In Passage, you walk from left to right — and occasionally up and down — on a screen so wide that even Taito would call it overkill. There are treasure chests to collect, but they’re difficult to spot due to the vertically-squished view. There are no enemies. The player has no abilities other than “walking”. There’s a marriage power-up that makes the character twice as wide, but this makes it harder to gather treasure from narrow spaces. After five minutes playing this pixelated collect-a-thon, you die.
The designer, a fellow named Jason Rohrer, explains that Passage “presents an entire life, from young adulthood through old age and death, in the span of five minutes”. All of life’s choices and complexities are boiled down to collectible treasure chests and a girl who stands on the road waiting to be grabbed by the first man who comes along.
Passage obviously isn’t about life, but about knowing you and your loved ones are going to die no matter where you travel and no matter how many “points” you pick up along the way. Fans of Passage apparently needed a reminder that they are not immortal. Jason Rohrer calls this “memento mori” — remember death. I’d rather gun down Motonari Mori in Robo-Aleste. Videogames should have conflict, challenges, and goals. They should also be enjoyable enough that people play them more than once. Even Passage’s propagandists say it’s only worth a single play.
They actually think that’s a good thing.
Wired magazine said this game provokes heavy thoughts and changes the way people look at life. It really doesn’t. “Do stuff for a while, then die”. The inevitability of death is only a heavy thought for people who don’t spend time on meaningful thoughts — in other words, for retards. Everyone knows death is inevitable. If you reach age 15 and still struggle with this concept, you’re a retard.
When a retard manages to accomplish something that most people do every day — such as buttoning his own shirt — the special ed teacher will praise him. But she won’t praise him in front of normal people; that would just invite ridicule, because no intelligent person is impressed when a retard manages to button his own shirt. No, she’ll praise Big Timmy in front of all the other retards as a form of group encouragement. If the teacher is really good at her job, then she’ll talk Big Timmy’s “achievement” up so much that eavesdroppers would think he saved the world from nuclear annihilation.
So when a famous person like David Jaffe is interviewed by Gamepro and declares Passage to be one of the most emotional videogames he’s ever played . . . he clearly thinks he’s talking to a bunch of retards. Jaffe even goes so far as to say he’s personally incapable of making emotional games. He would never say such a stupid thing to people he actually respects. The guy responsible for emotionally-charged games like God of War and Twisted Metal Black can’t possibly be that dumb. He’s just paying lip service to the gullible “art game” retards who are so starved for validation that they’ll lap up whatever diarrhea anyone craps their way.
Passage fails to build on what other developers have taught us; it’s a technical failure that hides under the cover of intentional under-development. Why should we accept “It’s not meant to be good (aka challenging)” as an excuse? Rohrer’s answer appears to be that Passage provides something different, but this is a lie. By falsely presenting itself as delivering something that can’t be found elsewhere, this game reinforces the misconception that videogames don’t have “messages” and aren’t “emotional”. Modern videogames are filled with so many messages and so many emotional moments that Passage is shallow by comparison.
Now go play something emotional, mentally stimulating, and fun instead. Perhaps you could play God of War.