Somewhere hidden within the depths of every writer’s imagination is a place, far beyond the perception of human eyes and the grasp of their meager arms. It is a place someone cannot touch, cannot hear nor taste, yet a creative man can see it, feel it, somehow impossibly know it.
Once you have been to this place, to show anyone else is to perform an oblique ritual, to tread a dark and winding foggy path that goes far beyond the confines of your comfort, to transform yourself into a doorway through which unknown things can reach our world. You must ask yourself if this queer drive, this strange muse, this siren song, serves you or only itself, a question with an answer granted only to those willing to complete the journey. [Some spoilers follow]
EDEN is a title far deserving more attention than it’s original reception upon launch, having seemingly been lost in the noise of numerous releases on itch last year. It’s not often we get a ‘bottle episode’ this well constructed, elegantly looping in on itself with dreamlike logic, an eldritch mobius strip with some pleasant fourth-wall breaking plot devices manifesting towards the end.
As you take up the mantle of a writer in his cabin retreat, you step through the looking glass and find yourself confronted with a typewriter acting as a sort of text parser. After you enter your name, the paper responds with an intimidating and ominous message: You must be different, you WILL be different. Standing up from your seat, the door nearby allows passage and you fall down an ethereal hole in the side of the house. Tumbling into the abyss, it spits you out and back into your chair, each attempt to leave the area met with an ever-escalating sequence of hostile, yet memorable, vignettes that always end with the same outcome: an increasing series of threatening messages written through you, but not by you on the typewriter.
Many of these sequences have elements that hint at a vague family life or an unfulfilled childhood, and the implication of a drinking problem, but it is hard to know if these individual motifs are intended as plot devices of the game itself or as fodder for the character’s errant first draft. It would be entirely fair to extrapolate a reading of this subtext as a symbolic reference to writer’s block, but then the game crashes.
At least until a notepad application opens on your PC, and unfinished text from the game begins spewing into it as if it were possessed. After a short digital monologue you are presented with a tree of folders, no doubt a reference to the re-occurrence of the tree from throughout the entire game. As you navigate each named location, you find text files containing the names of characters and places they may have resided, it is heavily implied that they are either residents of the writer’s imagination or actual persons trapped within the tome that has distorted reality, distorted you.
Shortly after, a closing message appears:
You’re Not Special,
Don’t Take This The Wrong Way, But…
Don’t Wait For Something To Come Along.
There’s No Deus Ex Machina Coming To Give You Meaning.
Seize The Day.
Make That Thing.
Leave A Mark.
Either Way, Thanks For Playing Ours.
… And We Hope To See You Soon.
EDEN‘s ultimate meaning is a commentary on the nature of creative work itself, and the ways in which it consumes as we bite our own tails in an effort to quell the insatiable hunger for meaning that compels us. We hope to see if our creations, be it our social structures or the art we make, will draw a hidden aspect of ourselves to the surface and give us an answer.
In truth, it is on us to decide what our true meaning is, after all, we write our own story as it writes us.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice