There is something to be said for a story coming to an end in a way that isn’t cathartic, but it does make you feel for the character involved. This game is full of that, but there is one place where, in my eyes, it truly shines. It is a combination of amazing music, amazing voice acting, and some great build-up. If only every game could be this good. Or at least hit this kind of emotional high-note. I realize that that isn’t the greatest thing to hope for. After all, not every game has to be The Last of Us. Same games can be stupid beat ’em ups and be fun. But when I play this one segment, and just feel the emotional energy coming off of it, I feel so utterly trapped by the power I am seeing in that moment. It’s amazing. I love this scene so much, and the only way I can do it justice is to examine it in my overly-analytical way. So maybe you all can see why this works so well.
One of the major plots in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is Stephen and his fractured relationship with his family. There is an uncertain conflict between him and his uncle Frank, which you never truly learn the whole deal about. There is him and his mother, whom he is very estranged with. But you never really hear about him and his father. It only comes up once in the entire story. After you see how far Stephen has fallen.
Stephen’s plot builds for the entire game. He was an ambitious and brilliant young man, eager to escape and find his way in the world. Returning home was not something he wanted, but it was an opportunity to accelerate his career in cosmology. The return home ended up ruining his life. It destroyed his marriage, killed everyone he ever loved, and then resulted in him being destroyed. He tried to be a good man, but circumstances beyond his control took that away from him. It’s a similar story to many other characters in this game, but you get to see how truly devastated he was about it all. His wife, Kate, didn’t feel the pain he did when the Pattern was brought to our world. While it was destroying the village, she had no connection to the place. He was the one who had to watch as it destroyed everyone he ever cared about.
At first, he is trying to understand it, to control it. But things keep going from bad to worse. Stephen wants to protect people, but he quickly comes to understand that there is nothing he can do to protect anyone. It’s all coming apart, before his very eyes. Add to that, the fact that the desperation is wrecking his mind and has caused him to do things he never thought he was capable of, like killing a man with a hammer after the man attacked him. This was a man who tried to be a good person, and blamed himself and his wife squarely for what happened to the people there.
Which leads me back to the revelation about his father. When you find his last resting place, an underground bunker from World War II, there is a long walk down the hall where you learn the truth. His father was a very absent man. He seemed to care very little about his family. There was a fox that they found, after it was hit by a car. The father took it in and was trying to make it better. He would spend hours with it, which was more time than the son ever got. Stephen noticed, and tried to connect through the fox. The fox was dying. He knew that. So, one day, he took a sandwich to the wounded animal, to try and help. But the fox bit him. His mother lost it, fearing about rabies. This led to the father killing the fox in probably the most gruesome method that I’ve ever heard about – he beat it to death with a spade.
Stephen recounts that after the event, the father was crying. He told his son that he didn’t blame the fox for what happened. He didn’t care that it bit his son. The way he put it, “it was just some dumb animal.” Through that statement, Stephen comes to understand the Pattern better. It isn’t killing people out of malice. It is killing people because it doesn’t know any better. It’s just like that fox. A neat corollary – his wife Kate has a strange attachment to the Pattern as well. It ends up being the final nail in the coffin of their marriage. Another sign that history is cyclical.
The recounting of Stephen ends with him facing down this entity, the Pattern. He talks to it, for the first time. He tells it that when he dies, it will be alone. While he says that it will be “just like before,” you get the impression that he isn’t just talking about it being the entity he’s referring to. He’s also talking about himself. Stephen is alone. He has been alone for a very long time. That loneliness is something that he has been trying to get away from. He was alone as a child. He had love with someone, but abandoned her before it could go anywhere. He gets married to a brilliant woman, only to be alone after that. Then, finally, he is alone at the very end, only having this creature of light as a companion as he perishes.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture tells the story of the end of all things. When people are facing down their mortality and existence itself and learning who they really are. Every story is unfathomably sad. I could really talk about everyone in the story and how their plots ended. There is the priest, Jeremy, who also has blood on his hands. He helped kill Frank’s wife, when she was very sick. Something that he had been torturing himself for. While he never admitted it out loud, it destroyed his faith and led to him losing all control. It is implied that he saw everyone in the camp disappear into light, and made his way back to his church, which is where he was taken. I could talk about Lizzie, and how she was so miserable and tired of the life she had that she chose to ruin Stephen’s relationship with his wife to find some solace. Every story is sad, but each of them says something about all of us and who we are.
When you face your mortality, you will find out who you are. I’ve faced it before. I’ll face it again, before my time is up. All of us are defined by who we are, not when things are at their best, but at their very worst. At the point when the world is dying, or our lives are falling apart, and all we can do is move forward. Or when all options are gone and we have to face what’s happened. It’s a sad and lonely world. For each and very one of us. We do with that what we will.
Until next time, a quote,
“The Pattern, it’s everywhere now. There’s no one left. I’m all there is. When I die, you’ll be alone again. Like before.” – Stephen Appleton, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture