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SPOILERS - What does it mean?

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I'm sorry if I'm repeating the obvious, but I think this game is about indie developers vs AAA developers, and bridging the gap between consumers and creators.

Vella and the villages represent the indies. They're doing their own thing, and maybe some of it only makes sense to them, but they're all creating colourful crazy stuff.

Shay represents the players, and the Bassinostra is the annualised game franchises. It's fun at first, but it's repetitive and soulless.

Loruna is the AAA game industry. Very risk averse, putting up a wall between consumer and creator. The only way to get past the publisher wall is to become a part of the system, i.e. getting eaten by a mog. This seems attractive to the indies who want to be a part of something bigger, and the AAAs have realised that without any new ideas they will wither away and die. So when the players see something interesting in the indie community (Shay's instincts), the AAA companies swoop in, buy up the indies and strip them for parts.

Bringing Vella and Shay together represents giving control back to the creators and the consumers. And it couldn't happen without You, the players of Broken Age, representing the backers.

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I like this explanation a lot.

It reminds me of Serenity which was all about how the establishment that controls everything (Fox) and has no place for the Firefly crew can be beaten by Mr Universe (Universal Studios, and to a greater extent the fans). The whole message about "you can't stop the signal" seemed to speak to that interpretation very strongly.

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It will be hard to tell if this is what they had in mind (they sure didn't mention it in the documentary) but I would also like it very much if this is the "hidden meaning" behind the story. Maybe tim or one of the devs will comment on it someday :)

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Shay represents the players, and the Bassinostra is the annualised game franchises. It's fun at first, but it's repetitive and soulless.

So sacrificing maidens is fun at first but after a couple of years it gets tiresome? ;) Ooooh, you mean the daily routine inside the mog! What's the meaning of the annualized game franchises looking like monsters from the outside but being more or less pleasant from the inside?

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Shay represents the players, and the Bassinostra is the annualised game franchises. It's fun at first, but it's repetitive and soulless.

So sacrificing maidens is fun at first but after a couple of years it gets tiresome? ;) Ooooh, you mean the daily routine inside the mog! What's the meaning of the annualized game franchises looking like monsters from the outside but being more or less pleasant from the inside?

I think that fits with the theme of a divide between consumer and creator. From a player's perspective, we don't usually see the sausage getting made, so we tend to think that the game industry is all fun and games. From an indie's perspective, competing with huge companies churning out AAA games is a harrowing experience.

Transporting Shay and Vella to each other's world is the transparency and dialogue that the industry needs.

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Nice interpretation! I think the storyline works generally as a parable for systems of injustice. The feminist interpretation was the most obvious one after the end of Act 1, with how people of Vella's village were dismissive of the idea of fighting a system that 'caused maidens to be sacrificed (often willingly, conditioned by the system to want to be the 'winner' despite the harm that comes to them), instead rationalising it, calling it tradition and using the excuse that that's how it's always been done and it would be too hard to change it. Shay fulfils the other side of that coin. At first he's unaware of how a system that privileges him harms others, but he's feeling unhappy about how it boxes him in and is well-meaning and wants to make a real difference.

In Act 2 there's a different slant to the story, but the themes of personal fulfilment and unmasking systems of power continues, you see that with the NPCs as well. And with Vella and Shay you get to see how two people raised in different worlds which gave them two different perspectives on a conflict being given the chance to spend some time in each other's shoes which allows for a bridge of understanding to open up between them. And then they can help each other and everyone out, once it's clear to them both who the real enemy is.

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I must admit such an interpretation came to my mind while I was playing, but it was less detailed. More like "The Double Fine Adventure created a bridge, and Shay and Vella are creating a bridge, nice!" But I stopped after that, because I'm afraid not every narrative detail would fit in the metaphor. :-P

You got a point, though.

but the themes of personal fulfilment and unmasking systems of power continues, you see that with the NPCs as well. And with Vella and Shay you get to see how two people raised in different worlds which gave them two different perspectives on a conflict being given the chance to spend some time in each other's shoes which allows for a bridge of understanding to open up between them. And then they can help each other and everyone out, once it's clear to them both who the real enemy is.

I especially liked the way those themes (unmasking and personal fulfilment) are tied to the idea of growing up. In order to grow up, a necessary step is being capable of looking at things from other perspectives. Coincidentially, when you begin to do that, you also realize life is much more complicated than you thought it was.... SO the puzzles in the game become harder! :-)

I also think Broken Age is a story about family and parenthood. The parents in the game have made a lot mistakes, they have fallen in the trap created by eugenetics weirdos or they have been plainly had by sleazy charlatans (Harm'ny) and empty politicians (Dune). Shay and Vella will be the "antibodies" to all this, not before they'll be able to grow up switching their places and understanding the world from both sides. Pretty brilliant, if you ask me, and even sweet. The parents are weak, but they're honestly thinking they're doing their best for the children.

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I also think Broken Age is a story about family and parenthood. The parents in the game have made a lot mistakes, they have fallen in the trap created by eugenetics weirdos or they have been plainly had by sleazy charlatans (Harm'ny) and empty politicians (Dune). Shay and Vella will be the "antibodies" to all this, not before they'll be able to grow up switching their places and understanding the world from both sides. Pretty brilliant, if you ask me, and even sweet. The parents are weak, but they're honestly thinking they're doing their best for the children.

