Like the previous post, this exploration is for people who have played or studied the Journey video game on the PS3. Again, if you don’t know what this video game is about, check out the wiki article here.

Spoilers are a-comin’ in, so if you want to avoid major reveals then take the tape out now and hit the road, Jack.

One of the elements of Journey that I’ve been rolling over in my thoughts is the cutscene at the beginning of the game. It sets the stage for the game by showing the player a number of images that I believe shed illumination on the game’s overall narrative.

The game takes an open-ended approach to the meaning of the game, and I think that should still be kept in mind. My ideas do not negate yours.

However, as I mentioned in my last post when you make certain kinds of symbolic decisions you can’t help but assign them some structure. Piece by general piece, you narrow down the possibilities.

As before, I’m going to break it down for you.

The first image we are shown is a shift from white light to sand. This is incredibly significant.


It bridges the white light at the end of the game with the beginning and it shows us how we rise from the earth to become self aware. We grow in consciousness to an awareness of who we are. This also has ties to how we move out of the unredeemed darkness into a growing vision of who we are.

Right off the bat we have an image showing us that the theme of the game is about raising our consciousness.

The next image we are presented with is the sun over the horizon. Is this a sunrise or a sunset?


Regardless, the time between light and darkness is always the “in-between” time. The moment of greatest danger, the time when the barriers between worlds are weakest and things can pass between existences.

Is this the dawning of daylight and an emergence from darkness? Is this the approach of the darkness and the descent into the unknown? Maybe both, or maybe the outcome is in doubt. This is a time of transition.

Close up to a hill where the sun shines bright. We can see what will later be revealed as the gravestones at the start of the game.


This continues the cutscene’s progression. It means something has changed. Since the sun is higher here than in the previous scene, it means daylight is coming. Illumination has increased and we can now focus on specifics, rather than muddle about in the darkness of grays and indistinct shapes.

What has changed? We don’t know. But time is passing and an idea is forming.

The next scene is a large grouping of gravestones. Where as we were contemplating an individual, or two people, now we move into the collective realm.


Look at all the lonely people. All the dead, unredeemed people. This is a sorrow. All is desert. All is wasteland. There is no sign of life, only the passage of time. The people have lost their way.

Above, in the sky, a shooting star flies through the heavens.


This is God, asking “Who is there?” Calling to us. Showing his signs. It is not a blue sky, however. It too, is lifeless. Heaven is also a wasteland.

You might ask, how can God not know the answer to his question? God knows, but like us God must pretend not to know so that we can discover the greater purpose together. God needs our help even though God doesn’t need it.

The next scene is also a sorrow. God’s call streaks through the sky above the landscape of gravestones, yet goes unheeded.


There is a gap between God and the people. Heaven and earth do not meet. God and the people have lost their way, and there is no life. Or perhaps there is no authentic life. We are all living a phony life that is a shadow of what we might know.

The next scene is a flying through the desert.


Who is flying? You are. This is a premonition of what you will discover in the game—both through moments of small and gradual discovery, and through great moments of inspiration. We are leaving the collective problem here and shifting to the personal.

The focus is zeroing in on you—the player—and the journey you will take.

It should be pointed out that in dreams (and this is indeed a dream) flying means spiritual development. This is entirely appropriate given what you will be doing in the game itself.

Then, you awaken from the dream.


This image is very important. You rise from the earth (because you are mortal), but your head touches the sky. You will be the bridge between heaven and earth. You will redeem the great wrong that afflicts the world.

Contemplate that image, the cloud over your head like a halo. You have heard the call of God. You may not understand it yet, you may not even be able to answer God’s question….”Who is there?”

However, now there is hope. If the people were alive they would rejoice.

The next scene pulls back. You were meditating (an action you can take in the game).


This is appropriate. You were engaged in an attempt to understand or commune with the state of the world. This opened your heart and mind to the call of God.

You stand up, realizing that there is a great task needing to be done. This is the true beginning of the game.

But what is this great task? You are to atone for the sins of the past and become one with God. This is exemplified in your growing relation to your Self. That is, the part of you that is both mortal and one with the divinity, as opposed to the self, who imagines itself as mortal and separate from on high.

This scene from later in the game explains a great deal.


You and the Self are one. You and God are one. This must be re-discovered through atonement. The Journey is your quest for atonement and the realization of the Self.

One of the first wonders you encounter is the glowing symbol surrounded by cloth strips (spirits).


This is holy ground. This is a place where another person heard the call, just as you did. They began their journey here. Now you benefit from this holy place by increasing your awareness of your spiritual connection to God.

This is where your scarf first appears. If you look closely at the World card in the tarot, you will see the evolved Self is naked, but adorned by a scarf. A scarf is a symbol of the spirit flowing free.


This marks the beginning of your spiritual evolution. You will find other symbols along the way and your scarf will grow in size.

Later on you witness a symbol landing in a deserted ruin.


This reinforces the idea that the call of God (shown in the dream flying over the earth) lands where a person hears the call. Person by person a connection is being rebuilt.

Indeed, at the end of the game it is shown that a symbol lands where you first awakened.


You have made your mark for others to follow. The world is changing for the better with every person who hears the call.

In the lighthouse you are faced with several glyphs that display your journey.


This is a gathering of all your scattered piece into a whole. There is an unconscious sequence, symbolized by the out of order glyphs. However, the fact that you have all the pieces means you will fit them together in the final challenge.

Near the end, you are faced with a gargantuan figure. Some believe them to be sages, angels, or ancestors. I believe this is your Self, regarding you.


As you grow in knowledge and experience, your Self appears larger each time. Your true being is so enormous! It draws me back to an issue of the Doctor Strange comic book in which the hero confronts death. You will be required to grow in order to fill the mammoth form you inhabit.

Seriously. Did you never suspect that your true being is much greater than the form you seem to inhabit?

Your mortal adventurer is faced with this realization in the wide panorama of their journey.


The big picture is big. You are bringing into existence your Self through the trials and wonders of your journey.

This is the hard part. Only our mortal striving can awaken in ourselves the part of our being that is one with God. It’s one thing to hear the call, to know it is there. To understand it is a whole other thing.

I talk about the defeat that is necessary to ascend in the previous post. To reach the summit and the final realization requires a beat down. A humbling.


Yet if you do not give up, you reach your goal.

At the top, your scarf retracts. You don’t need it anymore. Your Self is one with God, as you are coming to realize.

Dumbo no longer needs the feather to fly because he could always fly already!


You walk into the white light where you will encounter the experience that will lead to the realization of the Self. Something wonderful will happen.


You pass into the final gap between the two poles of life and death. This is where you will fulfill the dream at the beginning of the game.

What does that mean?

Go back to the very first story-stone cutscene in the game, where you were shown what the mountain does. Life will return to the wasteland. The birds (the animals) and the plants will return. The people will appear (they will revive).

Do you see how important it is that you have gone on the journey?

143_thosewhodidntmakeitThis post is for people who have played or studied the Journey video game on the PS3. If you don’t know what this video game is about, check out the wiki article here.

Spoilers are a-comin’ in, so if you want to avoid major reveals then take the tape out now and vamoose.

One of the more interesting parts of the video game for me is the point where your character collapses on the slope of the mountain. There’s a lot of dialogue about what this moment means and how to interpret what happens afterwards.

The game takes an open-ended approach to interpretation, and this is one of its sources of appeal. A blank slate allows you to project onto it anything that suits you.

However, the choices you make in constructing a blank slate still reveal certain clues. Narrative choices, however vague, define and limit the available meanings. As a storyteller you can’t help but make “poker tells” along the way.

When I experienced the scene of my journeyer’s collapsed form, surrounded by the white robed figures, I broke down in tears. This is a moment I experienced in my real life, so I recognized what was happening immediately.

This is the final defeat, the last temptation, the lowest point.

What happened next in-game also resonated with me. Like my own experience, the journeyer’s soul is illuminated from within and you find a new experience of life. One that carries you past the last gap and into the new life waiting for you.

This is your moment of atonement, of bowing down low enough to allow the call to finally be heard.

What I find most interesting is how easily people interpret this part of the game to mean you died. In a game where you can travel like a bird and sing with a holy voice, it’s easier to believe you died and either went to heaven or were resurrected.

Not that others before you didn’t die. The whole side of that slope you climb is littered with gravestones. And I don’t want to ruin your experience either, but instead have you consider another idea.

The idea that in the moment where you couldn’t go another step you opened yourself to the divine and found in yourself resources that were provided all along.

It’s easy to see defeat as being like death, and in a lot of ways it is—you are forced to believe that your time has come and you are in need of help greater than you believe is within you. Will you give up?

Much easier to believe some outside force lifts you up and carries you the rest of the way, or that you are done and get to see the end as a consolation prize. At least then the blame falls somewhere else.

No. This is the most important moment of your life. If free will exists it is a very tiny thing, and so all the more important that you use what little you have. The entire world is waiting to see what you will do.

Joseph Campbell said, “The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.”

Defeat is not a negation of your identity. It is a facet of your identity.

I’m going to break it down for you.

First of all, the game spells it out. You have to look closely at the clues, but it’s there. During the visions in which the story of the past is revealed to you, what a dead “Clothian” looks like is shown pretty clearly.


Face and body down, no spark of life in the heart space. In the ground.

Later on in the lighthouse you are shown the full majesty of your journey and what it is leading up to—your experience at the holy mountain.


You are on your knees; face bowed down, but your heart space still has the spark of life.


In the two player version of the game the second figure has their face up. This injects time into the narrative and suggests that the way forward means bowing down and then looking up, which is exactly what happens.

In the lighthouse, the vision story of your journey stops at the moment of your humbling before the holy mountain. This is because it’s not known yet what you will do. Will you give up and die? Will you finally heed the call with your whole heart? It’s the scariest moment because the outcome is in doubt.

If it was inevitable that you die then the vision story in the lighthouse would have reflected that.

Mind you, you can still cling to your “I died” experience if you want. The game doesn’t take that away from you. However, see what a brave step the game actually is taking! It is giving you an experience of wonderful healing and joy by showing you how it happens.

And here’s how it happens.

You’ve reached what you think is the last climb to the peak of the holy mountain, only to discover that it’s still far away. You climb the next slope as the worst blizzard of the game hammers you into submission. Lightning flashes and thunder roars. The two monsters are waiting overhead. Your scarf is blown away to shreds and you are frozen to the bone.

Somehow, you come through the storm, only to watch the mountain fade from view as a circular cloud formation whirls in the sky. You can barely walk, and are losing strength with each step. You are exhausted at last, despite all you have done.


This is the center of the storm. When the center passes and the storm begins again, it’s a fair bet that you may not survive. Either the cold will claim you or the monsters will be able to finish you off in your weakened condition. And you still have a long way to go!

You fall. This is as far as you can go as you are. Hopelessness seizes you.

For a while all is a blank, then some consciousness returns. You are on a flat space—you made it to the next crest somehow. Maybe you fell over because you were leaning against the slope and when it eased out you fell forward.


You are not alone. You were never alone. Are they angels? Ancestors? Sages? Regardless of who you believe them to be, something is different. You can see them now! Without the help of the story stones you used in the previous waypoints of your journey.

I think of the words of Carl Jung at a moment like this: “Christians often ask why God does not speak to them, as they believed God did in former days. When I hear such questions, it always makes me think of the Rabbi who was asked how it could be that God was manifest to people in the olden days whereas nowadays nobody ever sees God. The rabbi replied, ‘Nowadays there is no longer anybody who can bow low enough.'”

Are you not beaten? Is this not the lowest point you might reach?


The figures merely witness you, their alignment mirroring the climb you have made to higher levels of knowledge. Yet, knowledge alone is not enough. You must have understanding as well.


All around you the motes of the divine word fall amongst you, much like the snowflakes that pelt your exhausted frame. Always there, always calling. You heard, you awakened, and you made the journey. Yet still you did not heed. Until now.


You open your eyes. At last you finally see who is always there, for all people at all times. You don’t need the story stones anymore. You have atoned.


You rise from the depths, head bowed, humble, letting the call reach all the way into your heart.


