How to play The Path

perjensendanishanimeconvention-rubyPlaying The Path is a very moving and enjoyable experience to many. But others just get bored and cannot detect any point or find any joy in it. We tend to dismiss this issue by accepting that The Path is not for everyone. But maybe that’s too simple.

Enjoying The Path is not difficult. You don’t need to have special skills for it, or have read any heavy literature or seen any particular artworks. From observing play behaviour and listening to reports of experiences, we have learned that the difference between enjoying The Path and not is often simply a difference in attitude.

For some people this attitude comes naturally. But others may need to do an extra effort, or perhaps simply learn about it. It is for them that I’m writing this post. Because I have a feeling that many might be looking for an answer in the distance while it’s actually right in front of them.

“Once I figured out that the demo is solely attempting to establish an atmosphere, I enjoyed it quite a bit.”
– from a comment referring to “The Path – Prologue” from WK on TigSource

Tip #1: It’s about the girls
We realize that in many videogames, your avatar is mostly a vehicle that allows you to navigate through a virtual world. In The Path, however, the behaviour and personality of the girls is crucial. If you witness them carefully and try to imagine what they are thinking -and perhaps respond to that by caring for them- the game will become a lot more meaningful.

“Each girl’s journey through the forest is not so much a series of plot points but a non-sequential, undirected character study of the girl herself, leading up to a confrontation between that psyche and the adult world.”
– from a review by Rebecca Wigandt on Gamer’s Intuition

Tip #2: It’s about playing together
The avatars in The Path have a certain degree of autonomy. And sometimes they do things that you did not expect or do not want. This is on purpose. The idea is that you try to develop a relationship with the avatar and play the game together. You do your part, she does hers.

“Do not even try to fight against the pace, just surrender.”
– from a blog post by Tetelo on Femina Ludens

Tip #3: Everything is meaningful
While some things might appear absurd or the result of bad design at first sight, in most cases they are the fruit of careful consideration. The Path becomes much more enjoyable if you take everything that you see seriously and interpret it as part of the story. This is a very playful activity (feel free to even include technical errors in this “game”: it’s fun!).

“The effort put into The Path is equal to the enjoyment received. Look at the game like a difficult piece of literature that needs to be sampled over and over again.”
– from a review by Aaron Thayer on The Silicon Sasquatch

Tip #4: Play pretend
The Path is a fiction. It is not real. The girls are composed of polygons and pixels and algorithms, the leaves of the trees are abstract ornaments, day turns into night depending on place, etc. But you need to forget about all that and pretend that everything is real. The Path asks you to suspend your disbelief but it doesn’t force you to. If you can willingly do this, you will enjoy the game much more.

“The joy of it comes not from the way in which the journey ends but rather in the full immersion that one experiences on the way.”
– from a blog post by Joshua on Mouseandcat

Tip #5: Play, don’t game
Elements in The Path that appear to be traditional (rules, goals, collecting, grading, inventory, etc) form part of the narrative that we invite you to ponder. They are not the point of the game. Traditional gaming behaviour (like trying to completely explore the forest or collect all the flowers or beat the game in a minimum amount of time) is not rewarded. For joy, ignore those urges and approach things with wonder instead. Delight in what you receive and don’t go “hunting”.

“I found the game more enjoyable when approaching it more as an interactive narrative than a traditional “game”.”
– from a review by Dan Liebman on Game Zone

Tip #6: It’s pretty
If all else fails, just enjoy the sights and sounds that The Path brings. If music can be simply beautiful and a painting can be enjoyed purely for its aesthetics, why not a game? Just look, listen and enjoy. Don’t even try to find meaning. Indulge yourself. The gameplay will not get in your way in this game.

The whole environment is beautiful, and I love how the look and feel changes depending on whether you’re on the path, in the woods, or near a wolf. The game IS artwork.
– from a review by Allison Boyer on Binge Gamer

I may have missed some possible tips. Maybe I’ll create a second post like this in the future, with more tips. If you have enjoyed The Path, please comment about how you did it, what attitude you assumed versus the game, what expectations you brought, etc.

Awesome Ruby cosplay photo, sent to us by Per Janssen, as seen at an anime convention.