There were, of course, expectations about The Beginner’s Guide. The Stanley Parable is one of the most memorable PC games I ‘ve played. I loved the humour. The Beginner’s Guide creator, Davey Wreden, is one of the developers of The Stanley Parable, so I thought there may be similarities. The Stanley Parable is simple, with a path to follow, but complicated because there are different endings. The Beginner’s Guide, on the other hand, is linear, but whether you realise it or not, asks a lot of questions of the player.
After finishing it, I didn’t think much about it. I went about the rest of my day. I tried describing the game to a friend, but couldn’t find the words. The best I could say was “I was confused before I started playing, and I’m still confused now”. It was a podcast that unlocked deeper thoughts about The Beginner’s Guide.
Big Problems is a spin off from The Tobolowsky Files. Character actor Stephen Tobolowsky takes questions from listeners, and offers wisdom and advice. It was episode seven, ‘Following Your (Filmmaking) Dreams’, that tied in with The Beginner’s Guide. The hosts offered their advice to the listener, who was afraid of pursuing a filmmaking career, as it would jeopardise the safety and security of the life they were living. Guest host, director Bradley King, spoke of his experience watching Starship Troopers and breaking down in tears afterwards. It’s not a sad film, quite the opposite, he realised the tears were of frustration, because he wasn’t creating.
“It’s not an issue of the dream, it’s an issue of the pain. You are motivated so much by the pain. The only reason you do it is because you are compelled to do it, because the pain of not doing it is so much greater.” – Stephen Tobolowsky, Big Problems
That’s when I started to tie the theme of the podcast with the themes explored in The Beginner’s Guide. It doesn’t matter if the person featured in the game, Coda, is real or not. The frustrations are real. It’s like exploring someone’s mind through a video game. Seeing half thought out levels. Ideas explored then abandoned as new ones formed. Having an outlet to release the frustrations that incapacitate others.
Related to that, The Beginner’s Guide asks if that is enough. Is creating all you need, or do you need an audience? If you make a game in the woods and no one is around to play it, is it still a game? What is the sound of one developer working on a game that is never released? Not everyone would agree on answers to those questions.
I guess that leads to questions of pain and dreams and motivation, as mentioned by Mr Tobolowsky. Are you motivated by dreams or by pain? I posit that if you go seeking an audience you are motivated by pain. It would hurt you not to share or show someone what you have done. If you’re a dreamer, then making something can be enough.
Those are the conclusions I have come to. Perhaps you have different ones. The Beginner’s Guide has been a polarising experience. I wonder if my opinion would have been different without that podcast to tie it in with. Unable to see the difference between dreams and pain.
Image credit: Everything Unlimited, Ltd.