The moment of enlightenment is here. Your scarf, symbol of your connection to the living spirit, returns and grows, and grows, and continues to grow.


Head still bowed, you see your heart is still alive, strong, glowing with the joy that is one with you now.


You return your attention to the journey. The last blow of the storm about to strike. On your knees, head bowed, you are glowing with the holy light that illuminates your soul. You have accepted the call all the way through.


Then, you fly. Through the center of the storm and across the gap to bridge heaven and earth. The dream at the beginning of the game is fulfilled. Your people and the divine are reconciled.


So strong is this opening of the heart and the hearing of the call that even the two monsters cannot harm you any longer. They try again and again to seize you, but their actions only bring them into the light where they are restored to their true forms. Your enemies. Your guardians of the gateway. Your friends.


You pass through the threshold into your new experience of life. You are almost to the top of the holy mountain! Your activities are now filled with a sense of awe and happiness, maybe some apprehension?

I am reminded of a narration from the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments: “Learning that it can be more terrible to live than to die, he is driven onward through the burning crucible of desert, where holy men and prophets are cleansed and purged for god’s great purpose, until at last, at the end of human strength, beaten into the dust from which he came, the metal is ready for the maker’s hand.

And he found strength from a fruit-laden palm tree…and life-giving water flowing from the well of Midian.”

Have you not found the true source of all strength and life? Here the spirit creatures roam free, unsullied by human bondage. The only human structures here are the Tori gates, which are simple monuments to sacrifice and worship.

You are finally ready. At the top of the holy mountain you will realize your calling.

Have confidence! By all means we are living in a sad, pitiful wasteland of people who close themselves off. Yet still, a humble video game reminds us all that we can shine.

It can be done and indeed, will be done.

In many fairy tales, childhood is the worst time of your life. This is worth pondering.

A brave and plucky life simulation computer game known as Long Live The Queen dares to take on the challenge of allowing you to explore this possibility, as experienced by a princess faced with adapting to a brutal adult world at court. It’s an extraordinary stance to play with in a market where franchises, sequels and reboots are all that matter.

Your mother (the queen) has died and your father has his hands full keeping the kingdom from falling apart outright. You have been sheltered by your parents so much you know literally nothing at all about the life skills needed to survive in high society.

Your father (the king) has arranged for you to be in complete command of your education with the finest tutors. You have but to select what two courses you take each week to steadily increase your abilities, knowledge, and experience. On the weekends you are free to pursue your own interests. In a little less than a year you will be old enough to officially assume the throne as queen and restore stability to the country.

As in many fairy tales, there are three daunting obstacles you must overcome.

First, every adult you meet is out to kill or manipulate you. That includes your father. You literally cannot trust anyone. People will try to use your influence to strengthen their own plots, attempt to assassinate you for reasons you have no idea exist, or just prevent you from reaching certain goals that conflict with theirs.

Second, you are still a child with very little control of your emotions. You must master your intense reactions to events and carefully think about the cost to your mood when you take action. Otherwise, your education will suffer and you’ll be pulled along by events instead of steering them toward your survival.

Third, you don’t have time to learn how to do everything that is required of you. There are not enough lulls in the action to allow you to close all the gaps in your vulnerabilities. Many of your opportunities will be lost, often without you knowing they were even there. You’ll need to make hard choices about what to focus on to be effective.

Good luck, kid.

The game is very unforgiving on the cruelty scale. Every choice you make has a cost. Decisions come back to haunt you later. Often you don’t know you’re in a dead end until you’re way past the point of no return. Maybe you should have spent that earlier time to learn Accounting after all. Save often and keep several waypoints looking backwards.

It’s harsh, but it makes a very strong point—you are in trouble and scarce equal to the demands thrust upon you. The alternative to victim is equally harsh though: What are you becoming as you get closer to your goal of reaching your own coronation?

I like it. Too often games don’t have the guts to face you with yourself through the choices you make ‘as if’ you were in a situation. Escapism is a noble and necessary form of play, but sometimes we need to be thrust into the haunted house. There are some forms of hypersensitive play with deep value that we may be losing out on. Long Live The Queen doesn’t let this path go unexplored.

Hanako Games have long been masters of the resource currency system. In games such as Cute Knight or Magical Diary decisions about where to take action and allocate points make for incredible gameplay. You need to be strategic and aware of how your choices affect the state of your character.

In Long Live The Queen this becomes manifest in the management of your mood characteristics. You control your mood both by taking actions during the story and by weekend activities such as attending court or visiting the dungeons.

Different moods give you bonuses and penalties to your education during the game. For example, if you are cheerful it is easier to learn many social skills. If you are willful instead of yielding, you will find it more difficult to learn critical court skills. But negative emotions can also be useful! Depression helps you learn artistic expression and being afraid helps you learn reflexes.

Mastering the balance of your mood swings is critical to a successful game.  It determines the speed at which you learn and at times what skills you can study at all. Every week of study counts; a streak of feeling pressured can be disastrous at the wrong time.

The choices you make in your education are the other part of your character’s agency.  What you choose to study will influence how you solve problems. You can’t fight off the bandits without some archery skill, but maybe it’s better to have enough skill in internal affairs to find out who sent them against you in the first place.

The level of a skill determines your options during the story—a high enough skill level in an applicable situation can give you more choices and provide you with information about what is happening. For example, knowing enough about what accepting a noble’s gift means will allow you to choose whether or not to accept it. Otherwise, you’ll blindly accept it (ooh shiny…) and commit to a course of action that may not suit you.

If you gain enough overall ability in a group of skills, you unlock an appropriate outfit. When you wear this outfit, say the Tea Dress, your conversation skills will get a bonus. Also, once you reach a certain level many skills give you additional options during the weekend. These activities may be used to make small adjustments to your mood.

It can be a huge help to have the option to play tennis at a competent level and blow off steam, increasing your confidence.

The game world itself is detailed and intricate, with a web of personal agendas that takes a lot of play to parse out. It has magical powers, mysterious creatures, and divinatory portents. There are secrets buried all throughout the realm. You’ll have to gain skill in the right areas to learn about the details. Or find out the hard way when you encounter things first hand right before you’re killed!

The descriptions of the skill levels as you earn them are elegant and to the point. I often felt I was learning a first class primer on music, history and cryptography as my young queen-to-be advanced. The interface is solid and the music is appropriate and subtle. You really start to feel as if you’re moving through a court of high pedigree and opportunity.

It’s an outstanding game. The premise is well developed and the gameplay is excellent. However, it has greater value than just being worth your time and money. There’s a powerful statement here implicit in how the game portrays a girl finding the strength to overcome the crushing expectations of the society in which she lives.

What kind of adult do you want to be? This is gobsmackingly important and relevant stuff in a world where girls flock to Bluebeard tales such as Twilight—where being a valued, infantilized object is the best you can hope for. This game pulls no punches in what you as a girl must face if you are to develop into the whole woman you are capable of.

It’s a twisted and warped labyrinth that requires you to continually reexamine what is most important to you. How will you pass through the landmarks of your journey without becoming someone else’s doll? Growing into a mature, whole adult capable of taking one’s place in the world is often a profoundly personal secret. This game reproduces that process in a way that is inviting, meaningful, and fun.

You don’t need to identify as female to find value in this game either. There are lessons here that males can take hold of and make hay on if they choose to introspect. Some of the experiences are universal—in the beginning you are full of possibilities, but should you reach the next stage of life (your coronation) you have undergone a highly individual ordeal of liminal transformation.

This is the fulfilled promise of computer games taking their place among the highest art forms possible by human beings. The contemporary era is a bleak wasteland devoid of meaningful rites of passage, save for diamonds in the rough such as this.

5 out of 5 Stars of the Magi.

I have yet to speak of one of my most profound interests: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP for short). You might say it’s been a non-subject for conversation, an irrational sense that drained me of the interest of mentioning it here. No longer, for tonight the taboo is lifted!

For my birthday, I decided to purchase for myself a used copy of the core rules for the first edition of WFRP. The hardbound version, before they came out with the paperback version with the handful of edits and corrections.

The copy I received was in terrible condition: spine shot, taped together, with edges worn gray. The character sheet page was missing, and somebody’s name and phone number were penciled in on the inside of the front cover.

However, the rest of the pages were in good condition—of a stiffer paper than the paperback copy I have, and smelling of that old sensation I remember when poring over the copy I once possessed. To hold in my hands this version was to take me back to a moment in my life where I once was fully immersed in the explorations my passion for this game would take me.

I was also reminded of the terrible time I was forced to sell my hardbound copy to Powell’s bookstore to have enough food to eat that day. To relinquish this tome and many others for a handful of dollars so I wouldn’t starve. In the years to come this would be the selling of my heart that would trouble me the most: The book that began my most important journey.

I had no way of knowing an internet would appear that would allow me to gain a copy for printout through the download network if I wished. That a seller’s market would manifest in which one might see and resume contact with all the lost pleasantries of a thousand young dreams, and if necessary, claim a physical object to meditate upon.

Here it is then, in my hands once again, healing a self-inflicted wound. Who is to say this is not the very same volume I once owned? For you see, it was sent to me from a bookstore in Oregon, the state of mind where I left behind a piece of myself. There are times when even selling pieces of yourself is not enough to keep eating. You must flee into the forest and go mad to find nourishment.

I open the page containing the “Wizard’s Apprentice” beginning career, with it’s typos in magic points and incorrect advance scheme. The errors confused me back when I first read them; when they were corrected in the paperback version I was relieved.

Now I find myself looking at the 204 magic points (instead of the correct 2d4 or 2-8) and the +1 Wounds/+10 Dexterity advance scheme (missing the additional +10 Intelligence and +10 Willpower) with a new set of eyes. The typos are meaningful to me; they speak to my innermost being of what I didn’t understand.

Subsisting only on my resistance to damage and the work of my hands, but born with an accident of energy.

This time, I hold the rules tome in my hands and I get the message.

Okay, so a long while ago I swore I would level up on the knitting power. It’s pretty sad news that a category on this blog has been limping along at only one entry for such a long time. Can you guess my undeveloped side here?

No longer! Unpacked (again), re-learning my skill (again). I will get back in touch with this and make myself the very scarf that Kimaroo mentioned I need in this day and age of psychic blizzards.  Everybody needs an advanced tool of civilized multi-purpose function in this era of Road Mutants In Training.

But hey, sometimes the trove comes up extras on the bonus round. Lo and behold at the store, an array of potions such that K and I thought were relegated to an age of history sadly written. Just goes to show that anything can reappear when the world turns with a subtle flavor.

Behold, potions of healing goodness! K loves this beer, swears by it and has sorely missed it. We plan to stock up before those Roguesy weirdoes turn off the emergency damage repair spigot accidentally again.  For now though, it is exceedingly cool to run into an old friend of tasty character and refreshing vitality. Times are tough!

Of course, scrolls of revelation are included in the package as well. For my roleplaying game group I do maps and tokens as part of my full Game-mastering package of goodies.  Here’s a picture of one such map that I created, of the village where the characters begin their adventure.

Yes, full on detail and color of the highest order.  These things help my players imagine the scale and scope of the area they find themselves in. I was telling Kimaroo about this very thing, when I realized I ought to show her what the Hek I was talking about.

Yes, magic items are everywhere. Because we need them.

There’s this television program I watched back in the day.  A show called The Prisoner that played on PBS (The Public Broadcasting Station). My folks and I would huddle around the television set and marvel at The Prisoner’s originality.

Ugh, the term “television” seems so dated now, even though it’s still useful in describing a dominant electronic device in use.  Who would ever have guessed television sets would end up being the precursor to the monitor, whose job it is to communicate computer activity to us?

Or that tell-a-vision would become 2-way?

The slot for The Prisoner was set at an hour, but the episode only lasted 45 minutes. Since this was PBS there were no commercials—what a novel concept!  A short program based around playing chess took up the remaining 15 minutes.

Jerky stop motion animation of a chessboard and its pieces, accompanied by a measured English voice, described the game as it unfolded. It was entertaining and engaging to my folks and I, so we stayed through to watch it.

But enough talk! The Prisoner is today’s topicality of chitchat.

What Is This Show On?

