the artistry and psychology of gaming


Tundraful (Alice: Madness Returns)

Tundraful (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.

Fortunately, not everything that I got to see was in utter ruin; some places were relatively untouched. One such place was the oddly named Tundraful, which was a large iceberg, the best I could tell. While an iceberg might seem like a small and uninteresting place, an iceberg in the mind of a young woman with a colorful imagination is a spectacle to behold. I watched, fascinated, as she traversed the spreading dichotomy between the purity of nature and her perversion thereof, as they stood side by side. I descended with her as she fell from the sky and landed in some snow.

She looked around for a bit, as I took in the gorgeous scenery. The ice created jagged peaks in the distance, but the ground beneath her feet was smooth as glass, wiving it the appearance that it was made of pearl. The night blanketed the sky, and the crescent moon floated in its vast sea. This moon, however, had a face, from which it blew a green aurora as though it were cigarette smoke. The aurora made a shining sound in my own mind, as its light bathed the ice below. There were also a few large, yellow starfish that appeared to be stuck in the frozen path. The thought had also occurred to me that they might be perversions of stars from the sky, since they were aesthetically consistent with the moon, and nothing else.

She turned around, quickly finding a hidden cavern in what appeared to be a dead end. This cavern was created entirely of ice, and glowed with a pale purple color. She left, heading down the path this time. The sky opened up, and she walked along a path that curved around a deep abyss. Carefully, she made her way around, leaping past a yeti, so that his powerful breath did not blow her into it. She reached a cavern of ice with a pale green glow, but lost her footing and slid to the bottom.

When she landed, she was in a chamber with a blue and brown checkerboard floor. It seemed very out of place in such a natural setting, but it didn’t seem to bother her. She headed toward an altar of sorts, which was lined on either side with ice sculptures of horse knights, and had an odd purple light that seemed to burn like a fire. She grabbed the strange object upon it, which looked like some sort of wooden toy horse. Upon doing so, platforms descended, and she was able to make her way out of the cavern, and into a tunnel, which eventually led outside.

Out in the open again, she gazed out over the dark purple waters to see the sun floating through the sky. The sun had a creepy face, seemed to be made of clay, and was frozen in a solid block of ice; it was like some sort of distorted Claymation creature. Nearby, there was a very long slide made of ice, and without much hesitation, she sat down, beginning her descent. The slide went out over the water, and many pillars stood around it. These pillars were strange; they looked almost like gigantic bones made of ice, but bones of what? I am doubtless that they had some sort of symbolism, but it is one that I simply could not understand. Perhaps even stranger were the burning piles of black sludge littering the slide, as they seemed not to affect the ice in any way.

At the bottom was a gigantic, vacant snail shell, which she decided to enter. This is known as a radula room, and this one transported her to a dimension similar to the Vale of Tears, but at night. She walked through a very shallow pool of water and answered a riddle as I stared in wonder at the jacks, marble, and dominoes floating through the night sky. Soon enough, we were back on the ice, staring into the distance. There was a long, treacherous road ahead of us, but there was also an apparent goal. The young woman seemed to fixate upon a bottled ship at the very end of the iceberg.

She began running and leaping across increasingly smaller pieces of ice to get to the end. It happened so quickly that I can barely recollect the entirety of the journey. I remember taking a wrong turn, winding up at a seemingly inescapable low point, and jumping onto an invisible raft. This raft took us inside of a cavern, which led out through the top, and somehow got us closer to the ship in the giant bottle. There was also a small chamber of ice somewhere along the way that had a chartreuse glow to it. Before I knew it, she’d managed to reach the ship, and climb aboard. From there, it was on to the next adventure, however uneventful.

I think that a trip into the mind of someone else may be the most mysterious kind of journey that anyone can take. While you can survey the landscape and attempt to make sense of things – and perhaps even think yourself to be successful – the truth of the matter is that what you are seeing is entirely out of context. While you may think that you can understand that which lies before you, the truth is that you cannot. However, this is perhaps true of the physical world, as well. You can see the land roll out before you, and no matter how familiar you are with it, there is the possibility that you do not understand it at all, but only understand it so far as you have learned to make sense of it; sometimes, putting the pieces together yourself can make the wrong picture. The only landscapes that you can be truly certain that you understand are the ones that you create yourself; those within your own mind.

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