Discussing a Dangerous Game — for Girls

Another new concept we're trying out for our expanded weekend coverage is the Weekend Reader, where we excerpt a well-written long-form piece on a subject in gaming and invite readers to discuss it.

Not everything has to be quick-hitter, incremental developments and snarky takes on the week's news. The weekend's longer news cycle is a good time to prop up your feet and ponder how you view the world of gaming, and how the rest of the world views ours, too.

This week, National Public Radio's All Things Consider examined The Path - the choice-based horror narrative about the dangers of a adolescent girlhood, specifically encounters with strangers. It's a moody, murky game in which players confront their own fears, and the consequences of their curiosity.

On 'The Path,' Everything A Big Bad Wolf Could Want

The game is nothing so much as a rumination on the vulnerabilities of girlhood.

"In some ways, the girls are all one girl," observes Auriea Harvey, The Path's other co-designer. "Or one girl at different stages of her life. In some ways, this [game] is about the various stages of life a girl has to go through in order to become a woman."

This is seriously unusual terrain for a video game, says Brenda Brathwaite. She's been playing video games for 20 years, and she says The Path is the most emotional game she's discovered.

Brathwaite was particularly struck by a moment in the game where Ruby, the 15-year-old sister, stumbles into a deserted playground in the forest where a young man, sitting on a bench, offers her a cigarette. Then he sits back on the bench.

"He's just sitting there," says Brathwaite. Still: "The actual thought that ran through my head at the time was, 'Oh my God, am I going to be raped?' "

Brathwaite says she herself was violently attacked when she was younger. Playing The Path resonated deeply with her life experience; it allowed her to think about being a victim of violence in terms that felt safe to her.

"I think we've succeeded in making a game that's about the player," says Samyn. "What's frightening about it is the confrontation with your own interpretation of things, and probably realizing that they're your own."

Before playing The Path, Brathwaite had talked about her experience with just a few close friends, no more. She said playing the game somehow made it OK for her to speak publicly about it.

"The vulnerabilities of girls - it's something that people don't deal with much in this particular format," says Harvey. She observes that most games for girls are about pink or ice skating or horses - things that are safe and unchallenging for them.

- Heather Chaplin