The Prisoner is about a secret agent (or perhaps he is a highly placed government official with access to sensitive information) who resigns from his job and begins packing for a trip. While he is loading up his suitcase, a group of men break into his home and fill the room he is in with knockout gas.

He awakens to find himself in a high-tech security town known as “The Village”. Everyone is called by a number instead of their real name.  His new name is “Number 6”, or just “6”. The Village is self-sufficient, cut-off from the rest of the world, and presided over by a director who is always referred to as “Number 2”. This director is almost always a new person in each episode of the show.

And those are the least weird parts of the place.

For example, The Village relies on security patrols (by foot, helicopter, and boat) to keep people from escaping.  But their primary means of recapturing escapees is a gigantic flying blob-sphere called “Rover”.

Rover paralyzes (and sometimes kills) those who go too far, bringing them back by dragging them to a pick up point.  The thing also makes really scary roaring and movement noises as it goes about its business.

The series lasts only one season, and consists of attempts by the forces of The Village, led by Number 2, to force Number 6 to answer the question, “Why did you resign?” Every kind of coercion is attempted, from outright physical torture to psychological manipulation involving hypnosis and drugs.

Number 6 tries to escape and resist as best he can. Most of the people who live in The Village are operatives for whatever political force runs the secret prison; many of them are undercover, posing as prisoners themselves.

Some inhabitants are genuine prisoners like Number 6 who usually think he’s “one of them”, or are too far broken down to be of use. Mainly it’s up to Number 6 to muster enough wits and skill to keep from being broken.

What Is This Post On About?

Okay, so if you haven’t seen this series yet then stop here and go watch it! I’m about to go into spoiler territory, so ahrooo!

The final episode of The Prisoner has provoked heated discussion over what it means. Basically Number 6 eventually turns the tables on his captors and is invited into the inner circle of power to join them as their new leader, or to depart.

In a surreal unfolding of events, Number 6 leads a machine gun attack on the inner circle and causes what looks like the destruction of The Village.  He and a few compatriots escape back to the real world, where these helpers resume their roles in society.  Number 6 drives off into the sunset.  The number on the door of his home says “1”.

What does the ending mean? How does it explain the events of The Village? Many viewers were expecting a sophisticated puzzle ending.  Here’s what’s been moving through my brain as I consider the meaning of the show for me.

The entire series represents a complex hallucination in which his captors attempt to brainwash him into a state of compliance, whereupon he can do no harm as an independent agent.  The elites of political entities really hate those independent agents.

At the end, Number 6 manages to overcome this hallucination and return to reality, symbolized by him leaving his home and driving off into the sunset, or the endless horizon of freedom.

Which can also be interpreted as a return to the cycle of the beginning of the series, but I think this only reinforces a closure of a complete experience in which Number 6 is no longer Number 1 or Number 6, but Number 0—a fool free to roam at will through any boundary or state of mind.

The last episode is a collapse of the hallucination and the return of sanity.  He has escaped his role as Number 1 (the leader of the system of coercion and repression which he served)—the mysterious butler is the part of him that “served” this system in his capacity as Number 1—and he has escaped his role as the prisoner, Number 6.

The inner circle would prefer he resume his post or be broken.  They divide his personality in an attempt to either cause his complete mental breakdown or remake him into his old role.  Perhaps they are the same thing!

However, instinct triumphs over programming. His stubborn refusal to give up his identity (“I am not a number, I am a free man!”), to cling to the zero as it were, preserves him.

Number 6 asks, “Who is Number 1?” and he is always answered, “You are Number 6.”  This is said in plain sight of the television watching audience many times.  He doesn’t catch the comma in that answer, nor does the audience!  “YOU ARE, Number 6.”

What’s That Again?

The interesting thing for me is how the conflict is always framed in terms of Number 6’s refusal to answer the question, “Why did you resign?”  The thing is, Number 6 answers this question at one point—that his conscience was bothering him about what he was doing.  Being Number 1 must have meant decisions that led to the suffering and death of not only many establishment agents, but innocent people as well.

For example, when Number 2 kills number 73 (an innocent woman), Number 6 reacts with brutal efficiency in destroying the man.  It must have been a similar incident—the death of an innocent in the performance of his duties—that led to Number 6 questioning his role. He gained back part of his soul when he felt remorse, and this in turn led to him to suddenly react against the system.

That Number 6 finally gives an answer—and this answer is ignored-—shows that his captivity isn’t about information at all.  It is about obedience.  The concern about his resignation is a pretense for removal of his identity and re-education.  Send him to the Gulag, folks!  Just make sure it is “justified” by some official reason.  That is, mask the real issue.

Number 6 tries to tell the inner circle but they shout him down.  “I, I, I!”  The magistrate looks on at Number 6’s anguished face.  He understands as Number 6 realizes, it has never been about his stand of conscience, or the fear of his going over to “the other side”—is there such a thing when the inner circle is both black and white in dress? Where the system is total and complete?

There is only one political force—ownership. They merely argue over method.

The Number 2 destroyed by Number 6 returns to initiate the last and most brutal interrogation of Number 6 before the final episode. The inner circle must have believed using this personality piece was key to breaking 6’s will. But I think by this point they had already lost the upper hand and were clutching at straws.

For this Number 2 is, in effect, a form of Number 6’s own past persona.  The part of him that initiated Number 6’s development out of the previous trauma involving the dead woman.  He has, in effect, betrayed the system by self-recreating his own conscience and therefore a person who does not fit under the typical number system.

Number 2 is “destroyed”. He is “dead”. The truth of self-captivity ended his ability to perform his duties. Number 6 is free to go.

This Number 2 is brought back to life and put on trail as an example of a “betrayer”, who bites the hand that feeds him.  But it is a futile gesture.  Nature trumps the system in the end, always. Number 6 is who our protagonist is now, and putting his old identity on a rocket to be shot into space is no use.

Not that the inner circle won’t try to place all the “bad” personalities into that rocket in hopes of being left with only a butler (Number 1).

The young man gunfighter Number 8 from the Living In Harmony episode is brought onto trial as well (as Number 48).  He is put forward as an example of youth that does not rebel in the societally accepted way. He is guilty of rebelling with no purpose, rhyme or reason—not unlike the fool.

