I once knew a kid. Born into a dysfunctional family, loneliness and isolation would soon become his totemic peers. It didn’t help the fact that the kid had to move out of his hometown to a secluded hamlet centred around extreme communal stigma. Away from family and friends, he couldn’t shake the feeling of being an outsider, an unwelcome one at that. Yet, the 10-year-old would find solace in the arms of dreams. I’m not talking about REM dreams here. The dreams in question happened when the world around the kid was fully alive and kicking. Maybe the dream isn’t the correct word. The kid had an excellent sense of imagination. The plethora of comics, cartoons and video games available to him helped fuel this flight of fancy. With the help of these, he had built a world of his own inside his psyche. A world where he was the hero. A world where he could be anyone, do anything. Suddenly, he wasn’t an outsider anymore.
An Excuse From Reality
The story of this kid I once knew resonates strongly with Supergiant Games’ Bastion, an RPG adventure set in a fantasy world atop the sky. Bastion starts with the hero, dubbed “the kid” waking up from sleep, only to find that a calamity has claimed his city and the people he loved. With the guidance of an elderly man named ‘Rucks’, the kid takes it upon himself to find the pieces of the old world and restore it to its former glory. Bastion wholeheartedly welcomes players of any genre with its alluring art style, compelling story, engaging combat and a soundtrack that is heart-rending, yet sanguine at the same time. Despite all its charm, the one thing that drew me into Bastion was how much the narrative reminded myself of that kid I once knew.
As a firm believer of Derrida’s Deconstruction Theory, I knew that there was more to the story of Bastion than the grand fantasy adventure it presented itself as. To me, the whole narrative of Bastion is one big metaphor. The word Bastion is defined as “something that keeps or defends a way of life that is disappearing or threatened.” When everything is going wrong, Bastion provides a moment’s respite, as it cast a long shadow over the worries and troubles of life. Just like the kid from our story, the hero of Bastion finds his world in shambles. This rapid deterioration takes his childhood away from him, one small piece at a time. Hence he finds solace in Bastion, a place straight out of fantasy fiction. In Bastion, the world revolved around him. The hero of Bastion set forth to save the world just like the kid who saved his family, friends, school and even rivals from terrorists, monsters and all kinds of impending threats in his own imaginary world. They were the means and the answer. Moreover, it helped them escape from the harsh reality. As long as they were in their own worlds, the problems of life couldn’t catch up to them.
Realism in Magical Realism
The levels in Bastion gets harder and darker as the story progresses. One does not need to be a philosopher to understand the existential undertones that keep popping up in between the narrative. In his journey, the hero finds himself facing betrayal, guilt and tragedy numerous times but manages to overcome them with his zealous aura and undying fervour. The kid I once knew felt the same. In the real world, he may have been an outsider, a nobody. But as long as he was in his world, he felt good about himself. Throughout his journey, the hero of Bastion is reminded that once they save the city by reverting time, things will go back to the way they were. He’ll have to go back to his old life and chances are, people won’t remember what the hero did for them. As for our kid, he too knew that he’d eventually have to return to the real world. Fantasy is not eternal and the prominent word in Magical Realism is without a doubt, ‘realism’.
As his journey nears its end, the hero is given a choice: either save the city by reverting back time and go back to his old life, or stay in the Bastion and embrace a new world with seamless possibilities. The choice is a tough one, both for the hero of Bastion and our kid. Go back to the harsh realities of the real world or embrace this imaginary life of possibilities and pretence. Choices were made. I let the hero choose the same option the kid once took. Both of them decided to go back and face reality. The life in Bastion was just a fantasy. It is hinted that the calamity happened again for both the hero and the kid. Reality is a cruel mistress. How long shall one hide from her? Only through observation, sensation and experience shall the truth of the universe be revealed. I like to think that in the long run, the choices they made paid off. It made the hero of Bastion and our kid face reality and made them strong. The kid evolved from a lonely, insecure individual to a stand-up man and the hero from Bastion became the unsung hero who saved the city of Caelondia and everything in it. The kid fondly remembers the times he saved the world from terrorists, monster and aliens to this day.
If the philosophical nuances and magical realism of Bastion aren’t enough to win you over, play it for the gorgeous art style, fluid combat and all the bells and whistles you expect from an RPG-lite. The 6 hours I spent in Bastion gave me a lot to think over and most importantly it reminded me of that kid I once knew.