Hello again! It has been way too long since my last post. Apparently the difficulty level on my life right now has been stuck on hard mode, so I haven’t had the time to write as I would like to. The next chapter of Demon’s Day isn’t done yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun!
I call it over analyzing because it’s a videogame after all. I mean, most them involve saving a princess or defeating some ultimate evil and don’t really warrant any deep thinking. However I love games, and I see a lot of opportunity in them to tell engaging stories, especially when I find the ones that do.
For those of you not familiar, Limbo is a downloadable game. It’s already been out for a while and any avid gamer will have at least heard of it by now. It’s a game with no dialogue and much of it’s plot remains a mystery, but there’s still a lot that can be discussed.
The developers of Limbo give only a single tagline for the audience to understand: “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters Limbo.” Limbo has been traditionally known as the place where unbaptized children or those that died before the time of Jesus reside in the afterlife, but nonreligious definitions include places of neglect, of confinement, or somewhere intermediate. Whichever definition is true for the boy, he’s stuck in a very bleak world and his own fate is very much in question.
Other than that, the plot stays pretty mysterious, with any conclusions left to the player’s own interpretation of events. There are a lot of theories trying to explain what exactly is going on here. Fortunately, it’s a short game, which makes it really easy to look over the whole story several times.
For all intents and purposes, I’m going to take what the developers short introduction of the game literally since it’s the only concrete thing to go on. I would even go so far as to say that the world in this game really is some bleak form of the afterlife because of various surreal events that take place (like giant spiders, mind-controlling maggots, and bizarre, rotating machinery amongst other things). Death is everywhere in this game and reality seems to have gone on vacation, so much so that I would be surprised if the boy was alive. These factors lead me to the conclusion that the protagonist is dead as well.
One major clue is the common presence of dead bodies and carrion. Dead bodies are also an important part of solving puzzles and traversing the landscape. Rotting carrion on a rope must be removed in order to get to a high ledge, the boy uses a drowned body to jump over a deep body of water, a corpse must be used to spring a trap so the boy can progress, and this are all instances that take place at the beginning of the game. While the boy never outright harms or kills anyone, he does use the deaths of others to his advantage. While it can’t be confirmed at this point, I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s a hint to the reason why they is now in this horrible place.
Bugs also make a reoccurring appearance within this world as well, which are also deeply connected with death. Files, which feed on dead remains, are everywhere in Limbo. They can be seen buzzing around carrion, around swampy bodies of water, and there’s even a giant fly that the boy uses to get to a higher ledge. The fly loses a leg in the process, which may be another example of how this kid will use others for his own benefit, but I digress. Insects, especially those that survive through the death of others, are a major inhabitant of the world of Limbo.
However, some mysterious ‘good’ insects make an appearance. Small white butterflies appear right before running into the girl for the first time. Butterflies are generally not associated with death, but they are still insects and therefore related to carrion eating flies. The really funny thing that I have realized is that when you pause the game, the butterflies are not affected; they are still able to move and fly away. These are very unearthly characteristics and they don’t seem to be a part of this bleak world, much like the little girl that disappears when the audience first encounters her.
Death is even a major part of the mechanics within Limbo. Due to the art style, it can be difficult to determine and maneuver around dangers. Rather than ‘trial and error’ it’s more of a game of ‘trial and death.’ Anyone playing this game is going to die a lot, seeing the boy crushed, sawed, shot, and fall to his death. There’s even a reward for those who can get through this game with five deaths or less. Basically, not only is the protagonist surrounded by death, but gets to experience it over and over.
So there’s the ideas around death in Limbo! If you’re interested in discussing it further, leave a comment and I’ll discuss other aspects of this game. I’m even open to suggestions!