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The Nature and Nurture of Furi

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“I hear thunder, pitter-patter.”

A prison isn’t only meant to hold someone, it is meant to reform. In ancient Greece, it was the philosopher Plato who thought to use punishment as a form of reformation rather than simply a vessel to suffer. In the late 17th century and into the 18th, the public became more outspoken to public execution, and prison began to focus on two core concepts. The first was deterrence, making prison awful enough that it deterred people from committing crimes. The second was rehabilitation or moral reform, based on Christian morality. They believed they could nurture an individual to see the error of their ways and change their very nature.

Nature versus nurture is one of the oldest debates in the world of psychology. What is the prevalent influence of who we are? Is it nature? Our genes and hereditary factors? Or nurture? Our environmental factors, parents, culture, and early childhood experiences? While the debate emphasized the word “versus,” we now know ourselves to not simply be products of one or the other, but an amalgamation of both. Or, as Dr. Irene Gallego Romero puts it, “You are not the battleground which nature and nurture fight. You are a canvas upon which they collaborate.”

Furi’s tale of The Stranger fighting his way out of a celestial prison is not simply one of escape, but one of an outsider with only the language of violence, learning humanity. While his guide, The Voice, uses him to kill the jailers and escape to be with his daughter, under the surface of this plan is a secondary objective. The Voice hopes that The Stranger’s journey through the prison will we be one of reformation, a tour through humanity in all its beauty and ugliness. That nature and nurture will collaborate on the battlefield.

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When The Stranger first appeared, something about his very nature was devastating to the environment around him. The earth turned scorched black, and the flora wilted away with every step he took, as though he was a walking nuclear reactor in meltdown. This corruption damages even the living.

Seeing this destruction, The Song contacted a brilliant architect to construct a prison to hold The Stranger. This celestial prison was a series of floating islands rising into space, separating him from the very earth he would destroy. Each tier of the prison was the domain of a handpicked Guardian (or Jailer) who would act as a force in The Stranger’s path should he ever escape.

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The Prison

With time slowed in the confines of the prison, each one of them had signed up to serve an eternity of sacrifice locked in chain with The Stranger. The Song, however, forced the architect himself, The Voice, to serve as a Guardian and Jailer.

“She started it all. She even got me locked up!”

Separated from his daughter, this would ultimately prove to be the jailer’s downfall.


The Labyrinth

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In Greek Mythology, there is a famous prison known as The Labyrinth. The myth tells us that King Minos enraged the god Poseidon. As punishment, his wife, Pasiphae, fell in love with a snow-white bull and so birthed the creature known as the Minotaur. It was a creature that consumed man and could not be controlled. King Minos tasked the great inventor and architect Daedalus to construct a labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur.

King Minos had no desire to feed his own people to the creature, so he taxed the city of Athens with sending seven men and women each year that he set loose in the labyrinth with the Minotaur.

To ensure the secret of the structure would never be revealed to the world, King Minos imprisoned Daedalus in tower stretching towards the heavens.

Like King Minos, The Song locked away both the monster and the architect. But there was a storm coming and a proverbial leak in the roof.

“I hear thunder, pitter-patter.”

Facing an enemy with incredible skill and unnatural healing capabilities, one hundred men were sent to take The Stranger down, but they could only succeed in capturing him. Even then, bound in chains, The Stranger would not die. It became clear they would have to hold him forever.

The Voice, however, could not and would not stay forever. He resented his prison, The Song, and his duty for keeping him separated from his daughter down in the Free World. So, he came up with a plan. He realized that his only way out was through the Guardians; for that, he would need the strength of The Stranger to cut through them all.

“I tried so many times to find some way out of here. But there wasn’t one. Except for you. If only I could have found a way out. Without killing them. Without freeing you. But I couldn’t outsmart my greatest work. And slowly that ancient, animal part of my brain took over. The urge that made me fast when she was in danger. That kept me awake when she was sick. The architect gave up and the father came up with a plan.”

