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The message behind Avernun: So powerful...


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Anyone besides me discovered Jeff Vogel through playing Avernun Escape From the Pit a few years ago and just fell in love with the game's theme and message? The message of perserverence against all odds, freedom, triumph against adversity, redemption, and will are just sublime messages in my opinion of something bigger that touched me with the game. The idea of fighting back against corruption, the poeers that be, men in suits, and those who want to keep others down and throw away keys or trade people in courtrooms for raises or banks selling their own customers for profit like babk of america's recent out of nowhere fee of $12 a month just for having a checking account that was always free and literally in every bank of the world is free. Stuff like that. Stuff like das and alwyers selling their own clients in the chambers with the judge while no one tells what is going on or what theya re discussing. Stuff like minor criminals being thrown and treated the same as. urderers and lifers all being put in reception centers where you csnt even choose your cellie or move and are literally in a survival mode every time you wake up and half the time dont want to wake up. Stuff like politicians manipulating society and lying to get votes that enbaled those with badges or power or politicians themselves to have more poeer and more laws and more petty things to drag society down with (every yesr in california there is an incentive to put new laws on ballots even if every law in the book was covered there has to be a wuota filled by electuon time for instance).


To me the game represented i dividuals who fought the system, fought corruption and joined forces even with their enemies when it was time and the Empire came (second game I believe). Thats what a lot of gamers with self righteousness will never get: A powerful message put out through a medium such as gaming. That is what I discovered playing Avernun escape from the Pit and hardly any game like it, besides maybe Shenmue and stalker, that touched me in a similar way.  The whole society is decaying and people are becoming more and more fake and distanced as well as egocentrical, yet they do not heed such powerful messages. They just brush them off as just another game or film or novel, when in reality they are like tools or pawns made to be ruled by man in suits or sold in court rooms just like the game shows. Anyway, I found a prison artist who is sharing a similar message through his art imo to Vogel's work and it is worth taking a look:










"Thomas Silverstein, who has been described as America’s “most isolated man,” has been held in an extreme form of solitary confinement under a “no human contact” order for 28 years."


What's kind of funny is he kind of looks like Jeff doesn't he?




Edited by MikeLata
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  • 3 months later...

I don't think I ever went this deep into it but do think that it gives depth and substance to include these kind of questions in the games. Makes you think,  wonder, care, get involved, makes this world more real and alive. The poor buggers are sent to this miserable and dangerous existence that will presumably make their lives short, painful and with little to expect, sometimes for things that shouldn't even be punished at all by any semi-modern human standards and rights. Yet they fight on, find hope, use what they have, use their stealth, disguise and resourcefulness when they don't have the brute strength, do anything in order to get by, they don't give up. They survive and fight back. Ability to survive and unquenchable thirst for freedom, this is what just about anybody admires in another being. They oppress you, they try to fool you, they break their promises, they despise you, they try to make you a slave with no will, but no, don't let the bastards grind you down, believe in yourself and your comrades. Always powerful stuff.

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I also saw a big message of the games to be rebelling against corrupt authority figures. I saw another important theme I thought was a major part of the games too: The games made me think of the story of the Hawk and the Nightingale. In Hesiods's "The Hawk and the Nightingale," a hawk grasps a nightingale in its talons...and there's nothing the nightingale can do about that. It doesn't matter what the nightingale's opinion of that is. It doesn't matter whether the hawk is right or wrong. The hawk has the power, because it's the stronger of the pair. Might makes right. I saw that theme throughout all of the games frequently.


1.Before the events of Avernum, the Empire is the undisputed hawk. It has all the power. It doesn't matter whether it's right or wrong, for most citizens. Nothing they can do can stop it. 


2. Eventually, the Empire finds an enormous series of caves that would come to be called Avernum in the future. The Empire leaders are used to seeing themselves as hawks. They can't imagine not being hawks, so they send their explorers down to the underworld to conquer that, just like they conquered the surface world. They soon find out there are bigger hawks down there than them. The Slithzerikai, for example, are perfectly at home down in the dark tunnels, and the Empire explorers soon become nightingales caught in their talons, and none of them survive. It doesn't matter who was right or wrong. The sliths were the stronger. 


