Let’s just say this definitively: INSIDE, the newest game from Playdead, the makers of LIMBO, is about sin. You got that? It’s all about sin. Now, I’ve thought also to tailor this article about the game’s tech, immersion, and a number of other things, and I could. That’s the brilliance of what the European studio has crafted in their instant classic. INSIDE could be about all of those things, some, or even none. It’s a very interpretive experience (like LIMBO), and as such, it’s going to evoke some reactions. If I get a comment or two that screams, “NO! You’re WRONG! I can’t believe that you didn’t see it was about (insert here)!” let them come.
That isn’t all of the housekeeping that is necessary in this piece. I need you to go play the game. Play INSIDE all the way through. A partial playthrough won’t cut it. Don’t let that request scare you off. I beat the game in one continuous playhrough over a period of around 2-3 hours, give or take. That’s not much time for an unforgettable and challenging (not in terms of gameplay) experience. As such, I HEAVILY SUGGEST you do so before reading this. Let the viewer count for this article dip if it must, but I don’t want myself or anyone else to spoil what surprises are there. You say, “But…I have a PS4! I can’t do that.” Before reading any further, if you must, watch the linked video below by clicking the picture and following the link to a full playthrough on YouTube.
CLICK THE IMAGE TO WATCH A FULL PLAYTHROUGH
Alright, so now if you watched the playthrough, you’re back. What is there to say but “WOW”? NO ONE saw that coming! I know I didn’t. I’d venture to say that the protagonist didn’t see it coming either, or why would he have made the journey. I get that we are now two games into Playdead’s offerings, and both feature a young boy as the protagonist. There is a level of shock that is mustered from seeing a child die that isn’t there if the character were an adult. Every ordeal is even harsher when it involves violence towards a child. By “going back to the well” so to speak, Playdead was able to ratchet up tension for players. Still, I don’t think that’s the only thing we get from this; I believe that having a young boy journey forth gives us other things to ponder.
When we see a boy in life, we see naiveté, and rightly so. Youth grants energy and enthusiasm, but experience and knowledge are not inherent upon birth. We gain those moving forward, and in gaining them, we change. We age, and the naiveté goes as well. Still, a boy is a blank slate in many ways, full of life and possibility. It’s remarkable that the boy has a means of attracting life, be it baby chicks or fish; youth and innocence are alluring to all. In regards to the spiritual, sin is experienced by the young, but not understood. Little fibs and tantrums are certain, but in time, they come to acknowledge such things as being wrong, but not necessarily the eternal implications of this wrongness. In other words, knowledge of sin is a transforming event, and hopefully, it is one that leads a person away from pursuing it.
Now, we start INSIDE with the boy trudging forward past barriers and dangers along the way. He sees pigs that are stacked dead; some are still alive but warped and controlled. The boy manipulates their corpses to advance. People shoot at the boy and release dogs behind him; it is evident that he is not supposed to keep going in his journey. Still, he, through our guidance as players, moves forward. Dangers increase and obstacles become all the more barring. Still, turning back is never an option for the boy, and when he does, it is only to manipulate the environment and circumstances to keep on. Something is drawing him forward, something unseen and not understood. At one portion, it’s as if the earth itself is bellowing out for the boy to stop, and standing in the presence of such power would strike the boy dead. Still, he presses on. Along the way, there seems to be a sense of altruism in the lad, as he frees people, stumbling and bumbling without minds of their own. Yet, when all are “saved” by the boy, he quickly abandons them behind him—it becomes clear that he only needed them to move closer to his goal. What could be drawing someone so innocent and pure as a child forward through such obvious harm? What could compel him to run with all his might forward?
At one point for the boy, death seems certain in waters deep, but crazy enough, he lives. While unable to breathe underwater, after a strange encounter, now he can. The laws of nature no longer apply to him. Surely, after this, he concludes his journey forward must be righteous or at least permittable if he’s been spared from certain death and is now empowered. How could he be at fault now with power in his possession? He continues, but why? At this point, you have to wonder if the boy is even mindful of why this journey started. Having been pursued by adults the entire time, the boy comes to a point where they don’t, even as he shares the room with many of them. Instead, they peer in amazement—or terror—at something behind the glass. What could it be that is contained? The boy (and us) wonder, and yes, we will know what holds the fascination and the sense of caution of those men. The boy finds his way into the tank.
INSIDE is a hulking monstrosity, warped in form with a thousand stories within.
INSIDE is a demon trapped, having seemingly cried out to the boy the entire time.
INSIDE the boy frees what grown men have went through great lengths to try & contain.
In this tank, his clothing is instantly destroyed. The boy, already defenseless, is now laid bare before his pursuit. He struggles to unhook the beast, and as he gets closer, that eventual certainty becomes reality. The bare child, who went deeper than he ever should have, becomes absorbed. Maybe the beast needed one more person to grant it power to truly run amok, or maybe it sat idly by, absorbing all would who would come. Still, the boy is gone; a beast remains, one pursuant now of only self-interest. It beats, tears, and crushes its way free. The natural life that was attracted to the boy now runs and swims away in revulsion to the beast the boy became. In the end, the beast seeks freedom, but the journey out is futile. It dies in the end.