This nemesis “kid” was used by the system to threaten others, but he had a drawback.  He was difficult to control and extremely violent.  Youth stifled and manipulated is a dangerous tool to the system.  When we allow the system to send youth out to kill those who oppose repression, we create dysfunctional individuals.

By refusing to fight, as Number 6 did in this episode, one threatens the source from which coercion draws the strength of its force.  Displaying a character who held this kind of basic stance of non-violence was the reason the episode was not allowed to be shown in the U.S. at the time.

It’s revealed that the Living In Harmony episode has been a hallucination within a hallucination in an attempt to get Number 6 to either resume his former post as gunslinger for the ownership or be a victim of his immature personality of violence and confusion, to be “destroyed” by his shadow as it were.

Number 6 “killed” Number 8.  By refusing to strap on a gun and a badge at the same time, Number 6 showed that he wished to remain independent.

Number 48 will also be going up into space on the rocket.

I, I, I!

Number 6 is sent into the rocket to meet with Number 1.  Meaning he will either end up in the tube with Number 2 and Number 48 (who are both laughing and babbling insanely) to be blasted off and disposed of, or he will emerge in a form suitable for control once more.

In the rocket, Number 6 meets a figure wearing the mask of the inner circle.  He strips the mask away only to reveal an ape’s mask underneath. He strips more masks off.  Finally he comes face to face with himself as the figure is revealed to be—himself!  The two of them struggle, the unmasked version of himself laughing maniacally and babbling like a fool.

A fool. His true self!

Number 6 attacks the guards and frees Number 2 and Number 48.  They lead a counterattack against the inner circle; launching the rocket in a surreal confrontation of energies that can only mean the fundamental construct of the hallucination can no longer be defended.

Isn’t that what the system is, after all? A shared imaginary space we participate in? But as they say in gaming circles, “system matters”. Dysfunction leads to typhoid game play and “fun, never.”

Rover is destroyed, melted to slag.  His job was to maintain the boundaries of the hallucination.  In the episode Many Happy Returns, Number 6 actually manages to escape back to the real world for a brief time.  There is no “Rover” or guards to stop him.  The purpose of letting Number 6 temporarily escape was only to fool him into thinking The Village was a literal place.  But it never was!

As the hallucination collapses, the personalities return to their appointed places in the psyche as the “world” becomes more real. We were only a short drive from London after all!  The youth, Number 48, goes off to hitchhike. Number 2 goes off to a job in the government. The butler enters the residence of Number 6. All the personalities within our fool protagonist return to their proper place in the psyche (and appropriate memories).

Number 6 gets in his car and drives off into the sunset/sunrise of consciousness. He is free to go.  At the very least he will awaken and perhaps find himself in a real captivity, but one in which he can actually physically escape from.

It is the fool who encourages us to resign, to claim our life as our own, and to reject numbers altogether. At the end of the adventure he comes around to encourage us to begin anew.

061_the_new_literacyAll right, enough already!  The sexual tension between these two forms is driving me nuts.  Nobody buys this mutual dislike as anything but a prelude to getting a room and making babies.  Get on with it!

For a long time we had a bunch of privileged intellectuals manufacturing consent by dividing the peanut butter and the celery between LIT and RACY, also known as high and low literature.  The “stuff that matters” from the unwashed laundry of the masses who don’t count because they are the bewildered herd and must be told what to value.

Along comes the E in Ebook and all of a sudden Pbooks are revealed for what they are—form, not the actual consciousness that inspires culture.  The entire social control mechanism that maintains access to distribution to consciousness is laid bare.  People naturally begin to ask questions, particularly those in the bewildered herd who have never known expression before.

That delicious E is the hammer in the Apple ad.  Thor’s hammer, the bolt of the storm that is the Aquarian lightning age, connecting thought.  The contact that is the point of all literature both high and low, author and reader touching each other, both one and apart, oscillating in response.  AUM.

In that moment of explosion, she joins the LIT and the RACY into LITERACY, one of the more stunning discoveries of this medieval age of thinking.  Now paper (earth) can be thought (air) and vice versa.

This is an unavoidable revolution in consciousness occurring right before our eyes.  As this bolt of electricity strikes earth and ignites a firestorm in the forest of paper, a lot of people are going to have to flee for their lives as their comfortable burrows and nests burn to the ground.

Make no mistake; this is a painful thing for a lot of ordinary folks who depend on the old growth forest for their lives.  But understand those who welcome the change as well as those who cringe in the foliage.  Everybody, and I mean EVERY BODY on any side of the fence is in on this.  We all get to participate as the forest burns down around our ears.  Open your heart and listen to the things you haven’t heard.

I emphasize with the struggle; those about to be hurt by the flames could be me, or someone I care about.  I’m excited and terrified both—where do I run?  Where do you run?  Who is already cut off from the lake—wait, is this the dry season?  That cave a safe haven or a future oven filled with smoke?  What is right action?  Shock the monkey!

It is a time for fear.

The copyright-royalty model is outdated and inefficient.  It is primarily a system for putting access to the forms of consciousness into the hands of concentrated centers of impersonal power, justified by projecting an image of the properly compensated and approved artist for their labors.

Don’t delve too far into that model—for every lucky artist you’ll find thousands ripped off, their rights in the vault of some conceptual entity that doesn’t count as a moral agent.  The millions who don’t get to participate at all because only “artists” can do that stuff?  They get to pay to know what they think.

Alternate economic models and mechanisms of access have been out for years.  Novels were the death of real books, just as recordable audiotape was the death of records and libraries would destroy bookstores.  Those with privilege, who stand to lose the most by sharing, always cry bitterly when community insists that people raise their standard of living more humanely.  Specialists are going to have to share their space with more generalists.

Access to data is still affected by class.  The decline of fossil fuels and rare metals leads to a cage match between military contracts and consumer electronic manufacturers.  The iron rule of oligarchy always obtains.  But humans are naturally moral and strive for freedom.  The human condition is nature’s way of making us figure it out.

The Kindle and the iPad are already ancient history.  You think that’s what the kids are using?  I’ll let that one be a surprise.  Developers hate Apple.  Who is going to put Ebooks in the hands of starving villagers with a credit card?

