Backlog Club: Exploring The [REDACTED] And Finding The [REDACTED] in ‘Inside’

Backlog Club: Exploring The [REDACTED] And Finding The [REDACTED] in ‘Inside’

Inside - Backlog Club October
Image: Playdead

This article is part of our new experimental series, Backlog Club, where we (Nintendo Life!) pick a game that’s likely to be on our “games we should play” list, and then we (NL + you!) spend the next month playing that game. This is the halfway point, part one of two, where we stop for a minute to check out the game and how much we’re enjoying it.

For the month of October 2022, to get in the right mood for Halloween, we are playing Inside! The second part will be about its companion game, Limbo

Half of October has passed, and that means it’s time to get out of the summer wardrobe of shorts and sunglasses, and into the autumn wardrobe of sweaters and seasonal depression. It also means it’s time to get in the mood spooooky things. Because of Halloween. I’ve never really understood why people want to feel scared, because I have anxiety and feel that way no matter the season, but hey! I like to join things.

This month’s Backlog Club pick is a fun, spooky duo: Playdead Limboand Playdead’s Inside. While the two games aren’t (as far as I know) narratively connected, they’re practically brothers—both about kids who go right and meet a lot of horrible things that want to kill and eat them. I played a bit of Limbo, but then there was a spider, I got scared and stopped. I think it was in the first five minutes. I’m a baby.

But, strangely enough, Limbo is one of those games that people find simple own on every platform, even if they don’t remember buying it, they can’t find their copy. It’s probably buried somewhere on your PS4 or iPhone account. Regardless! I’ll play Inside first and Limbo later, closer to the actual Halloween.

Here’s your spoiler alert – this article is about whole the game. Go play, it only takes a few hours!

Inside - Backlog Club October
Surprise! Inside is actually a game about stealing Amazon deliveries from the back of a truck — Image: Playdead

So! Inside begins with a boy running away from dogs and spotlights. He’s probably committed some kind of crime, because he’s constantly threatened with murder throughout the game — we know he escaped and the sinister forces lurking in the game’s shadows want him back, but apparently not that bad, because they’re more than happy to let him get crushed, smashed, exploded, and drowned by a horrible underwater lady.

A boy, avoiding said sinister forces, manages to infiltrate a sinister laboratory/factory which is also committing a bunch of crimes, this time against humanity. They created zombified workers who happily throw themselves into pits and against walls, solve puzzles with brute force, and probably don’t get paid for the risk. Eventually, the boy meets a [REDACTED], and things get really…gooey from there? Squelchy? I don’t know if there is a word to describe… it.

Journalists, as I discovered, be damned love the motives of mindless workers and the magnetic mystery [REDACTED] in Inside, because there are approx ten billion thoughts he What does inside mean. That’s the thing — Inside refuses to tell you, with no dialogue, no walkthrough, and only the rarest of environmental clues. Even they are up for interpretation.

Inside - Backlog Club October
Good night, sweet princes — Image: Playdead

I guess the designers knew what they were doing, and they didn’t just sit in the Playdead office and say “hahaha let’s add a bunch of girls here that you have to Pied-Piper into a big machine and then brutally kill them so you can solve the puzzle and it means nothing at all , it’s not even some kind of omen, hahaha.” No, even the weirder stuff in Inside has a point and a purpose, but it’s all just academic anyway — it doesn’t change how the game plays.

Except, in one way, it is. You see — this too will be obtained mega-spoilery, so be warned — There’s a secret, alternate ending inside that you can only access if you’ve completed the game and seen the ending with [REDACTED] on [REDACTED]. Then you will have to find a bunch of hidden bunkers and destroy the glowing orbs inside. For now, a video game, right? You know the drill: destroy things, run properly, get the secret item. Maybe it’s the Warp Zone. Or you can unlock the ability to play as Inside Boy’s tall brother, who wears a green shirt instead of a red one.

Haha! No! It’s actually a metatextual commentary on player agency, fool! You have been cheated! Nyahaha!

In the secret area, the Boy pulls out a giant plug. Why? Because that’s what you do in games. If the game says “Press A to interact”, then you do. Because interaction is fun. No questions asked. But in Inside, when you pull that plug, you… lose control of the boy. He collapses, either dead or zombified. You, the player, were on the other side of that port. Idiots.

But there is more. In the normal ending, the Boy always retreats to the right, eventually towards [REDACTED]as if [REDACTED] controlled him. While the Boy isn’t insane like the zombie-people we see in a few moments, he’s still insane. He’s going straight, because it’s you do. He goes right, because you know what the games want from you. And you, the player, do it, unquestioningly, because that’s what you do. You are a zombie. Or you are [REDACTED]? Uh. I do not know. Nobody knows.

It’s refreshing and infuriating to play a game that tells you nothing. I have no answers, only theories and questions. But my takeaway is that Playdead’s Inside is trying to tell a story about agency and control, where you’re left wondering what it means to puppet a character around you, make them do whatever you want, kill them over and over again because they’re not paying attention.

Inside - Backlog Club October
You work hard or you hardly work, am I right guys? Guys? — Image: Playdead

There is no real “good” ending to Inside either. The [REDACTED] the ending feels unfinished, ambiguous, even meaningless — there’s a sense of “oh. Now what?” which you have left at the end. You didn’t win anything, you didn’t save the princess (unless she [REDACTED] is a princess, but there’s no textual support for that theory), you just made a big mess and now you’re out, well done. You don’t even know what it is [REDACTED] is, or why she wanted to be free, or what it is to be free means for something that’s… lumpy.

The hidden alternate ending can be taken as good (you’ve freed the boy from the puppet master!) or bad (you’ve turned the boy into just another zombie!) but what does it mean for him! player is ambiguous again. Are you a monster for using this boy to achieve your own goals? Were you honestly trying to help him? Has his exclusion freed him or cursed him? Nobody knows!

So to me, Inside is a game that pretends to be about what we see on the screen, the story of a player who assumes that the ends justify the means, only to be disappointed and horrified that the ends make no sense at all. But really, Inside is a game that, much like modern art, is more about how it resonates with the viewer than what the art itself looks like. It’s not about what we see on the screen, or what we do during the game, but about how the player is left feeling then. Are you a monster? Is the boy free? It is [REDACTED] has no right to the sweat of his… lumps?

Inside - Backlog Club October
Hiding from WALL-E after paying us all HAL 9000 — Image: Playdead

There are no correct answers. Just the question, “why?” And of all the questions, that is the most important. The one who ought they don’t have the right answer. “Why” is subjective. “Why” is up to you to answer. And it’s perfectly fine for the answer to be, “I don’t know.”

Okay, that’s what *I* think about the ending of Inside. But what do you think that means? Does it matter? Are we all in a simulation? Tell me your thoughts in the comments. Or don’t. You control your own destiny… probably.

#Backlog #Club #Exploring #REDACTED #Finding #REDACTED

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