Many, in life, start out like the boy. Anything is possible, good or bad, but they look at boundaries, and they feel they must be crossed. They see the realities of death and destruction around them, and still, they openly flirt with danger. Precociousness at some point is almost necessary for growth and maturity, but what we see in the boy in INSIDE is outright defiance to the systems of order in place. Everything is telling him that where he is headed, he doesn’t belong. Still, he is being led forward.
Sin, as presented in the Bible, is a very real concept. It’s not a game to play with, but an almost unavoidable compulsion. We naturally look at the order of God, and we find a way to war against it. We go where we shouldn’t go, and we do what we shouldn’t do. Why is this boy out here where he doesn’t belong? It’s because he isn’t supposed to be there, and children (which we all were and are) will always find ways to do what they shouldn’t do.
Romans 3:23 (NKJV) 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Mark 7:20-23 (NKJV)20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
Proverbs 22:15 (NKJV)15Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.
As soon as those headlights shown bright early in the game, that boy should have ran back as fast as he could, as fast as he ran forward, but the boy isn’t thinking. He is being led deeper in his journey. As the game goes on, he seems to be empowered more and more, and as we pursue sin, it can often make us feel empowered in many ways: the thrill of convincing others of another a lie, the rush of pursuing an extramarital affair, and the idea that, yes, we may get away with whatever we stole or whoever we hurt or killed without any other person knowing. The whole world and God Himself can be bellowing out to stop what we are doing, yet we continue in the follies of sin.
Jeremiah 6:28-29 (NKJV) 28They are all stubborn rebels, walking as slanderers. They are bronze and iron, They are all corrupters; 29The bellows blow fiercely, The lead is consumed by the fire; The smelter refines in vain, For the wicked are not drawn off.
Sin pulls us deeper when we feel like the rules of life and nature no longer apply to us. We see others cautious of such things, and we scoff at them. How could any harm befall us? We’ve been alright this far, so we go forward. Often, in moments of empowerment, we feel close enough to touch what it is we’ve pursued. But don’t ever experience that satisfaction, because it grabs us, and it is then that we are consumed. We are no longer us, but a pawn of something larger, and we played ourselves right into its grasp, our story becoming one of countless others of those who fell victim. We didn’t leave well enough alone like the wiser adults, cautious and behind the glass because they know what sin can do.
Romans 7:15,19-20 (NKJV)15For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
Sin does that. Without the redemption offered by Christ, we continue forward in sinful pursuits, and we are never satisfied. We entangle others in our follies, and we take advantage of whoever and whatever may help us continue further in those pursuits. We started life fresh and attractive, but sin bears on our mind, hearts, and bodies, leaving us a shell of who we used to be and the world recoils in fear as we plumb the depths of depravity. We may grow to experience a swelling sense of empowerment and accomplishment in the midst of all this, but in the end, we stand on our own before the great enemy who has enticed us forward all along: naked and defenseless. In that moment, in our own strength and abilities, we will lose.
The picture I’m painting here seems hopeless for us as I know. Apart from Christ, WE TRULY ARE HOPELESS! Still, Christ’s offer of salvation from this is available to us all. We can turn away, and go home. We need not be consumed by what so many before us know will consume. Still, many continue without a mind of anything else being possible. The beast (having consumed many, many more before the boy) is just like Satan. He wants power and control, and for this moment now in time, he is running amok. Still, in the end, he will be defeated, as scripture makes certain.
Many may be reading this, and they may think that they’ve got their life under control. “Yeah, I lie when I have to. I tell my girl/guy whatever they need to hear, but they’ll never know about what I’m doing or what I’m watching. No one knows what I did, so everything’s all going to be alright.” That’s standing in our own power. Realize that in our own power, in the end, we are just like that little boy before the beast: naked and defenseless. There is no hope for us, if we openly pursue the beast that is Satan and the sin he entangles us in. Make the turn today! INSIDE ends on a hopeless note as there is no other way in the game but forward. But in our lives, Christ tells us to turn things around. He wants us to come home, just like we read in parable of how the father wishes the prodigal son to return.
Luke 15:18-24 (NKJV) 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’ 20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
INSIDE leads to certain death for the entranced boy and for the ravaging beast. In Christ, we find life if we’ll turn to Him to make the change.
Colby Bryant currently serves as the Music/Youth Minister of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Hugo, Oklahoma, and he served as Pastor of Archey Baptist Church in Soper, Oklahoma for several years prior. He and his wife, Stephanie, have three children. He enjoys adding to his extensive knowledge and collection of movies and TV by watching and collecting as many as he can, and he gets in as much video game and tabletop playtime as his schedule will allow.
*** John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, "I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life. NO ONE comes to the Father except through me." ***
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