The Beginner’s Guide (TBG) is an Explorable Story by Davey Wreden1. Actually, TBG is more an Explorable Biography. Or, perhaps a look at game development. Or … or … look, it’s something, ok?
TBG shows off various game experiments done by Davey’s friend, Coda. Davey takes us through some game experiments written by Coda which explore various game and philosophical ideas that Coda had. For some reason, Coda gave up making these experiments in 2011 and Davey is hoping that by putting these experiments out there in one coherent package, it might show Coda how much people can appreciate them, and encourage him to start them again.
Each game/experiment, written in the Source engine, is discussed and dissected by Davey. He posits on what each one ‘means’, and what all of these can tell us about Coda, the person. As he does this, you actually ‘play’ each game. At times where Coda has been a little obtuse in his setup, or broken the game a little, Davey makes a few changes to allow you to see the full thing – and thus get the full experience.
Things slowly take a darker turn as the games themselves become darker, exploring more depressing themes. This causes Davey to worry about his friend and to look for ways to help Coda.
At this point, I’m going to stop with the story itself. This really is a game that you should play to completion without any real ideas of what happens with the two friends.
Going in blind is definitely the best thing to do; and exploring each of the games as Davey talks about them is fascinating – if this is your kind of thing. TBG is fascinating from a few points of view:
Firstly, there’s the various game experiments and what they ‘mean’. There’s a certain fascination I have with the dissection of games. Whether it be the mechanics, the ideas behind them, or whatever. Getting Davey’s inputs on this scratches that itch.
Secondly, the games themselves are interesting. Even if one is not a traditional ‘game’ in any sense, then the way it’s constructed can be just as fascinating. Remember, each of these was developed pre 2012, and that means 2012 graphics. So, not mega realistic, or pretty, but certainly functional and with their own charm.
Thirdly, there’s a kind of voyeuristic edge to this, as you are drawn into the friendship – the interaction between Davey and Coda. You can’t participate in that. You can see the games, hear Davey’s thoughts, but you’re only an observer. You only see Coda through his games and in Davey’s thoughts.
And … again I can’t really go any further without spoilers. This is a game that works best without spoilers. I might discuss those in another post sometime.
Suffice it to say, that if you enjoyed The Stanley Parable, or Dear Esther, or any of those types of games, then give this a shot.