Dear Mr. Wreden,
I’m sorry for not getting back to you sooner about the wonderful game you released almost a decade ago. It was a very different time for me. I was in my second or third semester at college in New York, and incredibly unaware of how fragmented and dysfunctional I was as a person. Shortly after release, I downloaded it, and that same night played it through in its entirety. It was a game that was so incredibly different from The Stanley Parable in a way that I relished.
I found camaraderie with the persona you portray as in that game (henceforth named “Davey”). I had tendencies and habits that were similar, and I too found the idea of understanding another person through their body of work to be a seductive idea. At the climax of the game – The Tower – I remember feeling very seen by the monologue Davey had and the words Coda had to give to Davey. Even though I hadn’t done anything to Coda, the written response he gave to Davey felt almost directed at me – as though all the actions Davey had taken in the past were ones that I could have taken.
It was the Epilogue that destroyed me. I felt horrible as Davey mused about his mentality. Wanting to be praised, being worried of what others think of me, these were struggles I had and still have to this day.
“If I knew that my life depended on finding something to be driven by other than validation…what would that even be? Heh, it’s strange, but the thought of not being driven by external validation is unthinkable, I actually cannot conceive of what that would be like!”
That line hit my heart with the force of a sledgehammer. At that point in time I thought to myself, “I’m not a good person. Being driven by validation means doing things for that end.” I really fixated on this, even though it was far from the ideas you were trying to discuss as a creator. I wanted to believe I was a good person, and feeling like I was not, and that I had no right to pretend to be… that was a complex feeling that took me many years to get over. That feeling sent me into a dark spiral that semester, and I ended up dropping out. Every time I play your game, and I have played it about ten times now, I still look back on that period of my life – the period where I was so deeply insecure about myself as a person, craving praise and validation from others. Since then I have begun to accept myself. It’s been a difficult journey given my depression and BPD.
There is so much about this game that I appreciate. As a creative who wants to work narratively, I feel as though every time I come back to your game, I find a new perspective that I hadn’t seen before. It helps that my head isn’t as far up my own ass as it used to be. (What prompted me to write to you today was this essay on Steam: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1166705171 .) I understand that your feelings towards The Beginner’s Guide have changed over the years, and you look back on it, I think, in much the same way I look back on the poetry I used to write in high school or in my early twenties. It was, as you said, a deeply vulnerable piece. There are many video games that have defined ‘eras’ of my life, and yours is probably the last, or at least, most recent, and most impactful. It allowed me to explore and examine my emotions and vulnerabilities when I was 19-21. I’m 28 now, and playing through the game again challenges me narratively, as a writer, as a creative.
It has almost been ten years. You don’t know me, but you affected almost my entire adult life, and about a third of my life in general. I recently re-entered college, still trying to get my Bachelor’s Degree for English so I can start a career somewhere, and because of this game, I am starting to poke my head into game development. I recently participated in the Global Game Jam in January, submitting a Twine narrative game.
I am sure you hear this quite often, but I am deeply grateful that you created The Beginner’s Guide.
Mr. Wreden, thank you.
Truly, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I hope one day that I make a game that I can publish and be proud of as a creator.
If that occurs, your name will be the first I credit in the Special Thanks section of the credits.
Jonathan Lee (iften).