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essay on the value of Freedom in ICO by Bruno de Figueiredo
One of the genuine virtues of ICO lies in the fact that the game can be interpreted in so
many different ways that one can only complain about not having the time or the intellectual resources to debate them all. Where a whole community of gamers displays an aggravated concern for the number of hours a videogame experience provides, Fumito Ueda’s game stands as substantiation that the truly important games exceed the threshold of their playing time. The characters, places and distinct emotions remain in our minds as constantly renewed memories, in the light of each new moment lived or lesson learned. Freedom is not without its cost, and so also seems to be quite true within this videogame’s universe. The character we control here is, by definition, a victim of ostracism in a society that excommunicates those of his unique kind. The cold, solitary space of the cocoon in which our character is enclosed isn’t but an exaggerated perception of the modern day prisons, hospices and sanatoriums. All these represent real confinement spaces that can commonly be found throughout the present world.
- The Carceri d'Invenzione (Imaginary Prisons) are a series of prints designed by Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi, often mentioned as a precursor to surrealism due to the distorted nature of these drawings. They were a great influence in the creation of the Castle in ICO, as seen in the large rooms and tall arches, as well as many other architectural solutions -
. cells. individuals who are forced to dissolve the constant feeling of loneliness by means of imagination and distraction . the original arcade cabinet for the game offered a full description of what the on-screen symbols meant: while drawn in elemental shapes such as squares and rectangles. especially because of its successive remakes that reinterpreted the symbolic nature of the original version. The desire for liberty turns captives into dreamers.The pursuit of Freedom in videogames - .Yet even in these tight spaces. the imagination of Man reaches out far beyond the walls that delimit the space. the block-hitting action represented a convict breaking a wall with a hammer. designed by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in just four days.which is to say there is no prison for the emancipated mind. rooms. Although that little description and artwork seem to have become lost in time. The first videogame to have a story was 1976’s BREAKOUT.The arcade game flyer for BREAKOUT - Videogames do have an awkward relationship with the concept of imprisonment. . Somehow that main theme was lost and forgotten in time.
where Shigeru Miyamoto inaugurated the videogame concept of hero to the rescue: the year was 1981 and DONKEY KONG was the hit arcade game of the season. At this point we may once again return to the early 80’s. where the character is thrown into a dungeon while hearing the sound of metal bars closing - A little more than ten years after this game’s release. The gameplay itself was essentially an entr’acte between the kidnapping of the fragile plot element. this exoticthemed game delved into the tragedy of a kingdom lost due to the tyranny of one evil vizier. The ticking clock is a permanent reminder that a greater. however. is not only to preserve our own physical integrity. the girl. The main goal. by then known as Jumpman. as it was the first arcade title to present a story within the very game environment. Our character begins his solitary quest when thrown into the pits. Nintendo’s game was also a pioneer. Set in the ancient lands of the orient. . and the rescue performed by the heroic icon.. Ironically. altruistic mission is yet to be completed. a complex maze of corridors and closed rooms from which he must evade.The first screen of Prince of Persia. but to save the princess from the ruthless villain. Jordan Mechner authored his magnum opus: Prince of Persia.
a physicist who mysteriously vanishes into another planet while performing an experiment with a particle accelerator. being sucked through the computer screen into a whole new world. is thrown into a hanging cage where he meets another captive. also an extra-terrestrial who helps us escape. For that we can count on the help of an inmate.Arrested by an evil alien force. Lester. - Following Mechner’s footsteps. The lack of a shared language between the two effectively indicates the desire to create a coherent ambience where the player felt out of place.. we must escape their domain. a young French visual artist and programmer ventured into a single-handed project which would originate on of history’s greatest videogames: Another World is a 1991 game by Eric Chahi that narrates the story of Lester. the main character in Another World. though not at all alone. Apart from an introspective exercise on the very condition of the lone videogame player. After being captured by a hostile alien species. the game is also known for being a solitary adventure of a stranger in a strange land. . a sympathetic native alien who will become our friend and companion through the process of escaping.
