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Passage – Play Session

December 15, 2007

After hearing some buzz about this game, I finally got around to playing it tonight. You need to play it, too.

It only takes five minutes, so go get it now. I recommend playing it before you read anything about it (either here or elsewhere). I think you’ll enjoy it more that way. You can find the game here on Play This Thing.

Go play it and then come back.


I hope you went to play it, because this game is amazing.

A couple sites that I respect had commented upon Passage. On, Ian Bogost titled his post “Please play Jason Rohrer’s Passage” and called the game “superb”. Over on, reviewer the99th titled his review, “The Game That Almost Made Me Cry” and of the game said, “[Rohrer’s] free to make beautiful art games that, like his house, are technically and experientially tight to the point of self-sufficiency.”

With that kind of set up, I really wanted to like this game. I went in with a fear that I wouldn’t get it or that it just wouldn’t click with me from an experiential point of view. It’s happened to me a few times in the not too distant past, actually. Fellow developers get all wow-and-crazy over a game, and I’m just not seeing it the same way. It happens to every designer regularly I suppose, and while it’s not a big deal, it affects me in a couple ways. One, I don’t like to be left out of what’s apparently a great experience. No one does. Game designers have their very clique-y moments, and when everyone’s having fun discussing how cool a game is, it sucks to be the odd man out. Two, intellectually, my dislike or disinterest will puzzle me for the longest time. It would be more cost effective for me to just straight up get the game in the first place.

The thing about Passage is how wonderfully tight it is, like the99th said. I am impressed with how well constructed and contained the metaphor is, and how the designer used a game to perfectly present it to us. I don’t think that any other medium could have done it with the same effect. I am always taken aback when I see magic in a game. When my partner died – it just happens, right there, gravestone, she’s done – I was surprised, and sad, too. And that’s magic and amazing. If you’ve ever tried to make someone truly feel through your design, you know how hard that can be. In the game, I stopped. What else was I going to do? Then I walked on, and it felt lonely. It was obvious that I was going to die, too. So I wandered around and waited for it to happen. The high score didn’t seem to matter much. I didn’t care what I had achieved before.

I could go on and on with how well constructed it is, and how much this game made me think after I played it. I won’t though, because you should play it, and I should leave room for you to say things, too.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Patrick Dugan permalink
    December 16, 2007 10:51 pm

    I’m glad you liked the game, and the review. Its amazing what a weighted cube or a pixelized spouse can compell, which multi-million dollar content-fests struggled to pull together, often failing.

  2. December 17, 2007 12:09 am

    There were a lot of rather interesting things about the game I enjoyed profusely. I played it several times. In one game, I spent a great deal of the beginning gathering things. I realized each “shiny” bag gave me 100 points, and went about collecting shiny bags then on. However, I only got around 1000 and so points. Later on, I played a game where I simply walked with my partner without stopping. I racked an amazing 630 points or so. I realized the packages were far from important or essential.
    I also realized once I had my partner, there were a lot of things I couldn’t do. I got thinking about marriage, and how that affects one’s lifestyle. It was a gorgeous moment.

    I think my favorite playthrough was the one where I just kept walking. When my partner died, I simply stopped walking and stood next to her grave, watching the game end.
    I felt pleasantly satisfied.

    I don’t know what it takes to be able to make something this simple and brilliant, but I wish I had it earnestly.

    • goldsongayle permalink
      December 5, 2009 1:54 am

      I’ve been married now for over a year.

      I just played this game three times. The first time I stopped dead when my partner died. Just…stopped. In disbelief. She was just there, then she was gone. I wandered around for a while, not knowing what to do until I died.

      The second time I didn’t pay her any mind. I lived and lived and walked and walked, just collecting stuff and racking up a ridiculous score…but ultimately when I started to age and slow down, it just felt so…empty. Cold. A lonely death.

      The third time I gathered my partner up, and we walked together, looking for passages through and around obstacles, going for that extra few pixels and time together. I enjoyed it immensely, the score becoming a meaningless thing, just so long as I could find a way to spend a little more time with my partner. When she died I just stood there, hurt, but also…pleased. I watched the world shrink towards me as I aged, then died beside her.

      I have not been so satisfied with a game experience in years. I write this now with tears in my eyes. I could just be lonely as my wife is overseas at the moment, and will be so for another few months before I am able to join her…but this, this creation of pixels and sound has moved me on a deeper level than most any other videogame that I have ever played, and I am reluctant to shoehorn this experience into that of being ‘only’ a videogame.

      It was a life lesson. Thank you for the experience.


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