A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this brief and visually rudimentary PC game is available for download free of charge to anyone who stumbles upon it. It has never been commercially licensed or distributed, and, as such, is not rated by the ESRB. The game's protagonist experiences a short, five-minute life, moving rapidly from youth to middle-age to grey-haired maturity, before eventually dying. The game is meant to be a metaphor for life, and in its simplicity it can be both enlightening and depressing.
What's it about?
PASSAGE, a free downloadable game for Windows and Macintosh computers designed by independent game maker Jason Rohrer, takes place within a 100-pixel-by-16-pixel box. Its visual style, which includes highly pixilated objects and characters and a healthy helping of primary colors, is akin to that of a quarter century-old adventure game. Each game lasts only five minutes, but in those brief moments our protagonist, a blue-eyed human, lives an entire life. He starts as a young man, then quickly ages as he explores the game's expansive, maze-like environment, until, at the end, hunchbacked and sluggish, he dies. During this short passage, he encounters various physical obstacles (dead ends in a maze) and rewards (scattered treasure chests) along the way.
Is it any good?
To call Passage a game would do it a disservice. It's more of a metaphor for life; a meditation on the human condition. The maze-like environment represents the paths that stretch before us. Some lead to dead ends, other to riches, and still more tease us with treasures that forever remain out of reach. We may or may not find a wife in the maze, and if we do take a partner then many of the game's narrower paths will become inaccessible. As the game progresses we accumulate points, but, as all games end in death, it becomes clear that these points are meaningless. What does it matter how much wealth one has when one dies? It is both enlightening and depressing. Most of all, though, it is proof that interactive media is capable of delivering a profound and poetic message.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the potential of games as a medium to do more than just entertain. Passage isn’t meant to be fun, but rather insightful and somewhat poetic. It’s not to be judged based on its graphics, mechanics, or controls, but instead its meaning. Can you think of other games that fit this description?
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