Amnesia: The Dark Descent Gets Philosophical
More than Meets the Eye
If you are a fan of survival horror games, then you must have heard about the PC game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Let me start off by saying, I've played the entire game myself... with the lights on, my childhood bunny doll on my lap, and my mom sitting in the corner watching Oprah. Despite all these comforting, and slightly strange, things surrounding me, I had never been more scared in my entire life. Wow, simply wow! This game blew me away with its eerie atmosphere and jarring music. I cannot count how many times I nearly jumped out of my seat and flipped the table over from sheer terror. I shiver to think about playing Amnesia a second time through.
Amnesia is one heck of a scary game, but it isn't the fear that caught my attention initially, it's the character, Daniel, which intrigues me the most. I won't go into much detail about him to refrain from spoiling anything for readers who may have not played the game yet. (I advise you to if you love games). All I will say is, Daniel is a character looking to redeem himself from his past. Sounds like a cliché hero sob story, yes, but it is the dynamics of the game itself that adds to the tragic past of our main character. Amnesia uses a sanity meter to incorporate the player's use of lights. The only light source come from either a limited number of tinderboxes used to light wall torches or even a more limited supply of oil to light your lantern. If Daniel is left wandering in the darkness for too long, his sanity drops and he starts hearing voices and seeing morbid hallucinations, sometimes incapacitating him to a point where he can barely walk straight, or walk at all. I found this part of the game ingenious because it adds so much more anxiety and fear to the environment - you are constantly worried about using too much oil in your lantern or hoping the next drawer you open contains a tinderbox so you won't have to walk into the next hallway in complete darkness. I found myself afraid of exploring in the dark more than running from the monsters themselves.
As the player, you start to question if Daniel is worth redemption or if he should pay for his crimes. He may have induced amnesia on himself, making him forget all about his past, but is that enough to pardon him? I found myself questioning the moral character of Daniel. I thought, if everyone who committed a murder or some awful deed drank a liquid to give themselves amnesia because they wanted to forget about what they did, should we give them that pleasure of ignorance? On top of all these dizzying philosophical questions, I had to maneuver defenseless Daniel all the way through to the end.I just had to find out how it was going to all end for our poor Daniel.
The ending of the game and the journey of the game itself, brought forth many analytic interpretations from others, but I will offer mine. I believe Daniel is a reflection of ourselves, the player. We never see him (except maybe once in a portrait) since the game is first person - we are Daniel. Everything we see is through our eyes and every emotion we feel while playing the game is our own. Interpretations of Daniel's diary entries, are once again, our own - processed and understood based on our own life experiences. We judge Daniel, just like we judge others based on what they've done in the past. But what Amnesia nudges the player to do is reflect on themselves and question if we all deserve a second chance for a mistake we may have made. We begin to wonder if we really can blame Daniel for wanting to forget, wanting to start fresh - like a rebirth. If some of us could choose, we may have done the same as Daniel. Us humans tend to not want to remember the bad things about our past, and we all at some point wanted to run away from something we may have done. Daniel is a fascinating character, and I may be looking into this too much, but it is interesting to think about.
There really is not much monsters in the game, but it is the tense, eerie atmosphere which contributes to most of the game's scare factor. Amnesia plays with your mind - make you see things that are not there, hear noises similar to the grunts of the monsters chasing you, make you feel like you yourself is losing sanity. Amnesia's game designs are brilliant to say the least. Castle Brennenburg is hauntingly beautiful. Many of the rooms are unforgettable, such as a certain room with a err, weird fountain (not going to say much more). I've loved every minute of the game, but hated it at the same time for making me bawl like a baby on my bed after segments of heart-racing twenty minutes of play through. After much crying and bracing and more crying, I completed the game, and left with a satisfied, but disturbing feeling which Amnesia creates so wonderfully well.