Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons
The game Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons
is a three-dimensional puzzle and adventure game with a focus on the story. In this game the player takes control of two characters, a pair of brothers who go on a quest in their fantasy world to acquire a cure for their ill father. They face many difficulties while on their quest that in the context of the game are solved through a mixture of puzzles and combat. The focus is on the puzzles though, and most if not all of the combat in the game is done in a specific strategic manner that requires thinking to figure out the solution. The entire game is played without the use of textual or audible words (aside from a single name that is said verbally and instructions on controls, but even that is limited). The uniqueness that this game has is that both brothers are controlled at the same time by a single player, and this is not just a gimmick, but actually ties into the emotional impact of the narrative.
This game is a distinctive piece of literature because the story it tells is emotional in a sad and almost desperate way, but it uses the media of a video game to emphasise this focus beyond the means that a purely textual work could achieve. It uses the 3D world to create a visual scene for the readers to comprehend, and the music is beautiful. However, the really innovative quality id the controls. Bernard Suit’s in The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia states that “winning is not the end with respect to which rules limit means,” (Suits, 33). In this, Suit’s is expanding on his idea that rules are what make an activity an activity, by saying that the goal of an activity is not to win, but to get there by following the rules. Although Suits is novel is about games and their rules, in the context of this game it applies to the literature aspect as well. The game is played by following the rules of the controls, which is essentially to control the two brothers at once with one controller, which is an important aspect for understanding the emotional impact of story latter on. The game is very linear in terms of the story, but incredibly immersive as the player has to focus on controlling two characters to complete puzzles and strategic fights that require using each character’s respective characteristics. This shows the player more about the two characters by physically forcing them to figure it out through game play, and it expertly puts the player in the shoes of the brothers by forcing them to really think about what each brother in doing at a given moment and learn their differences, skills, and weaknesses. The player has no control over the story, but because of these controls the players become more attached to the characters and thus immersed in the story.
This all shows how controlling a character directly in a virtual space can lead to understanding the characters and the world of the narrative better, but that is still achievable through text alone, though harder to do. What makes this game’s controls so special is almost indescribable in words so excuse the wordiness of the following. SPOILER The ending of this game ends up with the older of the brothers dying right after they achieve the goal to find a cure for their father. However, this is not the end in itself, after this the player must play as the younger brother to bury the older brother while only using half of the controls that have been used throughout the game. This simulates the loss in a more effective way then words can convey because it is literally playing upon the players muscle memory from playing as the older brother to simulate the sense of loss. Yet, it still does not end here. After the burial, the younger brother still has to get the cure back to their father (he gets a flight from a creature most of the way back but still has to go back through a small area from the very beginning of the game). This area of the game contained puzzles that required both brother’s skills to solve. The player at this point must use both the younger brothers controls and the older brothers controls to suggest he is using his brother’s memory as motivation to push through what he could not do before. One example of this is that the younger brother throughout the game was terrified of swimming and the older brother had to guide him, but now the player must use the controls of the older brother in conjunction with the younger brothers to motivate him enough to push through his fear. This creates a physical representation of the loss of the brother and how it has affected the younger brother and caused him to grow up in a sense (he is a child/preteen). There is no conceivable way for this same effect to be achieved through any other means than a controller in a virtual representation of this story, and as such being in the medium of a video game gave is so much more emotional impact than a written version could possibly have.
“Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons.” PS3, 505 Games, 2013.
Suits, Bernard. The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia. Broadview Press, 2014, Broadviewpress.com, broadviewpress.com/product/the-grasshopper-third-edition/#tab-table-of-contents.