November 1, 2012 by Devin
I recently posted a slightly abridged version of my blog post to Reddit (r/truegaming to be specific), and the comments were incredibly productive and thoughtful. I thought I’d like to the post here and highlight some of the comments I thought were especially provocative.
This is very well written and there are some interesting views there.
My 2 cents (I’ve played this game a LONG time ago, so correct me if I’m mistaken):
I think you should elaborate on what the voice and the real kinghts are. I don’t know if this is common sense, since it has been a long time, but the way I see it, the voice is a corrupted and evil being. The Wanderer only realizes this in the end, but ultimately, he was serving an evil purpose. The “voice”, as I’ll call it, was entrapped in the bodies of the colossi. Eager to save the princess, The Wanderer quite literally makes a deal with the devil. The colossi are not being agressive at all (you do point it out, but I think this should be clearer): you are the agressive party, you are the evil-doer. The colossi are serving a higher purpose, defending themselves and the land.
For this, I think this subversion you talk about goes even further, because the wanderer not even once questions the nature of his trials. Neither does the player. The wanderer carries the princess, in the beggining of the game, but we are never told about their “love”. We don’t know if this sentiment goes both ways, but we never question it too. For all we know, the wanderer might as well be a kidnapper and the princess is unaware of this and of their “escape” , since she is unconscious. The game pushes this question further when we see the knights chasing him. At first, they look evil men, chasing the hero and serving a dark cause. At last, I think we realize that they are the true heroes (as they were the ones that managed to imprison the voice, the image of evil of the game).
If the guys we assumed were the bad guys are actually heroes, who are we exactly?
There is probably more to it or all of this is already clear for you, just giving the bits I could remember about my feelings towards the game by the time I played it. This is a great game and I want to play it again sometime soon.
Let me preface this by saying that I think part of what makes ICO and Shadow of the Colossus so good is that nothing is clearcut. But I’m going to play devil’s advocate on a couple of your points (this isn’t necessarily what I think). Then I’ll throw in some additional info you might find interesting.
I’m not convinced that the colossi are good entities. It seems entirely plausible to me that they are simply statues that are each animated by one of the Dormin (note that Dormin is a collective. It refers to itself as “we”, speaks with both male and female voices, and in its final stage has the body of an ape(I think?), spider legs, horns, and perhaps the face of a dog). The sword strikes obviously do no physical damage to them, and if you return to where you defeated a given colossus you see their stone remains. The infections would be Dormin gradually collecting itself in a better host. So while releasing Dormin was pretty obviously a bad idea (then again, maybe not. Had Wander known the final outcome he might have still gone for it, given that Mono is revived.), I don’t necessarily see the game encouraging you to stop defeating the colossi.
As far as I know, nothing in the game suggests that Wander and Mono were in a romantic relationship / in love. He only says that she was sacrificed “for she had a cursed fate.” She could be his sister or something.
Some interesting tidbits you might make use of:
- That baby IS Wander, who goes on to sire the series of horned boys who are all sacrificed up until the events of ICO take place. Lord Emon also addresses him during the final cinematic. I also want to say that you can control the baby’s hand or foot movements (or maybe the sounds? It’d be nice if someone with the game readily available could confirm this for me) by mashing buttons during that cutscene, but I can’t remember for sure, so don’t quote me on that.
- There’s an interesting Plot/Theory analysis on GameFAQs
- The princess’s name is Mono. Wander says it quietly in one of the cutscenes, and it appears in the credits. The female voice you hear after defeating some of the colossi belongs to her.
- It’s worth nothing that Agro (the horse) is MUCH larger than a person of Wander’s size would need.
- You might also note that the game shows that Wander is over his head simply because you spend the majority of the fights being flung about / hanging on for dear life.
Also, play ICO. It’s pretty short, and will greatly broaden your perspective on SotC.
I really like analysis especially because I was about 14 at the time I played through it. A few buddies of mine and I got the game real cheap before a water polo tournament and played it during our down time.
we really didn’t care for the story and poked fun at the intro, and then spent a good hour or two just goofing around in the game world. When we finally faced our first colossi we were so excited, and taken aback. It was just a game to us, and we thrived on the challenge, and thought it was awesome.
We were for all intents and purposes children, young and naive. It was after all just a game to us. We didn’t question anything, the game seemed clear enough, let’s kill some colossi and see how long are character can surf on his horse before he falls over!
It begs the question, and brings to mind the phrase “ignorance isn’t an excuse for a crime” the protagonist surely didn’t grasp the situation, or question it. He was responding to an authority figure that promised him a reward. An outsider to the situation, who knows what’s going on might look at him as a villain. It makes you wonder how often people are vilified, when they them self bore no agency of malice, just didn’t know what they were doing.
It’s the kind of moral ambiguity I like, because it shows why an archetype is something that only exist in a story. Things in the real world are never so simple, so clear cut, so black and white. Ultimately it teaches me personally, that perspective matters. I try not to impose myself on a situation I don’t understand, I try to avoid giving out direct advice. Rather, I am honest with my perspective, my thoughts, and my opinions about a situation, and ultimately try to exercise patience, understanding, and compassion. Even if my first instinct is to chastise, or seek retribution for a crime I perceive permitted. I try to be aware of the fact that I don’t know everything, and certainly can’t effectively put myself into someone else’s shoes perfectly. Though my perpective has something unique to offer, it’s not going to be something conclusive, or factual.
That lesson was hard learned for me, but I do like seeing how it can be pulled from something like a video game. Shadow of the Colossus is a work of art. While not every video game is, I always enjoy reading about ones that I consider to be a such. Thank you for your enlightening post.
There are lots of other great comments there. If you have a Reddit account, I encourage you to spend a few upvotes down there.
Thanks again to all the Redditors who contributed to the contribution.