The Voice needs The Stranger to escape, but The Stranger’s escape means the death of the planet, the jailers, and maybe even his daughter. He tried for a while to find a cure to the corruption that affected The Scale and the earth but never could.

“I searched and searched… a solution, an answer. Anything. Just some hope, you know, that I could fix this, fix him, so my plan would be flawless. But I never found a thing.”

This failure was not enough to stop The Voice. The parental bond that motivates him is one that is not easily broken. He is a man prepared for everything to end if it means seeing his daughter, his “world”, one more time.

“I need to be alive again. Even if I die a minute later,” he said. “I thought about it for so long. Destruction of the world on one hand. But on the other… what about my world? Why should their world be more valuable than mine? I made my decision. I will free myself. Whatever the cost.”

And so Daedalus released the minotaur from the labyrinth.

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The Cave

Remains of labyrinths can be found in many ancient cultures. Often, they are representative of a spiritual journey, one of discovery. The entrance to the labyrinth is birth and the center is enlightenment.

Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” is one of the oldest and most well-known philosophical concepts. It is a concept of both imprisonment and enlightenment.

The allegory is about a group of prisoners who have spent their entire lives chained up within a cave facing a wall. Behind them, where they cannot see, is a fire. The jailers hold puppets of animals and objects to the fire that cast shadows on the wall the prisoner’s face. The prisoners watch these shadows dance along the wall and having known nothing else before this, they believe this to be their complete reality.

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If one prisoner were to escape his chains, he would discover the shadows and learn his “reality” is not what it seems. Upon leaving the cave, the prisoner would discover an entire world he was unaware of. It reveals his reality was truly but a shadow.

Upon returning to the cave to free the others, the prisoner would be essentially blind as his eyes had now adjusted to the light. The other prisoners, upon seeing this, would believe they will be hurt if they attempt to leave the cave. They may even attack one who challenges their reality.

The Prisoner accustomed to sunlight shows us that once we journey from ignorance, we can not go back. While the other prisoners fear the unknown, the journey out is one of growth that allows the individual to see things from a different perspective. Belief to knowledge. Plato wanted truth, beauty, and justice. Not fear.

At the start of the story, The Stranger is a blank state. He is ignorant of his origins and knows only the language of violence. The Voice knows he is releasing a weapon upon the world to see his daughter, and while he understands this is wrong, he knows he cannot stay the course as a Jailer. The world or his world. A choice with nowhere to dance. The only hope is that the journey through the labyrinth, out of the cave, will act as an empathy machine to The Stranger, and to the player as well.

This plays out slowly through each confrontation with the jailers.

When the Stranger approaches The Chain, he immediately draws his blade. By The Line, he trains his pistol on him but is more cautious. Come the fight with The Song, he tries to walk past her until she moves to stop him. And at fight’s end, he hesitates before the killing blow.

“I think I saw you hesitate after the last fight. You of all people! Why would you ever hesitate? It made me think. I like it. It gives me hope.”

This moment of hesitation, of humanity, was the first sign that The Voice’s secondary objective was working. That the prison was reforming The Stranger.

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“This will eat you up inside for the rest of your days.”

Before The Stranger’s escape, he had only known The Chain, who militantly followed his duty as a jailer. A man who knows that he is protecting the world from someone who would destroy it. This duty and conviction are so resolute that his actions become cruel. Great sins are often done under justification. The Chain watches over The Stranger’s confinement, an electric torture device, subjecting him to pain and even death. This is all The Stranger knows.

“I will keep on killing you. Again. And again.”

This is the only glimpse of this world and its population The Stranger has. He is in essence a child who only knows abuse and the language of violence. Birthed for violence and conquest and shown the same. Like Plato’s cave, the violence is the shadow on the wall, and leaving the cave introduces The Stranger to a host of other traits–most importantly, compassion.

“We humans do not understand compassion. In each moment of our lives, we betray it. Aye, we know of its worth, yet in knowing we then attach to it a value, we guard the giving of it, believing it must be earned… Compassion is priceless in the truest sense of the word. It must be given freely. In abundance.”

