The Forest

Or the vidya game that is perhaps an unintentional allegory on the futility of the manalone.

For some reason I woke up at 4:30am this morning and thought about a specific video game I haven't played since November when I was recovering from my wisdom teeth extraction. I was at first thinking: "That was a good game. I should add it as a comment on the "State of the Vidya" Trilema article, but then as I kept thinking I realized this would be a spiffy blog post of my own. Moreover, it isn't really a video game review more as it is a philosophical piece; hence no need to create a 'reviews' category on my blog; I'll just file it under 'brainfarts' where it belongs.

The Forest is a first-person horror/survival game in which you, the first-person survivor, wake up after a plane crash to discover that you are most likely the only-person survivor. You also notice that you are in a forest, and there are a lot of dead bodies and colorful suitcases all over the place. You recall that during the plane ride, you had your son or something next to you or whatever, but who cares; you know he's just a minorĀ MacGuffin at best, and the real game is right in front of you. You'll probably find him at some point, but for now you notice your food and water meter are slowly draining.

the forest

let me axe you a question

So you start looking around and find an axe! You have a feeling that this will be of great use to you on your quest for survival, so you take it. What do you know, it also works wonders for smashing open all of those suitcases I mentioned earlier. Things are going great so far. You gather up some cloth (from said suitcases), and sticks, and leaves, and anything that isn't bolted down; why not?

You also notice that for some reason you carry on your person a complete survival guide that includes instructions and recipes for building things like shelter, rafts, weapons, traps, and the like out of the very materials you've been collecting. Good thing you remembered to grab that on your way to the airport I guess. Things are looking up, and you start thinking you may be able to survive just okay in this here forest. Who needs society anyways, amirite?

"Uh-oh, it is getting dark" you notice. As the sun sets, you spot the elongated shadow of a rabbit in the distance and decide to use the slingshot you crafted to shoot it dead. Aha! Beginner's luck as you watch it fall limp to the ground. You manage to butcher the corpse in 5 seconds flat like a real pro, and soon have a fire going and some food a-cookin'. You go to bed in your newly constructed tent and wake up the next morning to a bright new day.

You realize you haven't had anything to drink in quite some time and are quickly becoming dehydrated. As the days go by, this lack of water almost takes your life before you figure out that the only two ways to get water are to either find a pond somewhere deep in the forest, or else construct a rain-catching device (which only can be made out of overturned sea turtle shells, it turns out). After enough futzing around, you discover you can make water holding devices out of animal skins. Your food and water needs are all but taken care of, mazel-tov!

By the seventh day or so, you think to yourself and say "I've got this survival thing down-pat now. Hell, I could probably live here forever!". Indeed, you have shelter, water sources, and have got pretty good at hunting. Not only that, but you've begun to terraform the environment around you; chopping down trees and building structures. You've even got a nifty raft now and have begun charting the rivers that course through old Aunt Dumb's bounty.

That night you build your fire, like you always do, and get ready for the night. Suddenly, though, you notice someone... or something peering at you from a distance like a real creep. You both stare at each other for some time, and you decide to walk towards it. As you do, you make note that it is definitely not entirely human; it has an odd blue-grey skin tone and odd markings all over the place. The humanoid creature makes some erratic movements as you approach it and runs away into the night with a off-putting gait. The realization dawns on you that you are not alone in this forest, kind of.

The next morning comes as usual and the daily grind of the forest continues, if not without the memory of your bizarre encounter the night before. A few more days go by without any oddities, but then one night it happens again. However this time, there is more than one visitor to your camp. The creature brought friends this time, and they are coordinating with each other; communicating in some odd screeching language that you cannot understand. As you approach one, the other two flank you from a distance. Enough is enough, you think, and decide to get out your axe and charge! This is your domain, after all, right? You need to show them who is the big boss man.

You sprint towards one and drive your axe right into its skull. Somehow this doesn't do the trick, so you swing wildly a few more times for good measure and land a few more blows. Finally the body of this thing drops to the ground, but you keep hacking at it just to make sure. Can't be too careful.

This seems to have spooked the other two away for the time-being, and they run off into the night. "Phew"and you think to yourself that you had better increase your defenses a bit. You consult your handy-dandy survival guide and suddenly have a use for all of these elaborate traps and wall recipes you read about on the plane. Time to get serious.

More days go by and you've got your new fortress pretty beefed up. Now you've surely got a handle on things. You've got walls, and traps, and improved weaponry. You've got towers scattered around that you can retreat up into and shoot arrows and throw molotovs down at the little buggers. "Come and get me!" you cry silently into the night. And they come as if to answer your unspoken thoughts.

Only this time something is different... you hear this heart-stopping roar that echos through the trees; it doesn't sound like the same creatures as before. Indeed, you see three creatures of a new classification emerge from the forest, and they must be ten times the size of you, with at least two sets of arms. You don't really take the time to notice, because you are the one fleeing into the darkness now. Even your strongest weapons will not do a lick of damage to these motherfuckers. Suddenly, you are no longer the master of your domain (were you ever to begin with?).

The roars are faint now, and you have no idea where you are. Back to square one: you build a small camp and turn in for the night, hoping that no one bothers you until morning.

More days go by, which turn into weeks. For a while you think you have a good strategy going to thrive in this forest despite the monsters that pursue you. They are dumber than you, right? Why can't you outsmart them? Indeed, you do your best: you set up multiple camps throughout the forest, and memorize pathways along the rivers to each of them. When one group of monsters visits one of your camps, you just flee to the next one in your network. For a while this appears to be working just fine. You are thriving again! Terraforming can resume and soon you will again have control of this forest.

But... soon enough it dawns on you: you can't win. They keep coming, more and more of them and more frequently. No longer do they wait for the night even. No, they come in broad daylight too. There are so many of them now that you know where their camps are, and have identified the routes they take in their network of camps. The difference being that there are an infinite number of them, and only one of you. Your imagined 'network' of one node fails you and you are driven underground... into the caves where you always belonged in this forest.

For a time you once thought you could thrive, but now you will be lucky to survive.

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