The price for everything is inflated.  People want what they want now and they want to pay what they want to pay.  You going to tell the vast majority of mindless beasts how to think?  Good luck!  Prices will have to fall and the money to be made will shrink.  Subscriptions and proprietary ala Carte tollbooths are yesterday’s memories.  Get used to it, what you think is right doesn’t matter.

How are you going to control the exchange of thoughts?  No, seriously?  Actions can be directed with a truncheon or a lawsuit, but you going to tell people what to do with their thoughts?  Even brutal dictatorships let people think what they want as long as they obey.  Rust always trumps the iron rule in the end.

Nobody can predict the future.  If you think that’s what I’m doing you aren’t paying attention.  Invigorated by the conflagration, the forest will grow back.  The new life is always greater than the old.  The status quo is death; plenty of new species will migrate to fill the void.  That’s the scary thought—who will be the new neighbor?  Won’t you be my neighbor?

The playing field gained a new dimension as well as a new form.  This isn’t squeezing anything out; it’s rather that the old way of doing things is not going to dominate any more.  It will have to content itself with being a smaller fraction of a greater whole.

Yes, this means even the crap gets a say.  Or do you mean “the crap we don’t approve of”?  I say let the crap hounds have their say and show us what they got.  If they can’t ante up they’ll make for some fine fertilizer in the new forest.  Freedom of speech means the right to participate alongside the great names and have your turn to speak—look at any sportscaster program with call-ins.

All of us start at the Level Zero crap hound bottom.  Never forget we all begin in ignorance and grow according to many variables outside our conscious control.  It’s in all our interests to create ecosystems of variable creative exploration.  It’ll do both the wizards and the crap hounds some good.

Physical objects are totems to show allegiance.  Don’t underestimate that.  Also keep in mind that whatever is not nailed down is mine and whatever I can pry loose is not nailed down.  Thoughts want to be free, so let them be so!  Air always escapes a prison.  The point is to hook up people who have an affinity with your thoughts and gratify them with stuff they actually want.

Youth culture is already doing this.  They grow up with everything that ever was at their fingertips, creating their own wants and satisfying their own curiosity.  Literacy is exploding like a thunderbolt.  Get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand.

Doomsday fantasies of resentment can eat my shorts.  We’re already there.  The hum of the lightning age moves through an emerging electro-agrarianism that will bring both a shadow we’ve never encountered before and a worldwide literacy the likes of which cannot be conceived of.

Just wait until you see the child Pbook and Ebook make together.

The hybrid is the message of the savior of humanity, believe it!

Okay, all right.  Permission to matter blah blah blah stakes whatever man.  What’s the DEAL?

The deal is, you’re going to have to play with these concepts until you can arrange them into a formula that works for you.  Your goal is to internalize them so that they influence what you create on an unconscious level—mental muscle memory as it were.

Just by reading about this, even if you don’t buy it, you are pouring ingredients one into the other and back.  The dance of temperance leads to more informed decisions and greater consciousness.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind:  Stories resolve.  That means they have an endgame, a way for a storyteller to say “I’m Done”.  This is often personified in the conflict—tension—resolution story formula.

This is actually harder than it looks.  Many writers can’t bear the thought of a resolution.  It’s much easier to do what’s called false tension, where you introduce a conflict, build up tension, and then back off from the resolution by removing the source of the conflict in some way.  They are revoking the principle of Permission To Matter for saw tooth storytelling.

Saw tooth storytelling is a kind of zilchplay.  But it carries with it another danger—running out of narrative ammunition.  There are only so many conflicts you can introduce before you begin to repeat yourself.  There are only so many conflicts you can repeat before the tension vanishes.

Think of it in half-life terms.  The first time the girl detective is faced with “follow my dream or please daddy’s image of me” is 100% tense.  The next time, 50%.  After that your audience is going to stop caring.

Get on with it.  Consequences are thrilling and exciting.  They inspire meditations—what if girl detective decides to please her daddy and become a hippy painter like him?  Is following her dream worth the cost?  Is it even right?  Or is it a case of “whoa that was a close one, that’s so cool she made the right decision?  OMG what if she hadn’t followed her dream?”

Keeps you awake at night.

What you’re looking for is a steady reward cycle.  Reader is rewarded for following the story.  Characters who do stuff are cool.  It keeps the narrative clip loaded and firing, bang bang bang.  If you keep firing and never hitting anything, you’re just wasting shots and soon to run out of places to go.

So here’s a simple formula:  Character plus setting equals situation—Resolve, repeat until done.

  • Newbie woman engineer plus starship equals keeping things running smoothly, or
  • Girl detective plus high school equals solving mysteries without flunking, or
  • Humaniform alien female plus stuck on earth while making escape ship equals survive culture shock without being discovered

You don’t have to buy it, just consider it.

My dear friend Kim tweeted this link my way, and since I enjoy finding out new nuggets of cultural development concerning female characters I checked it out.  Over in the Justine-land Broiler-anza the trail of the moment became the ingredients of compelling fiction.

Okay-okay already I’ll rattle this loose.  I got molecular prizes tumbling in my mind now that these two bad girls stirred things up without even realizing it.  Time for crazy time rumblings of doom as I pull out a few mental calculations I used to toss about a few years back.

What I draw a circle around is permission to matter.  That is, actions have consequences.  Not my idea; I’m adapting.  It rises up out of roleplaying game theory from a real phenomenon, wherein characters are blocked from contributing meaningfully to a creative exploration.

Very often this phenomenon is hidden from players’ (or readers’, or audience members’) view by a technique known as illusionism.  The illusion of permission to matter is fostered so that a game master (or writer, or director) can pursue an agenda.  When illusionism fails a follow-up technique known as force is used to railroad participants back to the agenda.

This results in dysfunctional play; players reach states of frustration and boredom.  Some resort to manipulation of the game master or the group to obtain their entertainment.  Whatever the case may be, it is a situation referred to as fun never.

You can apply this to other art forms as well.  Television and movies are especially prone to illusionism and force.  The agenda is to keep you watching passively, or to expect that the movie you are about to watch will entertain you because it is a “good movie”.

