291: To Die at the Hands of Your Own Creation

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

To Die at the Hands of Your Own Creation

Alan Wake may look like a game about a writer trying to find his wife, but it's really a story about the game's troubled development and the toll it took on the people who made it.

Read Full Article

An utterly fantastic read. This simply MUST be in the next "Best of".

As someone who thoroughly enjoyed Alan Wake, I will never be able to look at the lodge sequence the same way again...

A fascinatingly literary take on a game that deserves such a level of scrutiny. It's supported in itself, but I'd love to see anything from Remedy's developers that could help confirm or deny these theories.

Honestly, absolutely brilliant article. One of the best I've ever read on this website, and that's saying something. Well done.

I had/have mixed feelings about Alan Wake. There was something about it that really made me deeply uncomfortable, and it wasn't the chase sequences or the encroaching darkness filled with Taken. Thanks to you, I now understand what it was, and it puts the game in a whole new perspective.

Tim Latshaw:
A fascinatingly literary take on a game that deserves such a level of scrutiny. It's supported in itself, but I'd love to see anything from Remedy's developers that could help confirm or deny these theories.

I fully agree. Great Article.

Interestingly, i'm currently replaying Alan Wake, and i'm all the more disappointed by how unsuccesful it was.

It might've been awkward at times, but then again, it's a sort of homage for Steven King and Twin Peaks...as such, we shouldn't even expect otherwise. It even warns in the very first monologue of it's somewhat disappointing end.
But for that, we get an incredibly detailed world (especially in the first chapter there is lots of stuff going on), a story with some fun twists and gameplay mechanics that feel distinctively "survival-horror-ish" (on Hard at least, lower difficulties are slightly too easy) while still feeling much like a third-person-shooter, free of the usual limitations of a horror game.

Compulsive over-thinker Rob Zacny still doesn't know exactly what Alan Wake's ending means.

As for the "original" ending:

Kudos to you Rob, that's a truly shining piece of work you've put together there.

Must say as well as others: this article should definetely be in the next "best of". Loved the game and the article, continue to do great work Rob!

I like your take on the lodge sequence, but the diving suit being a reference to Bioshock giving Sam Lake hope for games as an art form iiisssss...a bit of.....a stretch. To say the least.

I, too, have absolutely no clue what the ending of Alan Wake meant. And even though I enjoyed the game, I have little inclination to download the DLC and find out.

I respect what you've written here, but I don't find theorizing about Remedy and especially Sam Lake (neither of whom you seem to have actually talked to) in this way particularly useful. Alan Wake was a complex and obviously troubled project that - I guarantee - had a lot going on behind the scenes. I think there'd be genuine insight to be gained from an article on that, if you could ever get past the NDAs, but a straight up lit crit essay leaves me cold. Only my impression, and thank you regardless for putting your work up on The Escapist.

Respectfully,

Colin

I loved Alan Wake, and I honestly didn't catch those little easter eggs at the lodge. As for the original ending, I got my own theory on it, which I totally forget about after I finished The Writer. Whoo!!!

Fantastic article sir. I'm still hoping for AW2, after all Dead Space didn't do so great either and look at that franchise now.

Wow that was a good read.

I enjoyed that. It was creative and cool.

teknoarcanist:
I like your take on the lodge sequence, but the diving suit being a reference to Bioshock giving Sam Lake hope for games as an art form iiisssss...a bit of.....a stretch. To say the least.

Maybe, but I'm not so sure. I think it's more of a stretch to say that Zane's diving suit is not a reference to Bioshock. I mean, this game came out three years after Bioshock, and I find it impossible that nobody at Remedy ever noticed that their figure of salvation bore more than a passing resemblance to a Big Daddy. All that concept art and storyboarding and nobody ever said, "Hey, guys, Zane looks great and all but doesn't he look a little... Bioshocky?"

So then you're left with the question of why they went ahead with the character design. It could just be a shout-out. Or it could mean something a little more, like I suggest.

I wanted to play Alan Wake, but once they eliminated the plans for a PC version I knew I wouldn't get the chance barring huge commercial success. The only thing huge about the game was the number of people that pirated it effectively killing any hope the game would show up on the PC at all.

Now that I've found out how the game parallels its production I still wish I could play it, but the chances of me getting a 360 are very very slim.

