Let’s Play Along: “To the Moon” Act I

The fabulous Nathain at Time to Loot is hosting a play-along of To The Moon, a game that follows two doctors as they try to grant a dying man’s wish to go to the moon (roll credits), although they aren’t quite able to discern why he wants to go to the moon.

There are unmarked spoilers below for the first act of To the Moon, so proceed at your own risk!


I’m woefully behind with these posts, but let’s start with the questions posted concerning Act I.

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?

I vehemently disagree with this practice, for many reasons. Right off the bat, what makes each one of us, well, us is our individual experiences and memories. To change a memory would be to play with a fundamental part of who we are. Additionally, to change one memory cannot be done in isolation; it could have unforeseen consequences that even the most trained professionals could not predict, as it would be impossible to fully untangle all the other connections and experiences that were associated with one particular memory.

I think wanting to erase or change a memory because it is painful is, frankly, cowardly at best and incredibly ill-conceived at worst. Is your pain so bad that you would sacrifice the fiber of your being for it?

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A better – albeit harder – endeavor would be to make peace with your memories and experiences, and move forward from them.

A movie called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dealt with a similar idea, and I remember hating the concept in that movie, too, for similar reasons. I think the desire to “make it all just go away” so one doesn’t need to face reality is… something for which I frankly don’t have any nice words to describe. Immature?

If we change our histories, we fundamentally change who we are… and to what end?

I suppose the counter to that is, “This person is dying, so what is the harm?”

Yes, this person is dying, and I think erasing their memories kills the “them” that is them, even faster.

What did you think of River’s choice to put her treatment behind that of Anya?

I… sort of didn’t understand this. I understand refusing treatment, and I understand wanting to will money to a cause, but I don’t understand specifically saying that one will eschew medical treatment because they love a building so much, even if a person has a condition…Unamused Face Emoji for Facebook, Email & SMS | ID#: 9920 | Emoji ...

…like River.

But then I dismissed it as “for the plot” and “to drive the wedge further between John and River due to her condition”…

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…and just went with it.

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?

When it comes to people, I agree with this. After all, while the dates on a person’s tombstone are important, it’s really the dash in between them that matters. It’s the life that happens in the years that’s important, but of course the beginning and end of that life are also important, so in that regard, I agree that no one moment is more important than the other. After all, to all the folks in committed relationships out there, would you say your wedding was more important than the day-to-day commitment you make to each other? Or the moment you decided that you were going to permanently commit to each other?

Or, let’s talk about a life. Is the entire life of a person less important than the moment of their death, which – let’s face it – their entire life has been leading to?

Because, yes, there will be two dates remembered on your tombstone – and they’re important dates – but the most important bit is the dash that comes between them, isn’t it?

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At the end of the day, life is a series of moments, and each of those moments make up a person. I think that makes them equally important.

What did you make of Johnny’s decision not to read the book offered by Dr. Lee?

I was pretty annoyed by it. One of the best things a person can do when they are in a relationship with someone with some sort of diagnosis attached to them (physical, mental, or otherwise) is to become informed about it. To not do that is, in my opinion, disrespectful of the person, and can be potentially disastrous for the relationship.

It seemed like it was supposed to be framed as “he’s so noble for loving her, and the diagnosis doesn’t matter,” but… well my therapist alarms went off and it just made me bristle.

How do you feel about Johnny as a person now, particularly after his revelation of why he (at least initially?) was interested in River?

My first reaction one of disgust. There are people in the world who have fetishes related to being in relationships with individuals with disabilities, and enjoy Being The Caregiver. While one cannot control what one enjoys, I think to engage in this type of relationship is exploitative. I was relieved when Johnny went on to talk about how he wanted to be different, and River was his ticket to accomplish that.

Having said that, I think Johnny’s desire to be “different,” and the thought that the way to do that was by dating “the weird girl” is deplorable. It made me wonder what his issues are, that cause his need to date someone because of what he thinks she can offer him.

