I stated in the previous post that I believe The Beginner’s Guide is a game that is a paradox that is a criticism of inductive reasoning. I will elaborate on that soon. But first, I’d like to give a quote from an author whose work I just recently stumbled upon. While the book itself has a lot of useful material on writing and the creative process, I found this particular quote to be rather relevant to what I want to talk about.
The quote, from “If You Want To Write” by Brenda Ueland, talks about how over analyzing on the part of art critics can often do more harm than good, saying that “All that erudition, weighing, measuring, reasoning, and comparing spoils these critical people, makes them opaque and atrophied so that they cannot *feel* anymore with the immediacy of a child or of plain people or of poets.” In the context of the book, Ueland mentions having the uninhibited spirit of a child or of someone who may not have the same education as another but has the drive to write regardless. She claims that this uninhibited spirit is what pushes people to create great works and that “great creations” and “good media” do not come from an analyzing of rules put together by teachers or professionals, but from a carefree creative spirit. So how does this relate to The Beginner’s Guide?
In order to pin down exactly how the game goes about criticizing, well, “critics”, we only have to look as far as the ending of the game. I’m going to give one Spoiler Warning before continuing on: there will be spoilers for most of The Beginner’s Guide.
Throughout the game, we have our narrator (named “Davey Wreden”, like it wouldn’t confuse anyone at all) go through a collection of games made by a friend of his. His interpretations are run-of-the-mill guessing at best (messing with a Counter-Strike level to show a specific artistic style), and at its worst are far-reaching projections that create a false image (deliberately stopping an unending housecleaning game to fit an incorrect interpretation that “All things must end.”). As a result of this meddling (and most likely some deeper-seated issues that the narrator deigned to mention), we see the games turn a little more specific, perhaps in an attempt to help Davey understand, only to have Davey miss the point altogether.
Then at the end of The Beginner’s Guide, we get the last game that is unwinnable by design and has to be manipulated through its code in order to be beaten. Once this is done, there is a final message from the creator of the games addressed specifically to the narrator, the one person who has shown time and time again that he has no qualms with editing these games to suit his needs. This climax of the story has been explained multiple times before so I won’t get into the nitty gritty details of it because it’s very likely that you already know what happened. And if you already know what happened, then you know that it wasn’t pretty.
The whole of the last game and the message that comes with it can be summed up in a few statements: “You violated my privacy. You took personal property and tried to make it your own through false interpretation, and spread harmful rumors about me using materials that I never allowed you to share. My trust is broken, and I never want to hear from you ever again.” Thus we have a logical, tragic, and slightly ambiguous end, where the viewer is left wondering about quite a few things. Other than the question of whether in-game Davey has finally learned his lesson, there is another question that I’d like to put my focus on.
How did Davey’s interpretations go so wrong?
The answer is not as simple as it might seem at first glance. It’s possible to point at a certain event in the game and say “This was the turning point. This is where he went too far.”, but it’s just as easy to say that at any point in the game. This would answer as to “when” it went wrong, and possibly “where”, but not “how”. The same goes for a “why” answer, as the motive for Davey’s interpretations can easily be associated with a need for validation. It’s a decent explanation, but I want to go deeper.
Remember the point of the Raven paradox? How it explains that using abstract and/or meaningless materials to explain a theory, regardless of whether it technically works, is still flawed logic? It’s a paradox that’s akin to getting the right answer on a math question, despite using the formula incorrectly. Or how the concept of Hamilton is one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard of but is also an incredible work of art that defies so many conventions that it makes me sit back and wonder if everyone’s been defining “art” incorrectly this entire time. It works in a realm where most would say it shouldn’t.
Take that Raven paradox, and make one small adjustment to it: add in the existence of albino ravens. Because yes, they exist. Now all of a sudden the paradox turns on its head. We can no longer use an apple to prove that all ravens are black because not all ravens are black. We can still try to prove our theory, but it will always be wrong because said theory was wrong from the very beginning.
Now stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Davey’s interpretations were wrong from the very start of the game. From the very first moment that he met Coda, he was wrong about his impression of him. In Davey’s defense, first impressions usually are wrong. But it’s from this point that Davey’s main character issue occurs, simply because he is not aware of the fact that it is impossible to know somebody by any means other than talking to them directly. The responsibility of maintaining a friendship and separating the works of a creator from the creator themselves is with Davey, and it’s here that we start to see how The Beginner’s Guide is a criticism of not just inductive reasoning, but of what happens when it is not used properly.
The game goes to show how Davey makes these large leaps of logic to try to prove theories that already have no logical basis by pulling evidence from projects that at best have a minuscule fraction of Coda’s personality in them. One gets the feeling that Davey played Coda’s games more than he had actual conversations with him. It shows as Davey knows nearly nothing about why Coda created certain games, past the reasons that Davey provides himself. But these games are not whole pieces of the jigsaw that Davey believes he can construct in order to make a whole person.
Part of the reason why Davey is such a tragic character is due to his lack of awareness of how complicated and messed up real human beings are. Davey does not wish to deal with “messy, in-person socializing” but fails to realize that the socializing is necessary when the connections he is trying to make are between creatures that come from one of the messiest, most misunderstood and most complex species on the planet. And by abusing inductive reasoning, he only takes himself further into an antisocial bubble that ends up bursting when he figures out that his method of making a connection with another person had the opposite effect, and damaged a friendship beyond repair.
Alright, inductive reasoning can be used correctly, and it can be used incorrectly. But its counterpart, deductive reasoning, must be the way to go. The laws of nature are always inherently true, so a well-constructed argument based on these laws is the perfect method of logic. It’s infallible. Right?
To this, I ask: Have the laws of nature, as defined by man, ALWAYS been accurate? Did humanity always know that the Earth orbited the sun? Do we know everything there is to know about the universe? And if we can’t, do we at least have rules that work well enough to predict what we don’t know? Do these rules work all the time?
Have you ever been scared by how much you don’t know about the universe?
Have you ever had a house that’s changed its own physical characteristics without interference from any outside force?
Meet me in Part 3. Bring your sturdiest binder.