If you don't know what Runner is, it's a free game created some of the Destructoid staff.
Get it here: http://www.destructoid.com/runner-a-game-made-by-dtoid-staff-members-is-now-playable-129297.phtml (definitely play it yourself before you read this!)
Here's a video of my own playthrough of it for reference:
Now this isn't going to be some deep, Freudian analysis of Anthony Burch's head, nor is it going to be a professionally-written masterpiece. This is just my experience with a game that I love, and I would like to share it with you.
The game begins by telling you to avoid the three ghost-like girls chasing you. The city behind you and the road ahead of you could represent anything. They are gray, bleak, and ambiguous. What matters is the characters you are running from, and the walls you are trying to avoid (as they are the only things in color).
At the beginning, it is very easy to avoid the walls. You can see them coming ahead of time, and it is fairly easy to move out of their way. However, your vision is soon obstructed by pictures coming from a speech bubble made by one of the pursuing women.
These speech bubbles are the sole source of the game's story, yet you are trying throughout it to avoid them, maybe even look away from them, in order to see where you're going. They show the reasons why these relationships ended: One girl who was annoyed with the character's movie-making obsession, and another who fell in love with someone else.
For me, this was the most important part of the game's experience. You are running from your past, from the memories (both good and bad) of the ex-girlfriends who haunt you. As a player, you want to experience the game's backstory by looking at these picture bubbles.
This desire is overcast by the innate desire of any gamer to win the game. If you spent all of your time looking at and analyzing the picture bubbles, you are likely to crash into walls and lose the game. Likewise, if you only pay attention to the road and the walls, you will not notice everything that is present in the picture bubbles.
In this sense, you are really put in the shoes of this character, even if against your own will. In order to “win”, the character must choose to ignore his past and move on. If he dwells too long on these memories, he will eventually stumble and be “caught” by his past.
In the game, the girl simply grabs you, without changing her expression, and holds you still until you decide to retry or quit the game. The character would be forever stuck, in terms of emotions, fixated on this one memory of her. He is struggling to free himself, but he is powerless until the player decides to try again from the beginning.
The main character is afraid of his past. He did enjoy being with these women at one point, and he doesn't hate them. Rather, he is afraid of them. When running, his face (which, despite being small and pixelated, shows a very wide range of emotions) is one of sorrow and regret. When he hits a wall, his expression changes to one of fear.
Then, at the halfway point, he finds a typewriter. I imagined the character writing a story; a recollection of his most recent past love whom he did not yet want to forget. Frantically, he types page after page about when they were in love, but this power eventually diminishes and he falls back to the ground. No matter how many happy memories we posses, no love can stay the same forever.
After this, the next memory is of a girl whom he did not leave willingly. She grew up without him, made new friends, and her personality changed. This soon led to an argument, and they have presumably not spoken since. He regrets this, but recognizes that he has to move on.
However, he is completely held by his memories. That is, until he finds someone new. As soon as the player touches this new (not ghost-like) girl, the past women begin to back off, his painful memories quickly fading. His facial expression changes to one of bold determination, and together they use their love to break through all of the barriers attempting to stop him from moving on in life. But this love, too, quickly diminishes into nothing, and these barriers break the couple apart.
As their love grows weaker, he begins to remember the past girlfriends again, letting the “barriers” get the better of him. This causes a fight, and his new love soon leaves to join the ranks of his old.
His face again becomes sad, but this time there are very few barriers. Since she was his most recent love, it is much easier (though just as painful) for him to remember their time together. As such, there are less barriers in this section so that the player is able to watch the picture bubble of this memory with little effort.
I felt regret, wishing that there was some way that I could have changed this, and made that love last forever. I played the game multiple times, attempting to change this mistake. But, of course, this was all to no avail. This love was not meant to last forever and, just like after all of the previous relationships, it was time to move on. I jump over the final barrier and...nothing. Darkness. Silence.
At first I thought the game had crashed, but as soon as the credits began to appear, a rush of emotions swirled through me.
I had to play the game two more times before it completely sunk in. I have not been touched by a game in this way in quite some time.
I know this is long, and it's much more interesting to play the game for yourself than it is to read my interpretation of it. But I just had to get this down into words while I was thinking of it, and I figured I'd share it with you guys. Thanks for reading.
Feel free to leave a comment if your interpretation was different than mine at any point. I want to see what you guys felt during this game too. We all have different pasts, and I'm sure some of you thought about completely different things while playing this.