ICO focused on the confinement of two characters. . . Cooperation and communication. he must also provide safe conduct to his fellow workers who are scattered around the vicinities - From then on. is to save all of the employees belonging to his species who work at Rupture Farms. and the monumental barrier placed in their way: an oppressive castle. Abe. While escaping. isolated in a remote island. are the key elements to this outlandish adventure.Foretaste Incorporating some elements from these previous games. a meat plant who’s turning them into canned food. Oddworld Abe’s Odyssey is a distinct example of comradeship in a hostile environment. strangers to each other. Yet the depth in which the inner dimension of the characters was explored surpassed all which was seen so far in the videogame medium.. apart from a massive amount of platforming. to a point where we may discriminate different kinds of motivations behind each character’s subjective quest for liberty. several examples of freeing experiences in videogames arose.Abe's outlandish odyssey begins after he learned that the factory where he works is using his brethen as raw material for canned meat. The hero.
much like some domestic bird. the very fact that it was loose . Destiny.Ico gazing the vicinity of the castle before freeing Yorda - It is indeed interesting to apply Berlin’s model of dichotomist freedoms to the interpretation of this virtual model. same word: Freedom. Even if one is reluctant to accept that there is a larger force at work when the capsule falls from the wall for no evident reason.In 1958. hesitant manner she gives her first step out of the open cage. to a point where she dares to defy the imposed order of a castle she seems to know. in an attempt to better understand the character’s motivations. philosopher Isaac Berlin suggested two different types of that one. Despite the great ambiguity concerning the true stimulus that drives Yorda – free will or maybe plain conformity with a new situation she is also unable to control . consists of the liberty to realize one’s will. Yorda follows Ico with noticeable trust. presented in Oxford in 1958. .there is certainty in the fact that from the occasion she holds hands with Ico and roams the castle. two sides of a well-known and debated concept whose full meaning is still ambiguous and elusive. The positive kind. Also entrapped. however. Negative freedom is that which is based on the lack of constraints. Kept in a hanging cage of conformism. Ico’s escape from the dark-stoned cocoon is the origin of all the commotion. as opposed to the thought of a pre-ordained scheme or. often mentioned as freedom to. for instance when one is freed from an oppressive agent: hence known as freedom from. In his essay. There is a very intimate relationship between this character and the spatial dimension of the castle. she is indeed eloping from the natural order imposed by a third character. implying a past restrictive force of an individual over another. as it is most commonly known. the Queen: the fear of stepping over the line is clearly seen in the slow. he discerned between positive and negative freedom. as indicated by her tendency to point the way when the player feels lost.
We control them. In his 1960 film. they observe a night scene of a street with a passing car. We cheer for their safe conduct to the realm of random possibilities: in other words. There is a specific moment in the game when the children find the gates to the exterior of the castle widely open. Every obstacle is a setback and in this game. Those lands. But due to Yorda’s lack of strength or unwillingness to leave. Even for the most distracted player. fragile children. . But the fact that it is an open road makes it the most memorable of landscapes. Not knowing the precise background for each of the characters. It is a dirty back-alley of some sort. In a naturalist and obsessive fashion. The film tells the story of five inmates who have a plan to escape prison by digging a hole through the cemented wall on the sewer network which is preventing them from reaching the streets. He has distanced himself from the first confining element – the very first example of freedom from seen in ICO. we hastily infer they are good characters. visiting locations as he wishes. for we know the act of fleeing is so evidently forbidden. As they lift the cover for a manhole in the sewers of some back alley. the absence of walls. covered in the late-night mist. there is no plausible reason to assume they didn’t earn their status as captives. so. We hold them as innocent. Le Trou. every closed door bears significant weight and is meant to dissuade or discourage the player. unlocking the way to new ones as he progresses. by tradition. From this moment on the player can roam freely about the castle. Becker’s work depicts the prisoner’s daily routine of digging a hole through a thick wall. two of the characters that exited the cell in order to access the digging spot manage to finish the escaping tunnel and escalate the stairs in order to see if their path was indeed clear. Ico feels compelled to remain with her instead of exiting by himself. and the sheer possibility of running away to any place in the world creates a feeling which words cannot describe.defies any presumption that it was a plain accident. seen in the distant background. those forests we see at a distance from the open vicinities of the castle are the unreachable object of our desire. the creators sought to provide constant reminders of the importance that the concept of being free has in this narrative. There is a slight notion of guilt arising. the outside world. This is the first moment where the player is led to believe he has the chance to leave the island behind. That precise shot can easily be considered the climax of the movie: the scent of fresh air. In the last night of the digging. Jacques Becker offered a splendorous example which can easily be compared with this specific case.
