RAIN WORLD – Introduction: Reaching Enlightenment through Unfairness

One may look at the world — at its byzantine systems, its billions of consciousnesses, and all of the lived experiences that these together produce — and ask: why is there suffering in the world? What really causes it, and how might we get rid of it, once and for all? By what terrible processes did suffering come into this world, and by what incredible processes might we evict it — forever?

These are important questions. But they are also big ones. So let us start small. This is a post about Rain World, and if you’ve ever heard of Rain World and its negative critical reception (in which the game is harshly judged for being obtuse, hard, and crucially: unfair) then you might have asked yourself a much more specific question: Why should I suffer my way through Rain World?

(If you’ve never heard of the game before, however, then I recommend watching MatthewMatosis’ brief and spoiler-free introduction, Recommending Rain World, before reading on.) 

The reason why you should suffer through Rain World, is because it makes the player live through two comprehensive answers to the question of why there is suffering in the world. Through its ~30-hour campaign, every single part of Rain World — from its gameplay systems, its world design, and its encounter design, all the way up to its setting, its themes, and its narrative structure — combines to create a profound experience in which the central question of suffering is not only answered, but resolutely resolved — twice. To be able to shape such a journey, however, Rain World needed to be unfair. It needed to break the one rule that videogames should never break, in order to tell a profound story the likes of which videogames have never told before.

So let’s talk about the most gorgeous, most stupefyingly ambitious game that everybody disliked because it dared revolutionize gaming.

And let’s talk about ending suffering forever.

Let’s talk about Rain World.

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A note on spoilers:

Part I is a general thematic introduction of some length. It contains no spoilers whatsoever. Part II contains only gameplay spoilers, which is to say: It does not spoil much. Newcomers who are interested in playing the game themselves can safely read Parts I & II. Part III is a discussion about the game’s narrative and content; there I will spoil the game’s minimalist story beats and locations. It is up to the reader to decide if they want to spoil themselves with Part III; the added understanding could either increase or decrease your enjoyment of the game, depending on the kind of person you are.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS:

PART I: On Unfairness, Buddhism, and Transhumanism

I. Suffering through unfairness

II. Acceptance

III. Transcendence

IV. Synthesis

PART II: On Rain World’s Gameplay Design

V. Introduction

VI. Buddhism in Rain World

VII. Anti-Buddhism in other games

VIII. Realism in Rain World

IX. Accepting Unfairness

PART III: On Rain World’s Narrative

X. A Blind and Cruel Nature [Buddhism I]

XI. Like Sleep Like Death [Transhumanism I]

XII. Fluid Identities [Buddhism II]

XIII. The Void and Beyond [Transhumanism II]

PART IV: Conclusion

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