Among the Sleep ending interpretations (Major Spoilers!!!!)

So just got AtS today, and just finished it. Like Jim Sterling said in his review on the site, it's a very short game but I really enjoyed it and felt it worth a buy. Also if your reading this and have been interested in the game I suggest playing it before getting to the next paragraph if your willing to part with 20$ (though last I checked it's on sale on Steam for about 17$). Or at least watch Jim's own YouTube play especially if the "YouScream" crowd tends to grate your nerves a bit. Like I warned, since I am discussing the ending, which seems a little open to interpretation, spoilers can't really be avoided.

So as was also alluded to in the review, the big twist (that most players will probably see coming) is that the baby protagonist is the victim of child abuse. More specifically, by his doting mother who in reality is a raging alcoholic. It is referenced in the opening cutscene that some type of domestic problems are going down in the family, and it explains the surreal environment littered with several child drawings depicting that issue and the physical appearance of the monsters that stalk him. The game makes it pretty clear what atrocities plague the main character and how it translates in the dark fantasy realm, but my questions are what was the ultimate effect the abuse had on the protagonist and was that creepy journey real or imagined?

In the closing scenes we see the baby wake up and find his mom in a drunken stupor clutching his torn stuffed teddy wailing she didn't mean to do it. Then seemingly unnoticed he approaches her, though when he grabs the teddy bear the mother screams for him to get out while faint knocking is heard at the front door. The mom seems to not notice or ignore it then answering and opening the door leads to a blinding light followed by a warm comforting male voice assuring everything will be fine and they can fix the teddy. So first way I think someone could interpret that is the fantasy world is a way to cope with the abuse he was experiencing as it happened, with the psychological effects of the abuse driving the hallucinations to an alarmingly real experience. And his father came to rescue him from the dangerous house of his mother. It makes sense since infantile minds see the world in extremely different ways, and also tend to not develop a sense of difference between real and imagined until later in life. But the way that I interpret the story is much darker.

I believe the character died from one of the mother's explosive violent outbursts, which seems to have happened by falling over the railing of the stairs which resulted in the tearing of the teddy bear that serves as his guide through the game. Speaking of which, Teddy seems like a spiritual guide that is navigating the child through an "afterlife" journey to be at peace with the untimely death. It would definitely explain the vivid nightmarish landscape he wanders through. Also helps explain how odd the ending plays out. I think the child was a ghost of sorts due to not yet understanding his death and being able to "move on" which would explain why the mother was screaming at him to leave when she felt his presence. Then of course blinding white light at the front door which is a staple of almost all "spirit crossing over stories", and make of the fatherly voice what you will.

So that is my theory on it in a nutshell, and it could be that pretty much everyone thinks that is what the story events alluded to. Though given the ambiguous nature of the game's final moments, and the multiple ways people tend the view things I have a feeling that's not the case. So let me know what you think of it and if I may have missed something.

I've been holding off on this one due to the price, length (very short), and the very fact that a lot of people seem to be wondering about the ending and how events are supposed to be interpreted. I kind of like my horror literal, and while it ruins things for me, I have a tendency to want to check on endings before committing to anything after the whole "ME3" debacle. The last horror game I bought... "Dreadout"... was also very, very, short. Given that some people have "Let's Played" it in like half an hour (with a long run taking an hour) it wasn't much of a game, which is sad because it had some cool elements and a neat style, there may more may not ever be a second act like promised, and if it's as short as the first one your still looking for a whole hour or two of game play. :)

The bottom line seems to be that it's a bunch of artsy, surrealistic, nonsense. The point is that your supposed to "question reality" and come up with your own opinion of what happened, because there really isn't really one that can be clearly deduced from the game. Is the kid alive, is he dead, did the things you played through actually happen? I tend to avoid that kind of thing for the most part.

This isn't much of an answer, but my point is that from what I'm hearing I doubt anyone will be able to give you an answer. In the end it all comes down to opinion, and whatever answer makes you happy. Perhaps the developers will say "this is the answer" at one point, but it's probably not going to be anything that should have been deduced as obvious.

Some argue that unknown elements make things scarier, me, I tend to think it's a cop out if you are left wondering "so... umm, what actually happened" when the final credits roll.