– Steven Erikson

The Jailers

The order of the Jailers simultaneously changes The Stranger and the player’s perception.

Writer Audrey Leprince said in an interview, “Each Guardian had to represent something worth fighting and dying for. We wanted them to defend values that made sense, and that you could actually see yourself die for. We wanted the player to see their point of view, and to increasingly think, “The Guardians are right, they are noble or interesting, they can even be touching, they are fighting for something worth it, and fighting against me. What does that make me?” Their character design and personality were based on those big ideals and values.

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With The Chain at the start, The Stranger is motivated to kill him without a second thought, and so is the audience, only aware at this point in the story that The Stranger is being held captive by a sadistic jailer, and that they of course would be playing as the hero. This fight works as a tutorial for combat as both The Stranger and player have no conflicting emotions about what it is they are doing yet and will fight with serious intent.

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The Strap is a prisoner used as a jailer. Layers of walls leave her to howl unheard. A prison within a prison.

“You and the prisoner have a lot in common. She turned up one day. Destroyed everything in her wake and then BAM! She got caged.”

The Voice mentions that when she arrived, she seemed to be “frantically looking for something” but no one could make sense of her. However, the jailer, The Line, said she was here to protect them. In a Q&A with Audrey Leprince she mentioned that if The Strap was successful, “Furi’s main storyline would not have happened.”

The Strap knows of The Stranger but The Stranger does not know of her, nor does the player. She does not speak, she only screams, attacking as if a wild animal. Sympathetic as a tortured prisoner, but ultimately another beast in The Stranger’s and players’ way.

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The Line, calm and collected, is the first jailer to not show immediate hostility. He sits, waiting for The Stranger’s arrival who trains his gun on him but does not attack.

The Line, a master of time, foresaw the Stranger’s arrival. The Voice says: “Our man on the rocks, he knew a lot. He even figured out why you were sent to us. ‘Look at the sky!’ he kept saying, ‘The dot on the sun!’. But no one listened.”. What The Voice didn’t understand, was why he didn’t do anything about it.

The Line tells The Stranger that he foresaw his escape, but not how far he would get. That everything got still when he arrived; that he “made the picture stop”.

As The Line dies, he offers The Stranger a small kindness, a clue to his origins: “Look to the sky, Stranger. Therein lies your answer.”

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The Scale, raging and vengeful, was at the location of The Stranger’s arrival. Because of this, he was corrupted along with the land; mutated, and forced to live in a bio-suit. His domain in the prison is the very land The Stranger destroyed, ripped from the earth to serve as his eternal dwelling.

The Scale shows The Stranger the devastating effects of what he has done and will do if he escapes the prison. He is in essence the personification of The Stranger’s corruption.

“Don’t look so horrified: you’re staring at yourself!”

Facing The Scale is The Stranger facing what he has done, like a child who for the first time, saw that his actions hurt another.

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In a humble home, nestled by gardens and sheltered by a glass dome, The Hand lives with his son. He was one of the original warriors that fought The Stranger when he first arrived and brought him in.

The Hand explains that he is fighting for something much greater than himself and that gives him strength. That The Stranger has no one and can’t understand this, so he can only fail.

“I look at you, Stranger, and I see nothing. Desolation. Death. You are alone. I am fighting for something much greater than this. Can you imagine the strength that gives me? I doubt it. And so your fight ends here.”

This is The Stranger’s introduction to this level of selflessness. Of love, honor, and parenthood. The Hand is less vengeful than previous jailers despite his history. He is honorable.

This primes The Stranger for understanding The Voice’s plight.

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The Song resides in a Garden of Eden-esque environment; one that evokes an image of heaven or paradise, reinforced by her angelic appearance.

The Voice describes her as “Arrogant, self-righteous, and cold,” and yet when The Stranger meets her, she is the first to treat him as a person. She offers him a place in paradise.

“It was all a mistake. The cell, the restraints, the Guardians. We can make this right. You can’t go to my world, but you can be free here. Look at what I’m offering. This can be your home. I’ll take care of you. I’ll tell you the tales of my world. You will tell me yours. There is so much to enjoy here.

