Games as Lit. 101 – Literary Analysis: Transistor

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Supergiant Games’ sophomore effort is a sci-fi action RPG that’s just as beautiful as Bastion and significantly more confusing. Let’s talk about what it means!

Jake’s channel has his own videos of video game music analysis, along with his own original work! Check it out here:

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Music:
Arcade Academy, by Pixel Head –

Art:
Jimi Bonogofsky-Gronseth –

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42 COMMENTS

  1. It actually never occurred to me that Cloudbank was a simulation. I just thought they had enough technology that the material world was just that malleable, that the evacuees had gone to other cities (which would be under threat from the Process if it wasn't stopped in Cloudbank), and that "the country" was just their word for the afterlife.

    On a philosophical note, I would consider the Traces of people inside the Transistor to be separate people from the originals back in Cloudbank. It seems kind of ambiguous whether Red or the other characters see it that way though.

  2. This video is amazing! It's my favorite game and I finished it 5 years ago but I still had so many questions about it and you explained it so clearly ! I thought I couldn't like this game more but I was wrong, I definitely have to play it again on ps4.

  3. on of my favourite games of all time. I really wish there was a prequel novelisation. I always want to sink further into this world every time i play

  4. One of my favorite parts of the game that this video helped bring into context for me a bit more is they way Red edits herself when trying to leave comments at the terminals. In many cases she starts off by being more aggressive and direct in her wording, before backing off and being more polite or vague. I originally read this as her having already lost her "voice" in response to the fight at her show: in the blowback from that event and the accusations of being a provocateur Red felt like she could no longer say what she really meant or felt. Over the course of the game, in trying to regain her actual voice, she also regains this more abstract sense of her voice, becoming more direct again (for example her declaration about breaking the Spine's heart). In the context of this video, I think there's an additional or alternative meaning to her self-editing, however. Seeing the power her music and words had on people and struggling to figure out how to responsibly use that power, she constantly self-edits and revises her public posts as she thinks through what unintended or negative effects they might have.

  5. When you're rewriting the blocks for the fairview bridge, the statues on the edges of the platform are of a man and woman reaching for eachother. The closer you get to Boxer's corpse the closer the statues get until their hands are touching.

  6. Wow. I've got the idea especially from the design of the world of transistor as a digitized simulator where every person or mostly everyone living there is made consistently if data. A network of sorts that holds information about everyone and everything in it. Another amazing part I loved about this game is the color scheme. It's main colors that blend around in most of its environment is green, red, and yellow. Same color as the transistor itself and everything else. I just find the architecture or environment design beautiful to observe while playing it. With opposition coming from white and red — The Process and the Camerata, even though I understand they were trying to change how Cloudbank functions just not in one that worked out well considering all that takes place unto the end of the game.

  7. You think the humming itself was cool? Wait until you find a room with a lyrical track while “Blue” is “drunk” and hit it. Now you have track later 3: drunk blue singing over reds humming over trip-hop beat #1. Excessive? Maybe. Worth the effort? Hauntingly so.

  8. These guys made a lot of mistakes here:
    1. Suicide as an escape from a problem is common in fiction because it used to be common in life, it's different now that we live in comfortable times with leaders we can't grievously punish, or in a time where we are expected to have multiple partners rather than simply one (and often arranged if you are of notable station).
    But back when classical mythology was being written, kings and queens would be offing themselves while an invading army was destroying the city on the way to them and the people were ready to have them tortured and killed in the worst manner possible.
    And being known for having previous relationships (sexual or romantic), with partner's who were notable to bear mention was a real obstacle for having another relationship in the future, to be a single woman was a sign that you weren't a good wife or mother, to be a single man was a sign that you weren't a good husband or father, and both meant that your family was bad for not being able to provide you with a partner, even widows or widowers were seen as needing to remain so, hence the demonization of step-parents in fairy tales since only someone truly repulsive would stoop to marrying a widower, while only a desperate fool would marry after having been widowed. Lastly, most of these suicide stories originated in times when religion was never in doubt, there simply was a world after death and there was no dispute on that front, and not all the religions behind these stories regarded suicide as a sin, I know that warrior societies such as celts, vikings, and spartans regarded a death in battle as a sacrament that would be rewarded, if you not only believe but know that suicide is an escape rather than an end, even if only under certain circumstances, then when the chance comes to escape in order to avoid worse on earth, you'd be more willing to say "fuck this shit I'm out".
    2. sacrifice for love is more common in stories where the male makes the sacrifice for the female, and not the other way around, there is nothing dishonorable or problematic with a female who chooses love over anything else, and I don't see why you'd say that unless you somehow think a woman loving a man with a burning intensity is somehow a bad thing, are only men allowed to love with such passion?
    Maybe it's because you think that a woman being selfless is a bad thing? what when we have so many men who were known for the selfless love they had for others, and the sacrifices they chose to make out of that love, women are forbidden from being anything but selfish because they are exactly half a man.
    It's because of this need to constrain female characters to this ideal of some bitch who's only out for herself, who throws out her needs for other people (except maybe some kids who are intended to soften this out a bit), that's ruined female characters in media, she's not a person, she's a cartoon character, and a really unlikable one at that, so they try to fix this by making every man out to get her for being a woman (because that a more probable reason than for no reason at all), now everyone is a cartoon asshole you just want to punch when you see them, and the show is trying to make you like some of them, wich makes you hate them more.
    In the clip you chose, Kate is not abandoning herself for Leopold, the desire to be with him is a major part of who she is, and definitely worth sacrificing for, she chose this, if he suddenly transformed into someone she did not love, she would not continue her path, she'd try to bring the old him back or begin to regret the choice she made due to these unforeseen consequences, her love has conditions, and thus, so does the sacrifice she made, she had two things she wanted, and could only chose one, both choices were her to make and not problematic at all.

