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Memories as a Stimulus for Existential Quests

22nd August 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

Contemplating the array of emotionally-charged ventures each of us can undertake on a personal level, breaking free from one's past can prove especially taxing. Of deep spiritual importance is the ability to conquer internal burdens, and in calling to mind the complexity of these lofty goals, thoughts can gravitate towards the necessity of arbitrary decisions. Yet, the encircling process -- often preceded by more insistent variables -- is similarly, if not more expansive and should therefore not be discounted. It entails the gathering and filtration of information, pulling in of internal resources, and, stemming from that, the acceptance of external assistance to aid in the satisfying of personal desires. But as the relationship between the characters Ashley and D in Trace Memory reflects, such entreaties for change can lead us astray in the management of our personal identities. To a debatable healthfulness, an incited desire to round out our storehouse of information can at times distort the extent of our forward movement. Going one step further, individuals may be led into a self-serving mindset and furthermore ward away reason in favor of what is instantaneous.

SPOILER ALERT !  This feature includes both mid-game and end-of-game spoilers.

In the discussion of discovery and the mixed company of reality and truth, there is a certain eventuality that must be prepared for -- namely that what you earnestly seek isn't what you will in fact find. And in the fear of those answers taking a negative or completely earth-shattering form comes the surfacing of both natural and uncharacteristic acts of emotion. At various points throughout Trace Memory's storyline, the main character, Ashley Robbins, displays a number of erratic behavioural responses to the ever-encroaching presence of reality and truth. With her youth being a contributing factor, she is portrayed as a bratty, impatient, get-to-the-point kind of girl who only has an interest in extending a conversation if it directly pertains to her -- and by extension, her quest. With personal comments (e.g., "I've had a lot of experience not getting myself killed!") revealing a bitterness towards not knowing all surrounding details and a dissatisfaction with not having it served to her in the now, her development becomes an especially worthwhile point of consideration as the enigmatic character, D, enters into the picture.

This mysterious individual is a far more interesting character type despite being shrouded in his own melancholic uncertainty. Coming to the realization that one has lost control over their direction in life, becoming fixated on the actual gravity of the situation instead of the distant solution can lead to the adoption of destructive attitudes. D is revealed as having more than 50 years of experience not having any companionship or active communication with the world, and when he meets up with Ashley -- presumably pure in spirits to even see the shadowy figure -- he announces his desire to get his life back. Back in order or back to its former state, he doesn't ever say, but it is inferred that his inability to move on has proven costly in its unending misery.

Being able to relate to each other's plight of suffering and loneliness prompts the two to join up in an effort to find their way together. This piggyback technique of shared circumstances serves as a psychological crux for these two individuals to form a bond and carry out their personal missions with the aid of the other. Two heads are better than one, as the expression goes, but only if the two work harmoniously towards the same objective.

Despite groping with a bad situation for what would no doubt feel like eons, D shows signs of personal recovery on a progressive basis in the way he starts to slowly remember key details relating to the blurred life he had. A key passing moment is seen when Ashley stumbles across a key detail relating to her journey, delivered from an unexpected source. Questioning her motives, her desire to continue uncovering the truth fades to an alarming low, and instead of relying on what she has done up to this point -- looking beyond the obvious and posing questions as the inquisitive sort that she is -- she curls up into a ball and allows her emotions to catch up with her. It is at this low point that D functions as a comforter, reminding her of the reasons why she longed to seek after this truth in the first place and assuring her that, like it or not, her quest was not over. Temporarily halted, perhaps, but certainly not completed.

Ashley certainly possesses this similar quality of helpful behaviours in her observance for clues that knock D into a state of remembrance. However, it would be wrong to conclude that this is purely of righteous intentions that these realizations occur. More coincidental than sought after in the interest of the other person, it becomes apparent that Ashley is really looking out for herself, as demonstrated by her actions of outburst and insensitivity as well as her lack of needed assurances towards D. What's interesting is the manner in which this affects the player, too. Coming to the conclusion of her quest after much time spent deliberating over its value, we find a powerful reminder that initially seems out of place, but it is one that foreshadows the underlying point about being caught up in one side of the story.

When Ashley and her father, Richard, are in the cave sharing a precious memory together, D jumps in with the expression, "What about
my past, Ashley?" Without adequate context, such a statement would seem selfish, extraordinarily out of character. It is only after stopping to properly digest that a key point is made -- the level of selfishness being attributed to D should, in fact, be looked at with Ashley's character in mind.
Her quest being satisfied to a more than partial degree, instead of manifesting continued care and interest in D's welfare, her long-unsatisfied now-realized emotional needs blind her to his needs, which have not been perfectly met. Perhaps not an entire disregard, but certainly to the extent that she puts it aside and virtually forgets about having an interest in continuing that shared quest now that her portion is seeing fulfillment. What started out as a dual effort to push through personal walls eventually transpired into a situation where only one of the two displayed true commitment, understanding the twofold nature of the big picture -- that of giving and receiving.

Whereupon fully meeting one's goal-oriented ends, the quest still cannot be seen as being complete in the fullest of terms. Definition comes about through decisions made and attitudes adopted in the hereafter just as much as the extension of process in the lapse of time for one's desiring to achieve those ends. To quote the game directly, "Real sadness comes from not knowing the truth" -- a true statement that D knew all too well and Ashley further failed to ease. In an act of irresponsibility, Ashley all but drops support of D's not-even-half-complete quest, inferring that there's nothing more that can be done on her end.

Long before this disloyalty is made manifest, breaches in the arrangement surfaced in the way of Ashley's continuing to receive invaluable pieces of information at a steady pace while D was left on his own to pick up the pieces of his own trail. And yet, he still served as a strong support system for Ashley to continue on in her journey unafraid. To pull from the game once more, some of his final expressions (e.g., "I guess I'll try to recover the rest on my own") reflect an inward despair over where his path will lead him and a reserved dissatisfaction over unfulfilled promises. But by choosing not to lambast his cohort for failing to reciprocate genuine kindness to the same depth, D demonstrates true maturity during these final exchanges, thus driving home that the fulfilling of these end quests is not a direct indication that the individual has ostensibly learned from the experience in matters relating to innermost qualities.

In a personal quest for truth, an impetuous fixation on the past can consume us on both conscious and subconscious levels and produce within us effects that are detrimental to our view of the world and those around us. Thusly not always marked by an aggregate uprightness, relying solely on personal effects as a stimulus to achieve completeness in understanding can narrow our minds to the concept of quests beyond our own. As the sharing and inserting of ourselves into the lives of others for the driving of shared stories and existentialist discoveries is what pulls humanity together, to cast this aside entirely for pursuits of a selfish accord is to betray the deeper functions of story, however incomplete.

Feature by KnucklesSonic8