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?

While I do not have River’s “condition,”…

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…and therefore can’t personally speak to how she might be processing things, it seems to me that to fold origami rabbits as a way of protesting your husband being a jerk is… sort of a stretch.

I’m also going to sidebar here and say how much I absolutely detest when people say “condition” when referring to a person’s diagnosis or disability. It’s not a condition that they find themselves in. It is a part of who they are. This is the type of word used to tip-toe around actually having to confront the person’s diagnosis/disability, in my opinion.

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If you’re not afraid of it, then name it.

While I understand that, in the context of the game, the developers maybe didn’t want to name The Condition, perhaps in an attempt to be sensitive, but I just couldn’t get past it when it came up in the game.

End rant. Back to the questions:

Honestly, considering her love of animals (note the ever-present platypus toy and her lingering at the poor rabbit in the road on her wedding day) and her not-always-typical verbal communication skills, I assume that she’s trying to tell Johnny something. This would make sense especially considering she asks him to describe it to her, but then becomes frustrated, as if she’s trying to lead him to say something that he just doesn’t understand.

But what could it be…?

I’m looking forward to the events that unfold in Act II! Have you played To the Moon? What did you think of it? Did you have strong feelings about the events in Act I discussed above? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
~ Athena

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  1. Whether it is the right, or a good approach, is a whole other question — but from interviews with Kan Gao (the writer/developer) I can tell you the *intent* of not calling out Autism by name was that he wanted to write a human story that simply has a character who happens to be autistic in it.

    He did go on to say, though, that he also believed it was easier to be inclusive to get people interested in finding out more for themselves by indirectly involving rather than labeling it and shining a spotlight on it so harshly right the way through.

    I’ll link the full interview — but I suggest perhaps coming back and reading it after you’ve finished the game. I wouldn’t say there are huge spoilers in it, but some things are spoiled by implication of what is said I think.
    Link for later: https://hghome.ie/autism-kan-gao-and-to-the-moon/

    Beyond that… I agree with much of what you’ve said. The only other major point I would say is that River putting Anya ahead of her treatment would apparently not be so out of the realm of possibility for River. At least to the point where it isn’t ‘just’ a plot device.

    I also freely admit though this was not something I had *any* idea about originally, and have only discovered this through research after the fact. (So perhaps Kan was onto something?)

    While the game demonstrates not everyone with Autism will present the same, and that being on the spectrum in no way diminishes the individuality of the person, Object Personification is a relatively common feature of Autism. It seems a bit weird when you consider one of the defining features of ASD is the difficulty in understanding and verbalising other people’s or even their own emotions.

    Hoo boy, I’m 100% writing another post in your comments here. Sorry!

    Thank-you for posting too, no worry at all that it’s late. I look forward to seeing your thoughts for the future parts, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the detailed response! Long comments are always welcome!!

      I’m sure the intent was not bad in any way. The word “condition” just rubs me the wrong way. I have bad associations with that word both personally and as a person who works with people with disabilities, so while I appreciate that naming the diagnosis would have made the game *about* the diagnosis somehow, I just bristle at the use of that particular word. Especially because a doctor used it, instead of something less colloquial.

      Yes, object personification is common in individuals with ASD. I think part of my confusion was that based on other context clues, I assumed River has what used to be called Asperger’s syndrome (the book the doctor gives is by a well-known expert on Aperger’s in women), which… doesn’t as often have that sort of *intense* object personification, at least to my understanding and experience. But of course, River could experience the world this way because that’s how she is, both in and for this story.

      I’m interested to see how the story progresses! Thanks again for hosting the play along!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank-you for the additional insight! I had assumed, incorrectly until doing a little further looking based on your comment, that Asperger’s had been completely rolled into the ASD diagnosis to such an extent that there was no real differentiation between the two to be made.

