Story Discussion | The Layers of “Seasons After Fall”
I’m making a habit of writing about plot and story. It’s what I like most in games bar very little. I’ve done it before when I made a guess about were the “We Happy Few” story could go on full release. Was wrong but that just shows the flexibility of unknown stories. Although I can’t wait to find out what I got right and were I was wrong. To keep making guesses “wouldn’t be fun” and would spoil the adventure. I will go back for more Joy soon.
This time I want to talk about a known story, the story of “Seasons after Fall” by Swing Swing Submarine. But while this lets me flex my art interpretation chops once again I must say;
Seasons after Fall is a good example of how presentation can be used as a way to present additional story and story interpretations without beating you over the head with it. Showing it through background storytelling or just leaving it open to interpretation when everything else in the game is combined with it. Their are some other good examples of this allegorical messaging like “FernGully” (1992, Bill Kroyer) on environmentalism and “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” (2011, Ubisoft) on transhumanism. Both weave the message and story together (although Deus Ex is admittedly more subtle with it’s messaging). Both ironically have sequels the end up having a over bearing message and end up beating you with it.
Seasons after Fall falls in the former, allowing the story itself to reinterpreted allegorically as well as having smaller messages within.
The base of the story is of a forest spirit (the player character) that is told to posses a wild fox so it can collect fragments of the four seasons so the commanding voice can conduct the Ritual of Seasons on the spirit. After the ritual fails, killing the wild fox, the voice is shown to be a Seed (a seed of a new forest) who wanted to not have the ritual done on herself. Out of fear, she hides away as the Guardian of Winter wakes up. The forest spirit is then tasked with gathering the four Guardians of the Seasons and convincing the seed to be in the ritual. The spirit, in the shape of it’s dead fox friend, destroys the Seeds fears as it holds on to as treasures and convinces the Seed to be part of the ritual. The ritual is then conducted and the Seed and she gets her own Guardian stone (like the Guardians of the Seasons) and becomes a forest guardian spirit of a new forest.
This base story is built on with additional collectables that opens it up to interpretation. Throughout the game there are hidden sleeping beds for the fox that present flash back cut-scenes of the Guardian of Winter and the Seed as dreams. This is were the biggest allegorical message is presented strongest. It presents the relationship of the Guardian of Winter and the Seed as of a father and daughter with the father preparing his daughter to leave the comfort of the parental home and to venture in to the world beyond and to start her own home and family with the fox as her friend and protector. That may be seem like reading a lot into it but let me explain.
When the Guardian of Winter and the Seed interact for the first time, the Guardian remarks that he doesn’t recognise her voice after being asleep for so long. This is then combined with some of the flashback dreams and later conversations between them where he calls her ‘Little Seed’. As the flashback progress, the conversation go deeper into their past to the point were the last conversation is before the Seed knew about the ritual of seasons. The last sequence had the Seed talk and act like a child, disgruntled at the Guardian of Winter as a father who says he will explain the ritual of seasons when she’s older. The final line has the Seed say ‘if you won’t tell me about the ritual, I will just spy on you and the counsel and find out myself.’ This shows that her fears and the ‘abandonment’ that she thinks will happen after the ritual is her growing up and leaving the family home. All together, the Seeds treasures that the fox destroys through the nightmare sequences are her fears of growing up.
But this is not the only message on growing up. One other person is called ‘Little Seed’ in the game, the player forest spirit in the early game.
The bonus after credits ending shows the Guardians absorbing the fox with a new ritual. The player then can run to the Seeds new Guardian stone, growing leaves in it’s wake. When the player gets to the stone, the embodiment of the fox surrounds it and the spirit then joins again with it together as the games final climax. With the Seed now as Forest Guardian and with her calling the fox ‘Little Seed’ early in the game, using the same interpretation as the Guardian of Winter and the Seed means that the forest spirit that is the fox is her ‘Little Seed’, her son or daughter. This becomes all the poignant as main message is of leaving the perinatal home to make a new life for herself.
All this shows that a story can have more meanings that what is explicitly shown and can mean things far beyond what a story has presented. The main story is of forest spirits becoming new forests but there is the undercurrent of things much more human. The more subtle message is of a father comforting his daughter as she becomes afraid of what the future holds on the birth of her child, ending with her finding the strength of leave the perinatal home and starting the cycle of life anew. Because as the Guardian of Winter says; ‘Nothing truly begins, just as nothing truly ends.’
Little Seeds grow up to be forests all their own as the forest brings life to new Little Seeds in the the Seasons after Fall.