The Beginner’s Guide
*This post will contain spoilers for The Beginner’s Guide, because I truly know of no way to express my feelings about this game without them*
Tam and Bel have given their take on The Beginner’s Tale, so I guess it’s my turn. Both of them identified a bit with Davey and Coda in this game, and in private discussions with them they feel it’s symbolic of the internal struggle of a creative.
I think that’s a fine read of the game, but it’s not mine. At my miserable ugly core I am Davey, a “friend” who is desperately trying to fix his friend’s problems and ruining everything in the process. It’s an old habit of mine, one that with lots of patience from my wife I have managed to bury that side of me, but the desire to “fix” problems is still always there, and if I am not on guard for it, it will resurface.
For me The Beginner’s Guide is an indictment of this behavior, as well as the way we project our own image upon our friends, and ultimately the damage caused when those projections become part of that friend’s identity.
My Great Anxiety
I have a group of friends that I have managed to acquire via interactions on the Internet, and they are incredibly precious to me. In my life I have not always been a great friend. I’ve lost track of some, I’ve insulted others, and I’ve lost enough that I am always afraid of the ephemeral nature of any relationship. I struggle with knowing how to comfort a friend in pain, which is why I so often tried to compensate by fixing problems.
I have recently moved across country in part so I could be closer to some of these friends, and one of my deepest fears was once they met me in person they would realize what an awful person I was, and I would lose that connection that is so important to me.
The Beginner’s Guide is about a friend who does everything wrong, and ultimately loses the most important thing, the connection to the friend he values. It happens because he is so sure he can see what is wrong with his friend, projecting onto him based on the games he keeps making, and his own worship of him. Davey has placed Coda on a pedestal, and worships at it, ascribing meaning and genius to things that has none, and these expectations are ones that Coda in turn incorporates into his own self-image, which causes him to lose the joy he once took in building games.
Davey tries to solve this depression by showing these incredibly personal games to others, to get others on board with this self-projected image of Coda as the brilliant auteur game dev, which is the opposite of what Coda wants or needs and the last level is the ultimate severing of their relationship, in which Coda explicitly tells Davey that he doesn’t want anything to do with him again.
At my core I am Davey, and yet as I struggle to not be that person, I couldn’t help but feel enraged that this person would make me complicit in his own ultimate betrayal of what Coda wanted. The game is called The Beginner’s Guide, and I took that to be The Beginner’s Guide to Friendship, laying out a cautionary tale from which lessons must be learned.
Like Tam, I don’t know that I can recommend this game, because it won’t be for everyone, but if you are looking for a work that will make you step back and do some hard, painful self-examination, this will do that.