presence a similar situation. but to realize his own power: we now enter the phase where the character expresses his freedom to realize his will or. at the risk of losing his own life. the player finds the gates open once more to. this scene marks the beginning of a new stage of liberty seeking in the game. the player also has a chance to meet a personification of all evil in the context of this space. in this case. If one is to infer anything from this unselfish act is that at a certain point. Ico is less concerned about freeing himself from the Castle which moments ago encircled him. hanging cages outside the castle’s vicinity. Instead of looking for his way out. his intention is to go back to the castle. which mocks at our attempt to run away. As Yorda is taken away. Despite her tyrannical power display and her harsh words. rescue his friend. Ico is left powerless in some crude. now that he is no longer inside the castle. the so-called third agent or Queen. After activating the proper mechanisms.An assortment of various moments from one of the final scenes in Jacques Becker's movie "Le Trou" (The Hole) - At this precise point of the game.. what déjà vu. .
in loco. the fates of these characters are now in their own hands. even if at times. even after the player switches the console off: he has breathed life into them. compromising his well-being for the sake of another character which he met so recently. Ico and Yorda meet once again on that oneiric setting in the form of a beach. Notwithstanding. somehow. And this path dictates that Ico. is constantly providing a way so that events can occur in a predetermined fashion. Hence the long-lasting impression ICO has had in so many players around the world.Go the distance Many reasons can be suggested as to why the young boy feels challenged to perform such a task. the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. it would seem appropriate to underline the almost evident Destiny theme implied here. it is sure to involve reciprocal feelings between both characters. throwing him on a boat that reaches shore. Whatever the possibility the player comes up with. Their feathers are just too bright. envisions his true freedom not as a single being. somewhere along the way. this story bears an exceptional amount of ambiguity. Though Destiny has played an exceptional part in this episode of their lives. Ico and Yorda have attained the freedom to realize their own will. larger than the characters themselves." Shawshank Redemption . there is no method of avoiding the regular progression of the game: there is only one possible path and not a great amount of variety when it comes to cross it. Much like the space itself or the view of the open sea that swallowed the overwhelming island as it cracked. However. the game ends here and so does the player’s ability to control the characters. the reason why his species was being sacrificed. In effect. "I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. That may be accounted as an additional reason behind the brave act of confronting the authoritative Queen in a final battle. when all seems to be lost for Ico. so many aspects of our lives seem to place themselves beyond our grasp. Another motive for Ico’s final quest may be the shocking sight of comprehending. as a lesson of the true value of being able to decide our course. but only when in the company of that other girl whose awkward manners and charms have blown him away.. the open nature of this narrative leaves the strong impression that the character’s story will go on. as if from a long slumber. as well as the pitiable state of apathy he finds Yorda in. We may interpret this Destiny force as the very design of the game or the player’s actions following it. And when they fly away. unanswered questions and unexplained issues. so the player is comfortable to suggest his own point of view over various. Whereas the game allows the player to control the characters as he wishes. After waking up. the role of saviour switches to Yorda. As an uncanny twist of fate. where a force.
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