PRY Is A Game About PTSD That Gets It Spot On
I’ve been meaning to talk about Pry for a while, because I was absolutely blown away by it. Thematically and mechanically I see this as the gold standard for representing a mental health condition. It’s sympathetic, immersive and at times very emotive. If you play it, be aware it comes with significant trigger warnings; after all, this game’s main aim is to express what it is like to live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Also be aware that this article contains spoilers!
Six years ago, James returned from the first Gulf War. Explore James’ mind as his vision fails and his past collides with his present. PRY is an app hybrid of cinema, game and novel that reimagines how we might move seamlessly among words and images to explore layers of a character’s consciousness. Open or shut James’ eyes, pull apart his memories, or read his thoughts infinitely scrolling in every direction. Through these unique interactions, unravel the past and discover a story shaped by the lies we tell ourselves: lies revealed when you pull apart the narrative and read between the lines.
Pry’s beauty lies in the way it uses the interactions available to it in order to communicate a feeling.
The narrative is pretty standard in terms of scripting, and aesthetically the majority of the “action” is FMV. In terms of plot there’s not much room for exploration; it’s quite linear – however the option to dig further, to get more information, to really get a feel for the protagonist’s experience – that’s where it gets interesting.
You see, Pry’s story isn’t just what is presented to you, it’s what you experience beyond that.
Below the stimuli of sight and sound is an internal monologue that you can access, or, at times, you are forced to see. In these moments, you have to actively choose to get back to the real world. The gesture to do this is similar to opening or closing one’s eyes – a pinch to the screen as though you are zooming. The internal zoom, or mind’s eye, can show concepts in the form of single words, whole sentences, and sometimes vivid images and video flashbacks. If something in the real world triggers you, those flashbacks come roaring to the foreground and it is a conscious effort to stave them away – to remain focused on reality.
As much time as this character spends exploring their own internal narrative, there is a message that becomes increasingly clear. What they think is true, what their mind portrays as memory, recollection – as fact – is at times the complete opposite. Sometimes merely strands of reality are woven into a fabrication.