Words About Video Games

The Missed Opportunity of Prey (2017)'s Ending

I've seen the ending of Prey take a beating in most critical write-ups. I think many of the criticisms are valid,* but I also think this is true, in spite of and to some extent even countering those criticisms: http://www.avclub.com/…/prey-earns-its-total-mindfuck-endin…

Prey, in the spirit of its inspirations, is through-and-through a game about games; it's just far less bombastic about it than, say, Bioshock. Rather than convey its themes with grand philosophical statements of intent from characters acting as the designers' mouthpiece, Prey prefers to reveal its themes in a myriad of small ways, turning little acts of design sleight-of-hand into thematic questions. It's still remarkably direct about what it's about (unlike, say, the obscurantism of Soulsborne-style storytelling.) It's just ... quieter, more thoughtful about how it goes about it.

*SPOILERS: Basically, if you are invested in the narrative that's presented to you--the straightforward "science gone bad on spaceship" story--and the characters therein, it's right to criticize Prey's epilogue for undercutting that story and the choices in it. And you wouldn't be wrong to invest in this narrative, because Prey invests a lot in getting you invested in it. There are good reasons for this in the context of what's actually going on, and it all goes back to one of your very first interactions--the personality test where you must respond to the trolley problem. 

The big problem is that the game reveals something fundamentally new about you and your situation just before the very end, but doesn't really give you the opportunity to process it before giving you a choice and then just ... ending. So for most people, the "story" is everything that came before. It's as if KOTOR revealed that you are Revan and then gave you a choice prompt: dark side or light side. What happened in the game up to that reveal should be fodder for future actions & choices--the real story; instead it feels, for many, like the rug's been pulled out from under them