But getting back to writing.  When characters don’t get to matter they engage in what is known as zilchplay, or going nowhere.  Their actions have no consequences and what they do doesn’t matter.  You could substitute them for someone else and there would be no change.

Another name for permission to matter might be “agency”.  A character has to be able to affect the story.  If, for example, a woman is an engineer yet never gets to save the day with her engineering skills then it doesn’t matter who she is—zilchplay.  You could have a glass of water, call it an engineer, and watch as the designated character or plot element moves the story along because its time to go to the next scene—force.

Hand in hand with permission to matter is the concept of stakes.  When a conflict arises, there must be something to lose and something to gain.  Girl detective has to fast talk her way from the dinner table or else she’ll get to the crime scene too late to test her sudden intuition.

And not just the main character(s).  The minor character(s) have to be capable of succeeding and failing all on their own.

Permission to matter also requires consistency.  If the humaniform alien female demonstrates expert skill with computers only when the plot requires it, you have zilchplay.  A character doesn’t always have to succeed, but they do need to face conflicts with regard to established resources.

What you will find is that when you give your characters permission to matter, they will do things you never expected.  Complications will ensue and matters will unfold in ways that will surprise and inspire.  Even mundane outcomes have resonance—the girl detective predictably gets to go to the prom, but she’s earned it.  That is what being compelling is all about—being remarkable.

Chew on that for a moment.

I’m unsure if I should open this canister of two-four-five trioxyn, as my comprehension is limited.  But over here at the Diamond Island conversations tend towards the rare and unusual, so what the Hek.

Scott McCloud talks about comics, but I believe his ideas are applicable to probably just about any art form.  In his book Making Comics, he speaks of four kinds of approaches to comic book creation, but just substitute any art form and you got the idea.

  • Classicists want to create art that displays a certain kind of technique worthy of being admired, as an image of what art should be.
  • Animists want to create art that tells a story and relates to the emotions of the audience.
  • Formalists want to create art that tests the boundaries of what an art form is capable of.
  • Iconoclasts want to create art that has integrity and honesty to an ideal, unbeholden to any mainstream influence.

This is useful in determining what your stance is when you write, or create art of any kind.  You might say it’s the purpose you are drawn towards.  All of them are worthy; although the various camps will claim theirs is the only kind that is true art.  Yet each has a purpose that supports and encourages the other (but don’t tell them that).

Moving on, in Chapter 7 of Understanding Comics Scott also brings up the six steps of art creation.

  • Step 6 (Surface): What you see at first glance.
  • Step 5 (Craft): The skill involved in making the art.
  • Step 4 (Structure): Understanding what goes where and why.
  • Step 3 (Idiom): Speaking the language of a particular flavor.
  • Step 2 (Form): The materialization itself—book, vase, speech, whatever.
  • Step 1 (Idea/Purpose): Why am I doing this?

Basically, you start at Step 6 when you admire and are inspired by a work of art to get involved.  Each stage requires you to pass several thresholds of challenge to progress. At the end, you choose whether to go to Step 2 (re-imagining the form itself) or Step 1 (exploring the ideas available for expression within).

It’s a little strange for me to even contemplate these paths, for they reveal a pattern to our thinking and feeling, our efforts to create art which are grounded in the fundamentals of brutal survival.  Sex, Danger, Play (Art) are as necessary as anything we do.  Going further down you get to things like breathing, making hormones and the like. Then it’s molecules and elements.

The one indispensable part (so far as we know with our nervous system) of the process is the connection between artist and audience.  This relies on the system that delivers the contact between the two, which needs effort to make it effective.

Throw in the formulations of audience expectation of GNS roleplaying game design theory and you have the reader (or whatever the audience is called) demanding fun in the form of their creative agenda:

  • Gamists who want to be challenged by systems that show who cuts the mustard.
  • Simulationists who want the right to dream in an authentic ‘as if’ situation.
  • Narrativists who want conflicts that resolve premise.

These match up with Scott’s ideas of art asserting our identities as individuals through exercise of our organs (gamist, or sports/mental games), the exploration of the world for useful knowledge (simulationist or discovery in language, science and philosophy), and outlets for mental imbalances aiding in survival (narrative, or self-expression through catharsis).

This is an extremely simplified view of GNS theory, but what I have found is it demands a retraining of the brain to expand one’s mind to the horizons available for meditation.  What you have, I believe, is a re-thinking not just of roleplaying games but recognition of the audience as participant, rather than a top-down gamemaster (or artist) responsible for everyone’s fun.

Take a step further in today’s digitized, mouse-driven age and you have the hierarchy of gamemasters telling people what to buy breaking up under a realization that everyone is both artist and audience, and capable of producing their own supply at will.

Demand is going to create supply, that is, people will create their own needs and fulfill them themselves without having to run the gauntlet of traditional gatekeepers, who dilute the message and inflate the price.

Or even demand that price exist at all.

In a free market, might not money be one of several other options (say, companionship and glory) as means of exchange?  Physical objects like books just become part of a series of modules (a way to make money on one end and a way to show allegiance on another).  Traditionals might have to content themselves with doling out prestige. If they’re lucky, that is—when one can count the number of followers they have does one even need a traditional stamp as a mark of “making it”?

This means the costs will have to go way down.  If someone can make a hit movie for ten thousand dollars, or a bestseller without the chain-gang, how will concentrations of power compete?  They’ll have to.
It can be done if they accept the reality of lower profits and less control—the alternative is extinction.  We are on the downslope of energy anyway, moving towards inner space and not outer space (it was a nice dream while it lasted).

“What about quality?!”  What about it? There’s no quality now, only your good and my bad.  Everyone is going to have to step on up and improve their game if they want to work on the delivery.  Contact is the only game in town now.  There’s no ‘elite’ telling you what works and what doesn’t.

Friends will guard you from crap.  Fans will make sure you don’t starve.  Both will “poopcan” (that is, work the dodgy parts out) your art for you if you are serious.  Just do the stuff.  Everybody’s on the same field and there’s no limit right now.  It’s a conversation; You talk, I talk.

The big question is, “what is your form about and what do audience members do?”

Fun.  NOW.

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