Video game review: Gris

Photo courtesy of Steam

By Judah Wessel

Today, I want to talk about my experience with “Gris” and explain why I love it so much. Not only do I love the platforming game-play as well as the visual style, but also, the ending of the narrative has profound spiritual implications, and I couldn’t help but see Christian-like storytelling within.

First of all, if you have never heard of “Gris” or played this video game before, I highly recommend looking it up and playing it yourself. It is short but immersive, artistically beautiful and genuinely satisfying to play, especially if you are a fan of platforming games. Please play it yourself and don’t let me spoil it for you because I will talk about the game’s ending in depth.

Spoilers below.

Let’s talk about the structure of the game’s story and the ending. Throughout the game, you collect stars to creates bridges to help you advance further into each world. Once you complete each of the five worlds, you receive an achievement that says “a new color has been brought back,” revealing that the next world will introduce a new color into the world’s design. This fits well with the game’s title, “Gris,” which is French for “gray.” Thus, the game is about starting without color and bringing color back through memory. Once you complete the game, you unlock access to the secret ending, a brief cut scene of a memory of you and your mother playing with fireflies under the stars. This genuinely touching moment taps into the power of memory.

In fact, the entire game is based around memory. You learn through the 5 stages of grief achievements and through recovering colors that you are reaching into your own memory and dealing with the loss of your mother. Suddenly, playing the game a second time makes the story that much more impactful. The opening sequence is an artistic expression of a loss of self as a consequence of the death of a loved one. Losing someone close to you creates a feelings of Gris, of gray, of lifelessness, of pain and of uncertainty. The journey of the entire game, thus, becomes about recovery: recovery from grief, recovery of memories, recovery of feelings, recovery of life and recovery of hope.

Here is where the game’s final cut scene really impacts me: I interpret it as comparable to resurrection. In the final scene, the main character sings to her mother and is nearly swallowed up by her own grief, but she persists and is saved by the statue of her mom. Then, we see her mother’s grave starts to sing and move, and her daughter sings and harmonizes alongside her, exploding the world into colorful life and hope. To me, the idea that a grave begins to move and to sing acts like a powerful retelling of resurrection. Similarly, the journey from Gris to color, life, light and music presents the game as a narrative about how all of us can rise from the ashes of our own spiritual death and lifelessness to begin moving towards a recovery of the music, the color, the light, the love, and the hope that was lost.

As much as I have gained a new appreciation for this game over time, I have even more profound respect and admiration for the creators of such a beautiful game. A game as beautiful, engaging, and immersive as this cannot exist in a vacuum. Such a game is only possible through the inspiration of human creativity. Although I will never know the stories and experiences of the creators, it seems plain to me that the game was born out of genuine tragedy and pain. The game transcends the medium of entertainment for me now; it represents how a team of creative artists worked together to tell a story about coping with loss and working towards recovery. I will never know the personal stories of pain, but through this gaming experience I can empathize with their pain and be inspired by the journey to recovery. Now I know that someone coped with true loss by creating something beautiful from the ashes of that loss. What can be more universal than communal participation in loss and recovery?

All that said, I must give a massive thank you to the creators at Nomada Studios for making “Gris”. Thank you for showing people that we do not have to stay lost forever. Thank you for showing us that there is freedom from loss and pain. Thank you for illustrating how we can stay on the path to recovery. Thank you for taking a painful experience and turning it into something beautiful.

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