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The Road to Limbo


The boy stood up slowly, his head swimming a bit as if from some fall, though he didnt remember anything like that. His muscles were slightly sore and felt like he had been crammed in a box for hours. There was very little light, but he could see the ground was covered in patchy grass, short and coarse like unkempt stubble.

He walked slowly, one foot in front of the other, feeling his way, afraid of the disquieting silence all around. It hid more thickly some feet away, where he could not make out shapes so well. He thought some of the trees looked like scarecrows or bony, gaunt men strung up from their necks and arms. He kept walking.

He passed through many places. He saw strange things he couldnt explain. Machines. Remnants of a shadow of a shadow of a world. Sometimes they worked, but barely. They clanked noisily and complained like a stray cat roused from an already uncomfortable bed. He could tell these things had some story, but there was nobody left to remember it. Maybe there was nobody left at all, he thought. Am I the last person?

The boy was not the last person. One day a group of children approached him. Help, he tried to say. Help. Who are you. But the silence lay thickly and snuffed out the words as they emerged from his mouth, whisking them away like a spiderweb in the wind. The boys chased him. He could not see their faces for the murkiness of the world, but they ran after him like predators. I dont have anything for you, he wanted to say. But he just ran and finally escaped them. He felt very tired.

The boy walked on and wandered. I might die here, he thought. I am in a world that everyone has forgotten. Can I even leave. One day he saw a glimpse of a light, tesselated patterns flickering on the wispy grass, dancing with motes of dust and ash in the air, stirred by a wind that sounded more like a sigh.

I recently finished reading The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. As I read and read, I saw post-apocalyptic in my head. With his descriptions of a grey, dark world, looters, cannibals, thieves, rapists, and so on, I pictured Fallout 3 over and over.

Ghost towns, ash in waves everywhere, not just on the sea. Broken things. All things broken, actually. I pictured Book of Eli. These familiar scenes that have been imagined for me on screens already. But maybe two-thirds of the way through the book, something happened.

I believe the man and the boy were in the middle of one of their slow trudges from one location to another. The man laments to himself:

"Nobody wants to be here, and nobody wants to leave."

That struck a chord with me. What few people are left are stuck in some in-between. They're unwilling to give up the last scraps of what they knew, or maybe they just don't know how to. Could you? if the world was pulled out from beneath you like a rug? Be that as it may, they are left behind in a kind of purgatory.

Purgatory... Limbo. Oh. I played that.

I'm positive it wasn't an intentional connection, but, despite the supernatural aspects, there are similarities I am naturally drawn to notice. Limbo takes you from place to place slowly and somewhat deliberately. You're not starving for food or dying from the harsh elements throughout, but the world is inherently unforgiving to you. Metaphorically or psychologically, perhaps, the boy in Limbo dies many deaths like all the little deaths of the man and the boy, from exposure to all the horrible things left.

Each place in Limbo clearly has some old story, some lost purpose. The waterworks, the aqueduct, the broken hotel, the strange, clanking, steaming machinery, a lone boat left on a shore... for whom? Their forgotten purposes echo in the same way as some things in The Road, like the abandoned train engine or sailboat they encounter.

The themes of purgatory and transition are heavy in the book. The man talks at several different points about the state of having nobody left at all, or of the world as it will be like when everyone finally dies. There is no possible situation he imagines in which humans (or any creatures, it seems) survive; they will only pass through and expire. So too in Limbo, there is no place for the boy in the game. He must only pass through.

And the endings of both, while ambiguous, have a similar tone. I'll not spoil either. Both works of media share a few similar themes, enough to give me pause and consider them. I find it interesting that I can play this game in one media, then read this book--a totally separate media, and largely disconnected from it--and immediately change my perception of the game.
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About knutafone of us since 6:45 PM on 03.01.2010

I'm a dad in my thirties.
I work for MS on the Xbox, making features and fixing bugs.
I have a cat and two dogs.
I sometimes make Twitter bots: 1, 2, 3

Groundhog Day: Wave After Wave, This Is My Ocean
Obscurity: Nobody has ever heard of Lemmings

Currently playing
Stephen's Sausage Roll

Dark Souls
Geometry Wars 2
Burnout Paradise
Rayman (original, Origins, Legends)
Tetris Attack
Metroid Prime series
Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3
Descent 1-3
English Country Tune
The Witness

Other places you might find me:
Twitch.tv livestream (PC indie games and Dark Souls)
knutaf on YouTube
@_knutaf on Twitter
Occasionally, I am part of a podcast
I watch a fair bit of anime.
I sometimes listen to music.
Xbox LIVE:knutaf
PSN ID:knutaf
Steam ID:knutaf


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