the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Cardbridge (Alice: Madness Returns)

Cardbridge (Alice: Madness Returns)

It seems that some of the most incredible journeys of my life have taken place within the minds of others. I’ve talked at length about the worlds within my own dreams, as well as the dreams of others, but today, I’d like to talk about something a little different. Sometime during the Industrial Revolution in London, I met a young woman by the name of Alice Liddel. She was a beautiful young woman on the surface, and even more beautiful underneath. A troubled sort, she created a sanctuary within her mind that she knows as Wonderland.

This particular psychotic episode was the inverse of the previous. That is to say that rather than beginning with a collapsing Wonderland and becoming more serene, Alice eventually wound up in the ruins of the castle of her old nemesis, The Red Queen. The location had once been the site of the standoff between her true self and that which had put her into a mostly catatonic state. That battle had ended in triumph, but this trip was a different story entirely. Though the castle began with a broken down old edifice and degenerated into a trip through what looked like the innards of a hideous creature, it began with one of the most peaceful things I’d seen in her mind.

She stood high in the sky upon a large playing card at the outset. The skies were blue, puffy clouds were abundant, and land could faintly be seen below. Despite the incredible danger of falling to one’s certain death, the air up here brought a sense of serenity that I hoped beyond all hope would last forever. Looking out, I could see swarms of cards flying through the breeze, as well as a floating castle made of cards. They seemed to lay themselves at her feet as she made her way forth, and with that, we began our journey.

She strode along a few clubs before the path stopped forming. Or so it seemed; there was a sort of card tube ahead that was blowing air upward. She leapt into the updraft, pausing for a moment to find where the bridge was next forming. The path gradually unfolded, looping and spinning ever closer to that castle in the distance. There was a sudden downward slope; she slid to the bottom, where there was a card showing its back, rather than its face. Upon contact, it launched her into the air, and she floated to the gate of the castle, the base of which was formed by little triangular stacks of cards.

Now, we took some time to admire the cards, themselves. The backs of a few were exposed – rolling out the red carpet, as it were – and their patterns were quite intricate. Looking closely, it became evident that they were stylized hearts with a little crown above them; surely, we were in the domain of The Red Queen. I’d imagined that every card would be perfect, as they were in the bridge, but the door was made of cards that bent in half to open for us. Inside, the structure was very simple, but the square-tooth cuts in the cards made interesting fortifications. She wandered inside for a while, and when she reached the end, we realized that this was not the only sky castle. Thinking and moving quickly, she made her way across an invisible bridge, and into the next castle.

This castle had some small open-air corridors with trapdoors leading to the world below. She explored it all, careful not to fall, soon finding herself upon another bridge of cards winding toward another castle in the distance. She made her way down, but upon closer inspection, this castle was a mere platform with four very tall towers. The cards forming platforms on the way did not do so until she got very close, so she had to take quite a few leaps of faith, but they formed in intuitive places, at least, so she was safe. When she arrived, it wasn’t long before it was time to move on again.

Another long bridge ended in a ramp to a card that shot her into the air. She flew a long distance, both of us doubting that she’d make it to the castle in the distance. It was at the very last second that a platform built itself right underneath her. We both breathed a sigh of relief, taking a moment before leaping to the last castle. Inside was a blue mushroom, which sent her flying to the castle ruins, away from the bridge of cards.

Sometimes the most serene places are the most dangerous ones, and what a perfect metaphor for life. I used to find solace climbing onto my roof and staring into the distance for hours, but I could very easily have fallen to the ground, breaking a limb or worse. When we find serenity, security, and consistency, it is always in danger, because danger is omnipresent. The only things we truly know in this life are “known” to be true only because we haven’t found any proof to the contrary just yet. Mankind used to “know” that the world was flat and that the sun revolved around it. When you get out of bed in the morning, you take it for granted that your feet won’t phase through the floor, and they likely won’t, but there is no absolute guarantee that overnight, there wasn’t some kind of cosmic event that would make it happen. This inconsistency is more pronounced in those who experience psychotic episodes, but it exists in the life of all of us. Perhaps true enlightenment comes from knowing this, but moving forward, regardless.

One Comment

  1. Author’s Note: Oases of Beauty has run out of content, so it will be on hiatus for the foreseeable future. It’s been a great ride, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

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