There's an article here about the themes of parenthood in the game.

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The theme of parents making mistakes and having to learn from them is so strong throughout the game. It's still unfathomable to me that people like John Walker can play through the whole game and come away with the exact opposite impression.

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I’m sorry if I’m repeating the obvious, but I think this game is about indie developers vs AAA developers, and bridging the gap between consumers and creators.

Vella and the villages represent the indies. They’re doing their own thing, and maybe some of it only makes sense to them, but they’re all creating colourful crazy stuff.

Shay represents the players, and the Bassinostra is the annualised game franchises. It’s fun at first, but it’s repetitive and soulless.

Loruna is the AAA game industry. Very risk averse, putting up a wall between consumer and creator. The only way to get past the publisher wall is to become a part of the system, i.e. getting eaten by a mog. This seems attractive to the indies who want to be a part of something bigger, and the AAAs have realised that without any new ideas they will wither away and die. So when the players see something interesting in the indie community (Shay’s instincts), the AAA companies swoop in, buy up the indies and strip them for parts.

Bringing Vella and Shay together represents giving control back to the creators and the consumers. And it couldn’t happen without You, the players of Broken Age, representing the backers.

Ah! I hadn't thought of that, I really like that reading.

The metaphore I saw was the 21st century person trapped into thinking the way he lives is good and slowly realizing that an alternative has to be taken. That alternative is the bridge that allows the best of both world to exist hand in hands. It is a wonderful message of hope!

The great thing with this kind of story telling is the room left for personnal interpretations. A kid playing this game or an adult playing it will have a different take on it. Clearly the dude who wrote this is sensible to the world he lives in.

It’s still unfathomable to me that people like John Walker can play through the whole game and come away with the exact opposite impression.

Well actually that kind of people make the capital mistake of expecting something very specific but when they get something else, they get frustrated. If you are not ready to listen and accept what the storyteller will tell you then dont play, read or watch.

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Great article. I love all the in-depth and very different takes on the game's themes everywhere.

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If there's a central theme to it then I think it's really about questioning the status quo, whatever that might be. Not accepting 'that's how it's always done' as an explanation for something that seems wrong. So in that way it's a metaphor for lots of unjust systems, both current and historical.

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The Geek Remix team also have a let's play of the game where they go a bit deeper into this. I find the idea quite compelling, though as they come to understand during the let's play, it's a metaphor for LOTS of things.

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I got bit bad by the "there's someone wrong on the Internet" bug earlier, which resulted in a long essay running through the themes in the game. In case anyone's interested:

I found it realistic how the most Vella's parents were able to do Act 2 in the face of their regret and guilt was to try to look for her. These people still don't know most of the truth, they're the victims of a system that has been controlling their lives for generations. Often it takes small steps at first to break out of that, and the game shows that rather sweetly (*badum tish*) with the little sisters and their cupcake revolution, working to unmask the system by questioning it and getting people to join their cause.

Taking small steps is something you also see with Shay, which in a deft combination of puzzle design and character work, tries to make amends by helping people out as much as he can. Vella is the revolutionary that upon discovering the system that has terrorised her world resolves to bring it down; Shay's the gentle soul that upon discovering his unwitting part in it works to help bring about several of the NPC's happy endings. And it's through their combined efforts that the conflict ends not in bloody warfare, but a bridge of transparency, communication, and celebration. Which I think provides a very positive and worthwhile message, different from the usual approach to these types of stories about systems of power and oppression.

And so you see the character progression of both protagonists. Vella starts out as a victim feebly questioning what's happening to her and those around her, who then fights back but who still doesn't fully understand the truth and is therefore worried about the consequences of what she did. Shay starts out as unchallenged and easily manipulated, ignorant of the harm of his actions. It's not their fault that they started out how they did, it was the fault of their parents and the system that controlled them, but they were able to use their experiences to help them rise above it all nevertheless.

In Act 2, they are both invigorated and become even more likable. Vella understands the situation much better and has full confidence in her decisions and Shay has had his eyes opened and does everything he can to make up for it and to continue to pursue the truth. That's something that wouldn't have been possible for either protagonists without being forced to walk in each other's shoes, which gave them not only a new perspective they were missing, but an understanding of each other that motivated them to support each other when it was most crucial. It would have been easy for them to see each other as the enemy if that had not happened (to Vella Mog Chothra would continue to be a monster even if it's a spaceship, as would be the person piloting it, and to Shay Vella would be an ungrateful creature that attacks him when he tries to help), but instead they both were able to see who the real enemy was instead.

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Shay, which in a deft combination of puzzle design and character work, tries to make amends by helping people out as much as he can

I thought this was especially refreshing. Act 1 felt like the typical adventure game where you completely wreck other people's lives just to further your own ends. I feel like that's usually where games end; puzzle over, you win. In this game, I got to see how people had either moved on with their lives or were still trying to pick up the pieces, and I even got to help them along.

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