To the Moon is an indie adventure game with pixel graphics, RPG maker sprites, and annoying tinkling music. But the story is so good, I loved it. I loved it when a friend insisted I play it over 5 years ago. Flash-forward to now, where I completely forgot entirely about the plot. I couldn’t even tell you that it centered around two people who’s job it was to implant new memories into a dying man’s brain. I knew I’d need a recap or an entire complete play-through before playing any sequels. So when Naithin announced he was hosting a play-along, I signed up.
There was one thing I remembered about the game:
It was really hard to get off the horse.
Thankfully, Naithin took the time to write questions and answers for each Act in the game, so I don’t have to completely come up with my own stuff to write about. Whew.
Warning: Contains spoilers for Act 1 of To the Moon.
1. Let’s start off with the big guns — at the completion of Act 1 — how do you now feel about the very concept of granting someone’s dying wish by overwriting their memories with new ones?
Wanting to do this is a terrible idea. Sure, you’re on your death bed, and you think to yourself, “Wow, I really wasted my life. I wanted to be a marine biologist as a kid and instead I became an accountant. I never should’ve done that. What a crap life.” The best thing to do then, is…get new memories?
Your memories make up who you are. If those memories are implanted then you’re not really a real person, you’re just a fake set of memories. I can see good intentions in wanting people to die happy, but what about instead having them go through their memories and find the good ones? Maybe you wish you were a marine biologist, but as an accountant you stopped tax fraud or helped small businesses stay afloat? Maybe if you hadn’t become an accountant, you wouldn’t have met your spouse or had your children.
Plus, when you die, what happens to those memories? If you don’t believe in an afterlife, then, poof, they’re gone. Then what was the point of the whole thing? For a moment of happiness because your brain is lying to you the moment before you die? How much of whatever your benefactors would be inheriting did you spend on that moment?
If you do believe in the afterlife–well, let’s say you believe in Heaven. It’s not in the Bible so I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure you’re not bringing those implanted memories with you. So you’d be stuck with those same old memories, which probably wouldn’t even matter, because you’d be partying with angels.
2. What did you think of River’s choice to put her treatment behind that of Anya?
Spoiler: Anya is a lighthouse.
My gut reaction is that it was selfish. She wanted this lighthouse to be “looked after” more than she wanted to be there for her own husband. She cared more about an inanimate object than she did about him.
But I think Anya is more than an object to River. I see Anya being a surrogate child. River and Johnny don’t have children, and I wonder if they wanted to but weren’t able to and somehow Anya took that place in River’s heart. If River sees Anya as her child, then of course she’d prioritize Anya’s life over her own.
3. In response to Neil commenting that it was like watching a train-wreck unfold, Eva says, “The ending isn’t any more important than the moments leading up to it.” Do you agree?
For sure. 100%.
I have a cat, Sashimi. I love my cat. I adore my cat.
My cat is going to be 9 next month. She’s not going to live forever. Someday I’m going to have to deal with her death. The thought itself makes me sad. It’s going to be a hard and terrible time in my life.
It doesn’t mean every happy moment I spend with my cat is pointless. No one says “if you’re going to be so sad when your cat dies, maybe you shouldn’t have adopted one.” If it was all about the ending, we’d never have pets!
I can come up with more examples–like a relationship I had in my twenties that was bad at the end. It doesn’t mean I can’t fondly remember the good moments and treasure the things I discovered and friends I made because of that relationship.
The journey matters.
4. What did you make of Johnny’s decision not to read the book offered by Dr. Lee?
Crap. Unless River didn’t want to do anything about it and ignore it and he was following her lead–but I don’t think that’s true or they wouldn’t be getting a diagnosis in the first place.
You can tell Johnny loves River, but I don’t know why he doesn’t read the book. Does he want to pretend it’s not a part of her? Is he afraid it will take away from the part of her personality that attracted him to her in the first place? I don’t get it. It’s not supportive. Shame on you, Johnny. You should’ve read the book.
5. How do you feel about Johnny as a person now, particularly after he reveals why he (at least initially?) was interested in River?
Johnny was initially interested in River because she seemed different and he wanted some of that uniqueness for himself. A rather selfish reason to date someone, right?
For sure. But when we first start dating someone, aren’t the reasons usually superficial and possibly selfish?
And it seems like he really likes her, and he does fall in love with her, so who cares what was going on in his teenage brain when they first met. It still bothers me that he didn’t read the book, but I can forgive him for this.
6. We saw River’s obsession with origami rabbits very early in the piece — and some of the events that tracked back as a possible origin along the way. After Johnny told her about his initial motivations is when it all kicked off. Neil thought it might’ve been River holding onto a grudge. What do you think?
I don’t think so, because like I said, I don’t think Johnny’s confession is that big of a deal. And from a story telling perspective, the game is only half-finished at this point so the answer we have now probably isn’t the actual answer.
I think it might have something to do with why Johnny wants to go to the moon. In Asian folklore, depicted in the moon is a rabbit grinding something with a mortar and pestle. What the rabbit is grinding depends on the specific culture. (Maybe here it’s pickled olives?)