Therumancer:
I've been holding off on this one due to the price, length (very short), and the very fact that a lot of people seem to be wondering about the ending and how events are supposed to be interpreted. I kind of like my horror literal, and while it ruins things for me, I have a tendency to want to check on endings before committing to anything after the whole "ME3" debacle. The last horror game I bought... "Dreadout"... was also very, very, short. Given that some people have "Let's Played" it in like half an hour (with a long run taking an hour) it wasn't much of a game, which is sad because it had some cool elements and a neat style, there may more may not ever be a second act like promised, and if it's as short as the first one your still looking for a whole hour or two of game play. :)

The bottom line seems to be that it's a bunch of artsy, surrealistic, nonsense. The point is that your supposed to "question reality" and come up with your own opinion of what happened, because there really isn't really one that can be clearly deduced from the game. Is the kid alive, is he dead, did the things you played through actually happen? I tend to avoid that kind of thing for the most part.

This isn't much of an answer, but my point is that from what I'm hearing I doubt anyone will be able to give you an answer. In the end it all comes down to opinion, and whatever answer makes you happy. Perhaps the developers will say "this is the answer" at one point, but it's probably not going to be anything that should have been deduced as obvious.

Some argue that unknown elements make things scarier, me, I tend to think it's a cop out if you are left wondering "so... umm, what actually happened" when the final credits roll.

Oh I agree, it's definitely not for everyone and to me it seems hard to ask someone, especially on a budget, to pony up 20$ for only 2 hours of gameplay with little to no replay value. Though I like this game, I don't really think it's a great horror game. Definitely atmospheric with some good intense and creepy moments, but it's very much a storytelling game much like Gone Home or Dear Esther.

You bring up an interesting point about "unknown horror" and personal interpretations. With me at least, I enjoy the "unknown" element as long as it's done well. This is one of the reasons why Silent Hill has some great fear inducing moments. No idea what the town is, why there are freaky creatures there, or how to get out. Sure we find through the plot they are some type of manifestations of whoever the town "chooses", but exactly what they are is still mysterious. When people screw it up it's definitely a cop out and one of the reasons I hated the first V/H/S movie, most of the stories have no context whatsoever. It seems the writers found this clever and when the monster or twist came it made it scarier, but all it leads to is a frustrating narrative. Also this is why David Lynch films are hated too, but this is where interpretations come in. I could be a little artsy fartsy myself, but I'm one of those that enjoy works that can be interpreted in different ways. If there isn't a concrete answer and it's left to the audience to decide or wonder, I like hearing what others thought and why. For example, I loved hearing what others thought about the "spinning top" ending of the film Inception, and also amazed at all the ridiculous lengths fans went through to explain a concrete ending. But if this game had just thrown all the creepy and weird at me without any clues on what it involves, I would've thought it sucked. Though on the other side of the spectrum, I would also think the same if a character turned on their exposition-a-matic machine and told me everything that happened in detail.

Bleh, it's just a tot running away from his drunken mom. He tries to hide from her, she catches him and rips his teddys arm off. Then daddy comes and takes him away. The parents are likely divorced (or will very probably get a divorce and dad will win the custody). Regardless, this explains her drunken stupour. What's with the "afterlife" pompous overkill?

Oliviu-dorian Constantinescu:
Bleh, it's just a tot running away from his drunken mom. He tries to hide from her, she catches him and rips his teddys arm off. Then daddy comes and takes him away. The parents are likely divorced (or will very probably get a divorce and dad will win the custody). Regardless, this explains her drunken stupour. What's with the "afterlife" pompous overkill?

It does certainly sound "pompous" :), but that wasn't my intention. After I finished the game and the ending credits started, I honestly felt that was what the story was alluding to with its final scenes. A few other quick details that made me think that was how it seemed like a journey through past events since you're collecting memories, and the mother seemed extremely devastated and regretful, more so than I would expect someone who just hit or pushed their child a few times. And then there's the detail of the fantasy world itself. I mean christ, unless that kid got into his mom's booze and watched a Tim Burton film afterwards, I have a hard time thinking it's just his imagination. Like I said before, I just a fan of "reader interpretation/fan theory" stuff because it tends to bring up some interesting discussions and I find it fun. And really just wondered if anyone else thought what I did. Though considering you and one other guy are the only ones who've responded, it certainly seems I'm not with the majority on this one. Or of course simply no one really cares that much. Regardless, whether it be that or that I'm possibly just a "try-hard" when interpreting deeper meanings of stories I still enjoyed posting this stuff and I appreciate your and Therumancer's comments.

Bbleds:
snip

What you basically described is an infant version of Jacob's Ladder. Which is interesting, and possibly part of the inspiration for the game.

 

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