When Games Matter: Bastion, History, and Learning from Our Mistakes

When Games Matter is a weekly exploration by Drew Dixon of meaningful moments in games. Operating under the assumption that games do in fact matter, Drew seeks to highlight those moments that have much to say about who we are and the world we live in.

SPOILER ALERT: if you are planning to play Bastion and have not done so yet, you may not want to read any further.

If you could undo the greatest mistakes of your past would you? The answer seems obvious–who wouldn’t want to undo their biggest mistakes? Bastion, a new game from Supergiant Games, puts you in control of “The Kid” a wanderer in a broken and desolate world. “Caelondia,” the world of Bastion, was ripped apart by “the calamity” a tragic event caused by human hands.  The Kid along with Rucks, the ever-present narrator of the game, sets out to rebuild the world back to its former state.

The most talked about feature of Bastion is the real-time narration of Rucks. Every significant action that you take in the game is narrated and often expounded upon by Ruck’s whose deep but kindly voice fills your most arbitrary actions with meaning and purpose. Rucks serves to bring the world of Caelondia to life as he expounds upon every weapon you pick up, every “enemy” you meet, and every level you traverse illuminating the rich history and culture of Caelondia. All of Bastion’s art is hand drawn and is gorgeous–this combined with the life Ruck’s narration breathes into Caelondia served to make me care deeply about the world of the game. I wanted Caelondia to be healed, I cared about restoring what “the Calamity” had taken.

When you get to the end of the game, however, you are forced to make a decision–you can either restore Caelondia completely to its former glories or you can leave it in its broken state and set off for new lands from which to start anew.  It seems like an obvious decision. However, restoring Caelondia also rewinds time, such that all your experiences, accomplishments and relationships that were fostered after the calamity would all be forgotten. One of the games characters who grew close to “the kid” even reflects that all of her best memories came after the calamity not before it.

Because I had grown to love the history of Caelondia and believed in the quest to restore it, I chose to do so in the end. I will not soon forget that moment in Bastion because as soon as I did so, I immediately regretted it. What would keep another Calamity from happening again? The game offered you the opportunity to change history but changing history cannot actually make the world a better place–to do that you must change the hearts and minds of the people who inhabit it. We would all like to be able to undo our mistakes but, if we had that power, we might never learn from them. God promises us a great day of restoration but until that day, we need to learn from our mistakes.

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