I’m not the first one to write about the ending of Thimbleweed Park, but I hope to be forgiven: I simply felt I had to.
I finished playing the game, and I had this sensation of being fooled.
Turns out indeed, that the whole game was a joke, like a bigger version of the many in-jokes placed all around the adventure… and I liked the in-jokes, in the same way I really liked motorway restaurant stops during a motorway travel (I mean, when I made such travels, in the pre-pandemics era), where the purpose of the travel was well beyond motorway service stations.
A writer tells a story, it could be a novel, a movie, a videogame, or whatever. And then there are the readers: book readers, movie watcers, or gamers… and the reader wants to be respected, as he (her) gives a lot of attention, consuming his (her) own lifetime, in order to give the writer the opportunity to tell a message, whatever an important message would be from the writer’s point of view. Now if the writer, at some point, brings the shutters down on the story, before the story is finished, it’s normal that a lot of readers would bring attention to him… that’s because they feel not respected.
About the way the game is finished, I’ve red the word “metaphor” many times, and I must say, if you allow me to broaden the conversation to rhetorical figures in general, I liked “Synecdoche, New York”, a (very) dramatic movie, a masterpiece in a way. But in that case, the rethorical figure, which is about the entire life of the protagonist, is developed throughout the whole movie itself. And what to say about “Franklyn”, a fantasy movie, categorized and publicized as such, that turns out to be something very different… and again, in a way that makes the whole story balanced, and thus delivering a clear message to the watcher… or reader, to use the same word I already used.
In the case of TWP, we have four main characters with their own stories still open, and at some point, the shutter comes down by revealing that we are actually playing a video game. Who would have thought.
The automatic question is, so why even bother beginning to tell these stories at all?
I immediatly recalled Monkey Island 2, and I must say, I’m a huge fan of the series since I was I child, it’s probably the only adventure game I’ve played that many times even if the story is always the same. But I recalled it, because of the ending. And thanks to the internet, I’m aware I was not the only one :-).
I’ve also red the transcript of Ron’s keynote at PAX Australia 2013, where he explains that he didn’t have an ending for the game, started to panic (time running out if I understood correctly), and then came out with the actual game ending.
I cannot be certain this is the case with TWP, but I see that Franklin Edmund has a story finale without getting involved in this “we are all playing a game” revelation. While agent Reyes story finale, after the revelation, looks like it was done in the shortest way possible, actually an instant newspaper title, while the story itself was introduced in a very long way, step by step, with small hints. Finale seems to be shorthand, too fast, quite unbalanced.
Also Ray had quite a fascinating story, that gets even deeper when we see her on the coroner’s bed… was she maybe an AI controlled cyborg? This was the hypothesis I made, and I believe each one of us could have a slightly different hypothesis.
When we have an incredible story, each reader has its own guesses based on own’s fantasies, but at some point all has to converge, step by step, to the gran finale. And it’s not possible to completely meet everyone’s expectations. But still, the finale can be meaningful, and thus, appreciated by the readers. And when it is on top of an incredible story, the whole thing becomes an immortal masterpiece (to be honest, writing this part I was thinking about LoTR, to give you the gist).
In TWP, great story, incredible story, so it’s more difficult to satisfy everyone: but please, do not just chop it half way. I ask you please authors, do not just bring the shutters down. It’s a pity.
I understand it could be a matter of time, because you’ve done an incredible job on this videogame, and because you are human beings. And human beings have this problem with time: when it runs out, options run low.
After credits, game gets restarted, from a C64 console (wow, I used to play it with my older cousin), and that reminds me there are narrative means to bring the story back. Same consideration can be done thinking about Ray being uploaded out of the game itself. And thinking about game part Ten, freely playable Delores: the games was brought back indeed.
So dear authors, if you decide to bring the story back and converge it to a gran finale, also if it would take another entire game, I would feel respected as a reader (gamer), and be happy to give you my time in order to get your message. Maybe it could be an unbeeped message, I’ll take the risk.
Besides of that, considering the development of the story itself, finishing it properly could consacrate it as a masterpiece, at unparalleled levels for videogames.
If that won’t be the case, thanks anyway for bringing us TWP.
a fan of yours.