    You can debate whether sacrificing for love is good or bad on a case-by-case basis, but there is nothing wrong with the idea in principle, and being a woman making that choice is not bad either, both reflect on the lover, if you sacrifice life for love, it tells us how great the love is, if you sacrifice love for life, it tells us how much she really cared for the guy in comparison to what she pursued (typically, as context shapes what actions mean).
    Stop point out problems were they do not exist, especially in a climate like ours where being pro-man is synonymous with being anti-woman, and being pro-woman is synonymous with being anti-man.
    3. this game really didn't think about the world it was making, and just how strange it would be.
    If everything was really up to a vote, you'd be able to democratically alter aspects of reality that go way beyond the weather and landscape, the reality would become consensus reality, and the will of the many could actively alter the nature of individuals, including their forms and minds, free will would cease to exist, is sibyl wanted red to love her and not boxer, she needed only persuade most people that red should love her, there'd also be no need for the limitations of ballots, every option would be on the menu, and voting would happen constantly by people who didn't even consciously register that they were voting, all it would take is for many people to share the same opinion and it happens, new lifeforms could be created, existing lifeforms (people included) changed, even laws of nature would be up to majority opinion on what they should be, past events could be altered, as well as their effects.
    Eventually, a consensus would become stable for a long period of time, and change would cease, but it would look super weird to us, probably beyond our ability to imagine it levels of weird, and the people would be weird as well, since their minds and bodies would have all being voted into this alien shape, they would not be recognizable as human, nor would their thoughts or behaviors, what's more the length of time it would take for this to happen would be very short to the outside observer, it's of major changes, then a permanent lack of change spanning a long time. ("we didnt like pain, so now there is no pain, then we didn't like injury, so now there's no injury, we didn't like death, so now there's no death, we also no longer need to breathe, drink, or eat, then there was too many people, since we simply brought back anyone tat was generally liked and also voted them back to health, so we made ourselves smaller, the guys we hate are now guys that everyone gets along with, also lots of human behaviours were gotten rid of in the process, not sadism/schadenfraude though, we found violence to be funny, and since no one gets hurt, we could do as we pleased, that's a lot of blood, good thing bleeding doesn't hurt us, also we only look like we are in pain, wouldnt be funny without it, hey, ever wanted to have an extra arm? lots of us did, and now we got four arms total!", <- this is all within one hour of this world btw, stretch that over forever, since time is also up for public opinion)

  9. stfu Your moral authority is nil. "Glorifying suicide" Fuck off. Suicide can be covered however it wants by developer without having to answer to your moral authority. You don't write social taboos. The depiction of sucide isn't off limits because you and your kind feel it might harm the victims or some bullshit. If Red did kill herself to be with the Boxer that''s as fine as if she killed herself to regain her voice. The two outcomes being linked by one decision likely links them together thematically. Likely both are true with one being allegory for the other and vice versa. But who the fuck are you to use feminism as a shield and hammer to assert some absolute social moral weight over the direction of the game. You're just some fuck off white knight for people who aren't you. People with their own voices and varying opinions you attempt to homogenize them in order to subvert them and use them as a hammer towards your own pretentious aims.

    Suicide is especially disgusting. You haven't killed yourself so you really aren't in a position to argue the virtues over the action. Your argument is that we shouldn't allow depiction of suicide in art because it might encourage people considering suicide. Who are you do determine what these people should or shouldn't do? It's disgusting. You don't know better. You don't have the right to rob someone of their will. Do you know stupid and entitled you sound when you suggest that there is no situation where suicide is a viable alternative? You have no idea how easy life can trap someone in very disfavorable situations where contrary to your idealism spawned from your entitlement there is no escape. You know your position is worse than glorifying suicide your position is that participation is mandatory. While sometimes the act of suicide is due to acute psychological imbalance it far often is a rational decision from the position of the actor. Do you understand that most people you suicide are middle aged men rather than teenage girls hyped up on angst? Who the fuck are you to tell those men that you know better than them after they have chosen to no longer participate in an experience which they have decided is unenjoyable. Who the fuck are you to tell grown ass men that they have no choice to to participate in a situation they have deemed worse than death. Do you get that most people who suicide don't do it on the fly. They think long and hard about the decision before committing to it. I had an uncle who decided to suicide rather than suffer through a terminal illness. I respect his decision. It was his to make. If it wasn't a terminal illness and rather it was just that he was very depressed or that he was not happy with the way his life turned out I would still respect his decision to kill himself because because it's his decision to make, and I'd never rob another person of their own will and autonomy.

