In the biblical creation account, “God saw that it was good” is repeated after each phase of creation. It is a sovereign evaluation of the world God is creating, which is why it’s jarring when God says in Genesis 2:18, just before creating Eve, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”
It is not good for any person to live alone. We are all better off when we tap into the value of personal relationships. Starbreeze Studios’ new puzzle-platformer, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is the rare game that helps us to see and appreciate the potential value we bring to each other’s lives.
Those of us who believe that it is not good to be alone, however, face a temptation to view other people as tools for our personal happiness. If we think about people this way, we will treat them as objects rather than companions. Instead of serving them, we will seek to be served by them.
Brothers challenges such notions by telling the story of two brothers who recently lost their mother and whose father is now gravely ill. Players lead the brothers on a quest to find medicine for their father that might save his life and in so doing their relationship is laid bare.
Videogames that let us control multiple protagonists generally encourage us to treat them as objects. In Trine, for instance, you use the wizard to create blocks to jump to high platforms, the rogue to swing across chasms, and the knight to fight enemies. Brothers sidesteps this problem by giving players control of both its protagonists at once–you cannot take either character for granted when you are forced to interact with both of them simultaneously.
Players control the older brother with the left stick and the left trigger and the younger brother with the right. If you are like me and have difficulty multitasking, this may sound difficult, but I was actually surprised by how quickly I learned to move both brothers at once. Initially, players can advance through areas by moving one brother at a time. You use the younger brother to squeeze through tight spaces and the older brother give the younger brother a boost up to a ledge in order to let a rope down for the older. As you progress the game requires you to do more and more with both brothers simultaneously. It begins simply but grows more involved over time. The more you do with both brothers the more important they become to you. It is not just that each brother can do something the other can’t–as we progress both brothers grow in their appreciation of and commitment to one another.
Early in the game the brothers take each other for granted. The younger brother is childish. Interacting with other villagers in the opening sequence causes the younger brother to pull pranks while the older brother looks on disapprovingly. The older brother isn’t interested in such frivolous things and is embarrassed. The younger sees his elder brother as a joykill. But as players progress, the brothers relationship is tried and they must learn to value each other.
The younger can’t swim so he must hold onto his brother’s back while in water. This makes getting separated in dangerous rapids a surprisingly moving ordeal. The more difficult their trials become the less they take each other for granted. It’s a game about learning to value the people closest to us.
Brothers illustrates the notion that our true character comes to light in the midst of trials. The two brothers not only help each other progress but honor and protect each other, often at their own peril. When we learn to see each other as people rather than objects, those trials serve to deepen our affections. This reminds us that It is not good for us to be alone. And it is only when we refuse to believe that the people around us exist to serve us, that we will cultivate relationships of meaning and value.