The Path is a remarkably sexist game.
The Path adheres closely to the conventions of the adventure game. Players wander around an environment interacting with objects and getting little bits of media fed to them. In this case players control six women of different ages as they explore a dark, wooded area, each having different experiences with similar themes. The game’s psycho-sexual atmosphere is clearly inspired by Silent Hill 2 and is just as effective.
However, the problem with adventure games is that unless they’re skillfully constructed the player’s choices will seem like a charade. This is unfortunate for a game that exclusively features female characters. In The Path players take on the role of several different women but the situation is always the same: they can explore all they want but have no real effect on the environment. They don’t make things happen, things happen to them. Their only form of participation is passivity.
Structurally this presents the female condition as one of victimhood far more than any game with a princess. The Path should be contrasted with a game like Queens, where victimization is the beginning of a journey, not it’s climax.
What is sad is that The Path‘s sexism feels like the result of the developer’s, Tale of Tales, choice that the media in the game was more important than the play. The Path has no undercurrent of questioning or subversion in its portrayal of women because the avatars and the player are both meant to do one thing, namely experience what Tale of Tales has carefully planned for them.
Games are a richly empowering form of culture; they celebrate possibility more than inevitability. It’s a shame really, The Path might not be so retrograde if it had been worse as art but better as a game.