        But now I think your experience and info may well be right — Asperger’s seems to be considered at the less severe end of the spectrum by and large, so it is possible that placing Anya over her treatment *is* just for the story, at least going by all that we can know at this point in time.

        If I may ask though as I’m still not sure I understand yet — and I would like to — the negative connotations you’ve indicated that exist with the word ‘condition’? I would have thought it relatively benign, but it seems I am missing something here.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. You’re right. Currently, there is no “official” differentiation between ASD and Asperger’s (as per the current DSM5), but colloquially I think people tend to differentiate, because they really are very different from each other. With that in mind, it’s also possible that I made my own assumptions that were beyond what the game was trying to convey!! My overthinking does get me into trouble sometimes! (haha)

          Incoming text wall—

          In my own experience with an autoimmune disease, when people referred to my “condition,” it was always said with a little hesitation, and then in a whisper, as if it wasn’t something polite to talk about. I hated it. I hated feeling like something that was such a big part of my life/experience as a person couldn’t be talked about like any other “regular” topic. So, I admit I went into this game with my own biases.

          As far as I am aware, the term “condition” isn’t considered good or bad, and is often used in conjunction with other diagnostic words like “psychiatric condition” or “medical condition.” But when it comes to developmental disabilities, I’ve never heard “developmental condition.” It just becomes “condition.” I think once the descriptor (“psychiatric” or “medical,” in this case) is gone, it changes the meaning a little.

          Whenever I’ve heard the word “condition” used (working with people with developmental disabilities), it seems to be used to tiptoe around actual descriptive language. To me it’s the difference between saying “He Who Must Not Be Named” and saying “Voldemort.” It’s considered better, more polite, and socially sensitive, but it also “others” the actual diagnosis/symptom/person. Like I alluded to in my post, a “condition” is a situation one is in, or the *quality* of something, or in this case someONE. I think it’s *that* connotation that bothers me so much: the implication about the “condition” River (as a person) is in, as if some people are in better condition than others, if that makes sense.

          For an example, the heart of a person who has had a heart attack is in worse condition than a heart sans heart attack. But what are we talking about when we talk about the “condition” of someone with a developmental disability? Their brain? Their personality? Their mind? These are much more defining characteristics of a person that we are now judging.

          Again, this is only my opinion; I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t take offense, and that’s absolutely valid! I have too much of my own bias to say whether there is something inherently wrong with the word “condition.” I just prefer to use words like “diagnosis,” “symptom,” or “disability” (or the diagnosis name). I don’t think those are words that need to be shied away from, and can describe a person’s differing life experience without any implied value judgment.

          I see I could have been clearer about my opinion in the post, so I’ll make an edit this weekend! Thank you for your thoughts!!! I love having my ideas intellectually challenged! 😀 We should continue this conversation, for sure.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Thank-you Athena for taking the time to explain in more detail for me. I think in this case it isn’t really something I would ‘challenge’ per se.

            In this particular instance, it costs nothing nor hurts anyone else to pay respect to your Individual experience and feelings on the matter. Agreeing or not isn’t really even necessary for that. Although in this particular instance, I was nodding along to your description and thinking of instances where I’ve both seen and even been part of those sorts of awkward, not-at-all-sure-what-to-say conversations.

            I think in many cases, this is another example of intent and outcome not quite lining up. The intent in most cases isn’t going to be to alienate the person in question, but in being so indirect and unwilling (or, possibly, unable) to talk about it in a clearer manner leads to the outcomes you’ve described.

            Also? Almost as a side note to that — huge respect for calling out the personal bias aspect to it too. Being able to identify these and call them out is something I’ve been trying to work on and do, too. It’s funny how sometimes acknowledging something openly as a bias can actually *help* someone better identify with your point of view, too. That was certainly the case here, with this exchange.

            I think without that personal context I would have been much more likely to try engage on almost a purely… hmm.. technical? level, otherwise completely missing the point. So — thank-you again! 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

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