“You change a game by leaving it, going somewhere else
and starting a new game. If it works, it will in time alter or
replace the old game” — Stewart Brand.
Arise is a short and simple game, retelling the life of a recently deceased Nordic man. The visuals and music shift with the scenes and emotions the man felt as he lived his life, starting from his childhood and ending with his own death. The major mechanic of the game is the ability to shift time in order to solve puzzles.
And yet none of these statements really encapsulate what Arise is about; the journey of life and the juxtaposition of the peaks of happiness mixed with the depths of sorrow. The nameless character players control has enjoyed the magic of childhood and found love as a young man, leading to him having a child of his own. The profound joy of parenthood is unmatched; there is truly nothing in life to compare to the emotions brought on by watching your child grow. And yet, these resounding happy days end abruptly in Arise as the child perishes, leaving the man to plum the bottomless depths of abject tragedy and suffering.
I cannot say for sure what Arise sets out to accomplish, but the message it left with me is that life is a mixed bag, and even in hardship we must press on. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, nor fathom how one can recover from that experience, but Arise characterizes this suffering and struggle well; it is given appropriate weight to the characters and overcoming this tragedy takes time. Even after all is said and done, it is not a scar that fades entirely, and clearly it impacted the characters forever.