She offers him kindness, but in the end, it is simply another prison.

The best way to keep a prisoner from escaping is to make sure he never knows he’s in prison.

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

When The Stranger rejects her and tries to move on, she lashes out at him, making it hard to tell if it’s anger at forcing her gentle hand into a fist or if there was ever kindness at all.

“How dare you shun me. And turn down all of this? You have no idea. I was your only hope.”

The self-righteousness and arrogance of The Song clash with how right she is in so many ways. There is altruism and selfishness in her plight.

At the end of their confrontation, She sees the humanity in him, but not his capacity to change. This is when The Stranger hesitates for the first time.

“This will eat you up inside for the rest of your days.”

A moment. Then he brings the blade down.

The Burst is a talented sniper and tactician. She views her fight with The Stranger as a game, a game that she can perfect and must win. She is cold, and calculating, and does not care to play fair.

“Some relied on skill, some on luck. Fools, the lot of them.”

While The Burst’s characteristics may come off as negative, she is demonstrating a nature that is cunning, intelligent, resourceful, and highly skilled. She is an incredible shot and has prepared for this battle and all its contingencies. Her arrogance stems from someone who always wins and she pushes The Stranger’s abilities.

It is something to be admired.

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The Edge, like Miyamoto Musashi, has devoted his life with ultimate focus to a singular purpose: the way of the warrior. He trains with the blade on purple sands, void of earthly possessions, hoping for the day he will face The Stranger who may give him “something memorable”.

“You sure took your time. I was concerned you wouldn’t make it this far. This is a big day for me. I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment.”

The Edge, unlike those before, never insults The Stranger. In fact, he encourages him and compliments his skill. He lets The Stranger get up when he falls, he urges him to push harder, he wants the moment to last. The Edge relishes the opportunity to fight The Stranger. To him, it’s an opportunity to test himself against the ultimate opponent. To learn something. He doesn’t seem to care if he ultimately wins or loses, he just cares about the fight. The now.

The Edge is a mirror image of The Stranger. While The Stranger was born to the blade, The Edge chose it, but to both, it is their core. By the end of it, they respect each other greatly. The Edge shows The Stranger the discipline one is capable of in dedicating your life to a singular purpose. To something greater than yourself.

The Beat is young and naïve. She volunteered to be the last line of defense against The Stranger. The Voice resents The Song for allowing her to join. While the other Jailers are adults who made a decision to serve as Guardians, The Voice feels The Beat is too young to make such a decision. He blames The Song for the fact he must kill a young girl to get back to his daughter. While she made her own choice, in her, The Voice sees his own daughter staring back.

Audrey Leprince said, “What’s left when everything is beaten, when all other walls have fallen, then the idealism and hope and determination of youth?”

The Beat acts as an important and powerful last piece of the puzzle. She is the youngest person The Stranger has met. Her naivete stands in stark contrast to The Jailers before; battle-hardened and weary. She jumps into the battle eager to fulfill her duty and save the world. But her immediate reaction to The Stranger is one of confusion.

“I look at you, and I don’t understand. We are so alike.”

She spends the confrontation trying to understand The Stranger and pleading with him to stop his escape.

As The Beat dies, she asks The Stranger to hold her hand, but it’s not a concept The Stranger understands.

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“You’re not who you were when you first landed out there. We all have choices to make. We all have to decide what’s worth fighting for.

The Voice knows what he is fighting for. Does The Stranger now know too?

And with that parting message, the Minotaur’s journey out of the labyrinth is complete.


The Free World

When The Stranger sets his feet on the Free World, the corruption begins anew. The Stranger is free but every step he takes spreads that corruption that he has now seen the effects of and the people his very existence threatens.

This sequence leaves the player in control but unsure of what to do, with no guide. The Stranger and player are free but they wander aimlessly in a world they have no place in, mimicking the feeling so many prisoners feel after being released.