Very interesting article, Rob.
Fascinating to think of the game as a meta commentary on other games and game development. Not sure I agree, but fun to think about.

Initially, I wanted to poo-poo the connection to Bioshock. because I saw Zane's suit more like an astronaut (bursting with light), while the bigdaddy is a monster (darkness contained). I assumed they must have started AlanWake with the suit in mind, because it's so similar to an astronaut suit, then refused to change course later when Bioshock came out.

But while playing the game I noted other possible references. I wondered if one part with a large teetering crashed plane might be a nod to Lost (my initial thought was "man, you just can't do a crashed plane in the woods any more. not after Lost.").
And at another part, I was overwhelmed by the farm concert scenario, having just enjoyed the concert finale in L4D2. i remember strongly wondering who was ripping who off.!

Now, after reading your thoughts, I'm eager to go back and play much closer attention to the names and scenarios. Maybe they weren't coincidences?
Seems like someone could write a book on all the potential nods! heh. hmm.

(Like: are the clouds of ravens a nod to Gears of War? Was the initial car crash a nod to silent hill? etc.)

warrenEBB:
(Like: are the clouds of ravens a nod to Gears of War? Was the initial car crash a nod to silent hill? etc.)

Or a writer who gets inspiration from other sources of media, i.e. other vidyas/books/tv series (Log lady in Twin Peaks/Light Lady in AW)

maantren:
I respect what you've written here, but I don't find theorizing about Remedy and especially Sam Lake (neither of whom you seem to have actually talked to) in this way particularly useful. Alan Wake was a complex and obviously troubled project that - I guarantee - had a lot going on behind the scenes. I think there'd be genuine insight to be gained from an article on that, if you could ever get past the NDAs, but a straight up lit crit essay leaves me cold. Only my impression, and thank you regardless for putting your work up on The Escapist.

I don't agree with everything here and I wouldn't go so far as to say that your article left me cold. I think there's some meat there and it has me thinking of Alan Wake in a different light, as well as looking forward to playing The Writer DLC (I've loaned the game to a friend so I haven't had a chance to get at it.)

That said, it seems like there are two potential articles here; your opinions on how the symbolism in AW can mirror game development and the tale of Remedy's attempt to bring this game to market-a game that, having played, I can't help but think was /almost/ but not quite brilliant.

And as WarrenEBB notes; there are multiple sequences where I'm not sure who was influencing who (the diving suit made me think of Bioshock but the concert scenario also brought to mind L4D2, the game references Stephen King multiple times and, if you're familiar with King's work, is clearly influenced by some of his small town big horror stories) but only the staff at Remedy could really say what their challenges were.

So a missed opportunity, perhaps?

Despite some of my misgivings, I still liked the article and you've got me thinking of the game in a different light. It's flaws are still flaws but it's other touches are stronger now.

Very interesting.

As a fan of the game, I'm pretty sad that it didn't do as well as I would have liked it to. Of course, this is completely hypocritical of me since I bought it used, but I got the DLC so it counts, right?

I never though about the game this way, and while it may be true, I think that I'll choose to think within the story. It's just better that way, eh?

Man, I really enjoyed Alan Wake. I still can't believe it did as well as it did. Or didn't....I guess.

I already loved Alan Wake but the way this piece frames it makes me appreciate it even more.

Alan Wake is about making a game as INCEPTION is about making a film... brilliant!

Thanks for the great article, it really makes the whole game; including the ending; make more sense to me.

Brilliant! Having followed Remedy's work much of my life, I'm pleased to see their style is still very much intact. Ever since Death Rally in 1996, their creations have all had a metalayer or three stacked on on top of otherwise simply enjoyable narratives and gaming experiences.

Incredible deduction, your insight was very motivating. Thank you

Absolutely great article :) Definitely made me look at the game in new ways.

Yeah, after I was done with the game and loved it, it just made me think this is Inception in videogame form. Ridiculous level design with the tilting level in Writer DLC, clever storytelling, guilt-driven characters with wives, and a strive to return to normalcy. Oh, and it's actually really funny in places, when it's going all meta. References to Max Payne. Night Springs, as Twilight Zone. Barry Wheeler. Old Gods of Asgard. The Taken's commonplace stock dialogue turned menacing is SO good!