3.  The empire finds a useful purpose for the underworld: a prison. People are terrified of the unknown, so throwing malcontents into the underworld terrifies the populace into obeying all the more. Those who rebel find themselves thrown into the underworld, where they have no more power. The best they can hope for in the underworld is to survive.  It doesn't matter who is right or wrong. The Empire is the strongest...at least on the surface. The prior rebelliousness of the new citizens of the underworld pretty much, probably, amounted to nothing.


4. With the first Avernum game (Escape from the Pit) we find that hawks can come in different forms. The new human residents of the underworld, which they now call Avernum, are weaker than the Empire soldiers were in almost every way. They lack the arrogance of the prior underworld visitors though, and they're fighting to survive and preserve their homes...not fighting for some distant emperor or treasures. They begin to build families, and that makes them all the stronger. It gives them more will to endure. The Avernites become the new hawks of the underworld. It doesn't matter whether they're right or wrong. They're the strongest...although that strength gives them the ability to build a fairer system of government than the empire they came from had.


5. The second Avernum game shows some of the problems that occur when a nightingale attempts to rebel against a hawk. Erika Redmark wanted vengeance against the Empire, so she helped assassinate the Emperor. The game never really makes it clear whether or not this was the wisest choice, and I like that. The choice to assassinate the Emperor kicks off the next five games, but it wasn't necessarily the best choice. Avernum might have been wiped out as a result, and it wouldn't have mattered whether they were right or wrong, because the Empire would have been the stronger. The Empire made the same mistake they made in their first incursion into the underworld though: They forgot there were other hawks under the Earth, such as the Vahnatai, who promptly wiped the floor with them after the Empire made the mistake if irritating them.


6. The third Avernum game, Ruined World, shows some of the positive consequences of Erika's vengeance. The assassination of the old emperor, combined with stomping some humility into the Empire appeared to have taught them that they can't just stomp everything they don't like into no longer being problematic, because there will always be a bigger hawk somewhere, and some of them may come from unexpected places. Again, it was strength that determined everything. Erika's assassination of the old Emperor might have doomed Avernum if events had occurred only slightly differently, but Erika's actions might have also saved the last tribes of nephilim and magical creatures on the surface of the world from the genocidal attitude of the old leadership.


7. Avernum 4 shows more of the consequences of Erika Redmark's vengeance...again making me question the wisdom of assassinating the old Emperor.


8. In Avernum 5 you play as soldiers of the Empire, which is now on more or less friendly terms with Avernum. You see some of the positive effects of Erika Redmark's assassination of the old Emperor. The Empire now has entirely ceased its genocidal ways. It allows nonhumans into its military. You explore the frontier...but humans can be found doing what humans do. In many ways, they don't seem to be improving life in the underworld for its original nonhuman residents, so much as expanding and taking land from magical creatures who already lived there. The Avernites have no genocidal tendencies like the Empire had...but nonetheless drakes, Vahnatai, and other magical creatures can be found expressing hostility towards the expanding humans, or feeling resigned to their eventual extinction. There are circumstances in which you don't have to side with the expanding humans. You can side with the nonhumans in certain ways, and push  the humans back. Avernum has become wealthy and free, but despite its success there's a lingering attitude of...would it have been for the best if humans had never come down to the underworld?


9. In Avernum 6 you play as soldiers of Avernum. Humans aren't built for life in the underworld, and it's beginning to show in multiple ways. Even the more peaceful nonhumans are beginning to push back. Avernum never turns into a glorious and powerful and free nation. It starts to fade and keeps fading. Despite all the struggle in defense of it, the game again asks the question: Would it have been best for humans to never enter the underworld? I don't think the game ever tells that answer. 


10. So, the game leaves you not knowing whether or not it would have been better for nobody to ever have rebelled against the Empire. It's a genuine possibility everyone would have been better off if they'd just all bowed and scraped and passively stood by and let the nephilim and other magical creatures be driven into extinction...and I like that. However the game also makes the point that hawks can be found in unexpected places, and made in unexpected ways, and in the end the weakest members of society who had feebly rebelled against the godlike Empire, ended up saving it, assassinating its emperor, and teaching it humility and a better way of perceiving the world around it. 




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