As mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, To The Moon by Freebird Games is a video game which defines me. It was one of the first indie releases I ever played and it changed my gaming future, starting a preference for more creative and narrative-based titles.
This explains why I signed up straight away when Naithin from Time to Loot announced a play-along event. The idea is simple: everyone in the community is invited to play a certain section of the game each week during the coming month and then share their thoughts on a set of questions in a blog post. With Act 1 now complete and the associated set of discussion points announced, here’s the first in a series of articles all about one of my favourite video games.
If you haven’t yet played To The Moon and intend to do so, I’d recommend navigating away from this post now and coming back later. There are minor spoilers in the following paragraphs which may mar your enjoyment of the game.
Question 1: how do you now feel about the very concept of granting someone’s dying wish by overwriting their memories with new ones?
But progressing through the story and finally understanding why protagonist Johnny Wyles wanted to travel to the moon made me assess my initial opinion. If you were given the opportunity to believe you’d achieved your ultimate goal, arrived in the place you wanted to be or lived your life happily with your soul mate, wouldn’t you take it? Sequel Finding Paradise takes the debate a step further by asking how this wish would make your loved ones feel. Ultimately, I’m not sure this question has a definitive answer.
Question 2: what did you think of River’s choice to put her treatment behind that of Anya?
I completely understand putting someone you care about deeply ahead of yourself; becoming a stepmother and seeing my stepson grow up has taught me an awful lot. But I’ll admit that I struggle to relate to River doing the same for Anya even after playing To The Moon several times now. For me personally, I don’t attach a huge amount of sentiment to items and tend to think very pragmatically, so the decision to decline medical treatment in favour of a lighthouse seems like a strange one.
Saying that though, I already know how this story concludes and feel there is some wisdom in River’s choice. Ultimately, it was one she made for someone she loved dearly – but I’m not going to say anything more right now so as not to spoil the play-along for those experiencing the game for the first time. I’d be curious to hear how new players answer this question after completing Act 1, and then seeing whether their responses change once River’s reasons are revealed later in the narrative.
Question 3: in response to Neil commenting that it was like watching a train-wreck unfold, Eva says, “The ending isn’t any more important than the moments leading up to it.” Do you agree?
Funnily enough, this line from the game was noted by the blogger friends who joined me in Twitch chat when I streamed the game at the end of May. I think it’s one of the most important in To The Moon and I love the way it sums up Eva’s entire approach to her job. Whereas Neil comes across as being more reckless and less emotional, his partner places high priority on handling a patients’ memories with care and only adjusting them where absolutely necessary to grant their wish.
I also like the way this seems directly at odds with the idea of overwriting someone’s memories, as mentioned in my answer to the first question above. It’s a conversation point which is hard to discuss completely without spoiling the experience for new players though. For me personally, I think the moments leading up to the end are just as important as the end itself and perhaps even more so sometimes; every experience in our lives shapes us in a unique way, and we wouldn’t be who we are without them.
Question 4: what did you make of Johnny’s decision not to read the book offered by Dr Lee?
I understand Johnny’s decision and I think it’s one to be respected. He loved River and didn’t need a book to explain her to him, or want the words contained within its pages to change how he viewed her. Some players may tie this back to his earlier desire to be ‘different’ but I don’t think his reason was as shallow as that; I believe he genuinely adored his wife and his final wish was all because of her. Do I think their relationship may have been easier for Johnny if he had read Dr Lee’s book though? Perhaps.
Question 5: how do feel about Johnny as a person now, particularly after his revelation of why he (at least initially) was interested in River?
It’s true that Johnny can come across as cold or superficial as the result of some of his decisions during Act 1 of To The Moon, but I think it’s important to note that this revelation comes from the point in his life when he was a teenager. It’s an awkward experience for any of us and who didn’t want to feel different or ‘something more’ than everyone else back then? Many bad teenage choices can be forgiven and ultimately, the protagonist did end up loving his wife for who she was, not just because she was ‘unique’.
Question 6: River’s obsession with origami rabbits kicked off after Johnny told her about his initial motivations. Neil thought it might have been her holding onto a grudge. What do you think?
I’m going to politely decline to answer this question, because I know why River made all those paper bunnies!
Are you working through To The Moon and if so, what do you think of it so far? I’ll be continuing my own playthrough live on Twitch each Saturday and the next post in the series is planned for next Friday. There’s still time to take part if you haven’t already signed up: all the details you need are in this article on Time to Loot.