If you haven't, you MUST play the DLCs, Signal and Writer. They continue the story right off, and are an epilogue.

Can't wait for "The Return", if it ever happens.

You´re definitely overthinking it a fair bit, but a very interesting read nonetheless.

I have never read one of your articles before.
you have a new fan.
That was a brilliant read.

Fantastic read, I really enjoyed it. It's always interesting to see a great game in a different light.

Excellent work. Alan Wake, for all its shortcomings, is a game that deserves this sort of scrutiny. I'm not sure if that is what the work is intended to be, every interpretation is valid, and yours is great and wonderfully woven together.

The bit about the Dark Presence being a force of uncreativity was specially striking to me. I noticed that the game sets the Dark Presence as being a sinister, evil intelligence, but in practice it is really dumb and all it does to try to stop wake is to send people to hit him with shovels and throw barrels at him. That is, the Dark Presence is pretty dumb. I honestly wondered if the game designers had designed it to be that way or if they just had failed to realize how dumb their big villain was; your analysis gives me hope for the former.

I could write an entire article on theories on Alan Wake, but one thing that I thought was interesting was how the manuscripts were supposed to be the entirety of the Deliverance book, but they were of course small, self-contained bits of exposition. I wonder if it would be possible to write an entire, novel-lenght book made entirely of two-paragraph koan-style tidbits. If I do I'll name it Deliverance.

maantren:
I respect what you've written here, but I don't find theorizing about Remedy and especially Sam Lake (neither of whom you seem to have actually talked to) in this way particularly useful. Alan Wake was a complex and obviously troubled project that - I guarantee - had a lot going on behind the scenes. I think there'd be genuine insight to be gained from an article on that, if you could ever get past the NDAs, but a straight up lit crit essay leaves me cold. Only my impression, and thank you regardless for putting your work up on The Escapist.

Respectfully,

Colin

This amuses me a lot. Have you heard of something called Death of the Author? It's a theory of literary analysis that says that once an author has published a work, their ideas on what it means or how the story goes are of no more importance than your average joe's, because after a work is release all of its meaning and stories should be contained within it. I remember reading that Vladmir Nabokov caught some major flak from critics after he said one character in one of his books (Pale Fire if memory serves) commited suicide after the book's end, until another critic came along and said that there were, indeed, things in the narrative that supported the theory of the guy who freaking wrote it. It's pretty much an alien idea in this world of pop culture obsesses with canon and with the creators dripping tidbits of info on us.

My point is that, yes, he could have talked to Remedy and heard what they say on it, but under Death of the Author, it wouldn't be any more valid that what he wrote here.

A fantastic article. Alan Wake never really got the credit it deserves, and I can't help but think it's because there's not many people willing to think about it as anything but a toy. It's good to see parts of it being scooped up and analysed - especially into this fascinating read.

I loved the game but I never thought about it this way. This article was fascinating.

... or just maybe it's none of those things and it was just a bad game.

Very interesting perspective. I wonder if any of the game's developers would comment on this interpretation.

warrenEBB:
Very interesting article, Rob.
Fascinating to think of the game as a meta commentary on other games and game development. Not sure I agree, but fun to think about.

Initially, I wanted to poo-poo the connection to Bioshock. because I saw Zane's suit more like an astronaut (bursting with light), while the bigdaddy is a monster (darkness contained). I assumed they must have started AlanWake with the suit in mind, because it's so similar to an astronaut suit, then refused to change course later when Bioshock came out.

But while playing the game I noted other possible references. I wondered if one part with a large teetering crashed plane might be a nod to Lost (my initial thought was "man, you just can't do a crashed plane in the woods any more. not after Lost.").
And at another part, I was overwhelmed by the farm concert scenario, having just enjoyed the concert finale in L4D2. i remember strongly wondering who was ripping who off.!

Now, after reading your thoughts, I'm eager to go back and play much closer attention to the names and scenarios. Maybe they weren't coincidences?
Seems like someone could write a book on all the potential nods! heh. hmm.

(Like: are the clouds of ravens a nod to Gears of War? Was the initial car crash a nod to silent hill? etc.)

I saw the diving suit as more of a reference to "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" ;)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0401383/

One of the greatest and honest articles I have ever read on the Escapist.

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here