With no choice but to move forward The Stranger and player leave a blackened trail as they struggle to find their place in The Free World. Eventually, a cottage by the water beckons, and The Stranger finds The Voice reunited with his daughter. His “world.”

The Stranger and The Voice are men of separate worlds, that have reached a mutual understanding and respect through empathy. One that is beyond violence. The Voice is the only friend The Stranger has but they can not stand together outside the prison walls.

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“So now you know. Maybe you think I’m insane, or maybe you understand. You were my only chance. I hoped it would change you. I think it did. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is what you are going to do.

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What does the prisoner do in the Allegory of the Cave when he sees beyond the shadows on the wall, now armed with new knowledge and can not return to ignorance?

They return to the cave.


The Canvas of Nature and Nurture

At the end of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, it is posited that those still in the cave may react with hostility, perhaps violently, to the returning prisoner who challenges their notion of reality.

With nowhere to go, The Stranger approaches a tower in the distance. It holds a craft attuned to him and he takes it to the stars just like The Line told him. It is here he finds a ship from another planet, one that carries a legion of clones just like him. The ship’s master, The Star, has been waiting on The Stranger (Or “Rider” as it calls him) to return and confirm if the planet is to be assimilated.

At this point, a choice is presented.

“Confirm Planet Assimilation” or “Cancel Invasion. Attack Mothership.”

This is the choice that everything comes down to. It is the reason The Line could not see past The Stranger’s escape; the future hinges on The Stranger’s and thus the player’s choice. It is the ultimate test of The Voice’s hypothesis and plan. The nature of prison and the nurture of man. The nurture of prison and the nature of man.

“It’s all about what a man does.”

The Stranger is a weapon with no past, no family, and no culture. Born for violence and conquest. The Stranger and player both started this journey as a blank state, unaware of their origins and now they are enlightened having seen the truth of things.

“Rider, you have changed. Why is that?”

Like those that remained in the cave, The Star reacts with violence to The Stranger’s return. He challenges The Star’s way of consuming worlds and the notion that their survival is more important. He challenges their very view of reality. “Why is their world worth more than ours?” The Star asks, echoing The Voice’s thoughts on being kept from his daughter. The Star refers to this notion in The Stranger as a “malfunction”.

“They said you corrupted their world, but they corrupted you. You left a conqueror. And came back a traitor.”

The Star is not mistaken, The Stranger was corrupted by his time in their world and changed from his original use. It’s a corruption of compassion.

Social learning theory states that children learn by observing the behavior of others. While our genetics can determine much of the clay, it’s our experience that molds it. Twins separated at birth and raised in different environments have shown major differences. A different clone, a different prison, a different player… What choice would be made then?

The Stranger’s very nature of being a weapon made him suited to fighting his way out of his celestial prison. By doing so he learned humanity. He learned of duty, suffering, and parenthood. Of revenge, discipline, and kindness. Courage and sacrifice. Of fighting for something greater than yourself.

“What will you gain by fighting us? Do you think they will welcome you? They will have no idea of what you did. They don’t even know we exist.”

The Stranger will not be revered for saving the world. History won’t speak of him. The Stranger fights The Star because he now knows something greater. He is doing this because it’s the right thing to do. He is proof that nature and nurture do collaborate, even on the battlefield against all odds. He is proof we can change.

The Stranger battles his original jailer and dismantles the cave where there were only shadows of truth, and escapes as the place explodes. Down on the Free World, The Voice and his daughter watch his departure as a shooting star in the sky, a longtime wish now fulfilled.

And when we are done with one life, we must begin another. Not to be a product of our circumstances, but a product of our decisions.

“I hear thunder, pitter-patter.”

Geordi fell in love with storytelling when he was just four years old. Watching movies that kids maybe shouldn’t, reading books with too many big words, and exploring new worlds on his NES and SNES, he found his passion. Left with a deep empathy for countless worlds and all who inhabited them, he pursued not only media, but firefighting, much to the confusion of his teachers. When he is not consuming every film, book, and game he can get his eyes on, he’s writing about them… and perhaps making his own.

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