    Then you suggest that neurotypical people just don't get it. Fuck off. What a fucking joke. You think that poor old you is the only one who knows what depression feels like and that unless the person is literary parading their victimhood as a chip on their shoulder that they don't know what it's like to be uncomfortable and to struggle and to feel crushed under the weight of a hostile world. You sound a like a preteen thinking that no one understands your pain and angst because bitch about it constantly. I'm not exaggerating that's exactly how you sound when you call people neurotypical. The general public would laugh at you for using such language.

  10. Maybe the background music is actually music playing through her head and then sometimes she wants to him along to what she’s thinking of

  11. This was the greatest episode ever made. Transistor speaks a lot to me, it's a great game. I cry a lot in the middle of the show realising how much this game has to offer. Thank you for that.

  12. the world is endless but man is always there to see itself
    and as the world keep tinkling that man and woman are bad but the world see man as the evil that keeps on taking Evan the fact that man build the world
    man is the enamy some woman keep trying to make man the evil of the world but what will woman make this world to be what is the thing that will be after we all of the world man will go to the new world that is far far away
    what will woman make this world are they Evan great woman who did things that made the world til and took till modern day
    tell me why is there still hope far away from wean we lost the world
    but did ever had control over the world
    or do Evan had love do we have love still ? maybe… we lost
    it all
    now
    we all
    jest live
    in a
    prison
    of want
    and
    need………
    dam it all
    dam it all
    dam it all

  13. Great analysis overall, keep up the good work. One point that I would have loved to hear your theories and opinion on is Recursion, not just as a game+ mode, but also as a theme that is heavily hinted at throughout the game and directly pointed to when you start Recursion mode.

    The line "Boxer/Breach/Blue" says in the beginning: "We're not getting away with this, are we ?" only makes sense in the context of recursion as a major sci-fi theme, as does the same line being spoken by Royce in the beginning of Recursion (which is more than just a neat little easter egg, it confirms that the "Country" is the "place" people who are stuck in the Transistor "exist in"). Basically, Red, "Boxer" and everyone else is stuck in an endless recursion of computer simulations that all contain a Transistor that also always contains another Cloudbank that also contains another Transistor etc.

    "Boxer" was most likely a "Breach" (just like his function), aka someone who came from "outside" of the simulation somehow (either from a "previous", recurred version or as a hacker from outside entirely) – which means what really caused the Process to run amok was absorbing data from something that was simply incomprehensible because it was never programmed to exist within the simulation of Cloudbank.

  14. Why isn't there a link to the gaming Symposium video on this?! I love all of the GS episodes! I wish you could make more!

  15. Would love to see an analysis on Journey, Celeste or Inside. Either way, love these videos. Keep em coming!

  16. Probably my favorite thing about SuperGiant is the worldbuilding, how they create worlds that make sense according to their own specific rules when it comes to physics and just general existence. You can go "yeah, download that statue into your sword", and in-universe it makes perfect sense, which is why I don't enjoy the idea of there being an "outside physical world". I prefer the world just being like that, very loosely based on concepts from real life, it's so much more interesting

  17. I would've liked more talk regarding the spine of the world, since they exhibit such odd behaviors, for example: why is it that the spine, despite spawning cells and badcells in one part of the game, attacks the process in the later stages?
    Also, what's up with its interactions with the transistor? Given that the transistor represents power, and later, more specifically, the power to control and ultimately cause change, the spine seems to oppose the transistor in both cases (but without the ability to snuff its power completely).

    Also, the idea of the process as nature seems completely missed – the process, as Royce says, "Is just doing its job." There certainly seems no method to the process's process of processing the city and its inhabitants, other then turning them into a series of plain white boxes. In this case, transistor is a natural disaster apocalypse movie. You can go wherever you want from there.

    Also, the ending is incredibly vague. She's left holding the key to the kingdom, and decides to hang it up and hang out with her boyfriend. I believe the video's interpretation of this is that she made a choice to not leave him behind, but I think it's one thing to carry him around in a sword forever and another thing to enter the transistor. It seems weak to say that after 10 hours of horsing around with the process, that undying love was the end of Red. I think it's important that she doesn't just leave to be with the guy, but she gives up the transistor.
    Why were the Camerata collecting people for the transistor?
    "It was nothing personal, you know. You were.. valuable. Handpicked. Unique. But, one of many. All we needed was your point of view. To give the people what they didn't know they wanted. That's all we ever wanted." -Asher Kendrall
    I guess you could say, they were looking for god, or truth, or whatever name you happen to choose for the key to the universe. 42

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