempting that are the hypocrites. And even though it is stated clearly what they are about on their website, people still derive what they want from it and fail to retain the deeper meaning behind it all. They fail to see the truth that the organization talks about and so there is and will be no end to the argument between the two sides. Though, I am proud to say that the black team has been successful in their lengthy endeavor thanks to President Obama, even though it is only in certain states, it is still a start to pulling people into the original gray which is a good thing and a step in the right direction that will help everything including the economy as well as famine in third-world countries when all is said and done.
Who knows, maybe then world peace will be achieved but then again, looking at the history of the world and the fact it is filled with wars of all types that lead to the creation of third-world countries, maybe not.
Sorry for switching topics in the end. I have severe ADD and it is very difficult for my mind to remain on one topic and it usually switches to something that is only slightly relevant to the aforementioned topic.
Again I do sincerely apologize for the exceptionally extensive commentary. I do hope you enjoyed my appliance of the game's connotation at the end of my insufferable rant.
Please feel free to respond via email if you deem my comment fit to do so.
Thank you for your time.
Oh. My. Jellybeans. That game ROCKED MY SOCKS OFF. Love the message, now I will provide a spoilered ramble on my interpretation, blablabla.
I think it's about popularity, based on my own experiences in grade school with it. OK. At the beginning, all the whites are doing whatever the popular ones are doing. Then, while you talk to them, the one they follow starts a new thing & they all mimic it. You are also changing with them, changing to suit whatever is currently "cool". The mob-scene style is indicitive of how anyone who doesn't follow whoever's popular gets socially trampled (now there's a sight to see, socially trampled lolz). You & the others around you change what you're like, change yourselves to fit the new style. All because of this one person who is considered so cool. Why? What makees them so special that people think they ARE the description of cool? You, finally, realize that all this is ridiculous, that one person is nothing so special, what's cool is being you. All that comes flooding into your head. And you turn gray. You can no longer converse with these mislead people, the signals you're trying to send go right through them. So, you get forced out of the way, while who's popular continues to control everything...
Thanks, later pplz!! =D
i think its supposed to mean that ppl will always be fighting/arguing about something. even if some ppl are smart and dont want it.
When I turned gray, I kept running around trying to get the black/white attentions! I kept thinking "oh no! why can't I do anything?" ...then I kind of understood what the game meant which makes me sad b/c I like taking the middle road in things like arguments.. (T^T)
Anyone notice that near the end, there are only two or three people to argue with? I mean just before you reach the "twist".
I noticed that when the protagonist turneds gray, he sort of turned... transparent, instead of really becoming gray. He shifted with his surroundings, and he had simply become... invisible... to the people around him, because both sides wanted something other than the morally right answer, and both sides wanted the other to convert, so when there is a third party, that is the only time they agree-to crush the third opinion in the masses (sort of like the US election-independents that run get almost NO publicity).
Gray, to me, is the greatest interactive art ever created. When I played it I felt like someone finally understood my view on the world.
I felt less alone.
To be fair, it's not much a *game*. It's more like an opinion piece that you might find in Time or ESPN magazine. One better said in a game than with words.
When people say "You can use games to share a message", Gray is the pinnacle. I wish more people played it. Of those that played it, I wish more people understood it.
Thanks Jeff, for leaving the comments open a litter bit longer.