Inside begins in medias res: all the player knows is that he/she controls a boy in a red shirt who must flee from masked men with guns. From its limited color palette (almost completely and deliberately, monochromatic) to its absence of a narrator and dialogue, the game looks and feels sparse. Nothing extra-diegetic invades or frames the world of Inside; the player, dropped into the world sans instructions or an explicitly established objective, simply plays and experiences the game, slowly immersing him/herself in Inside’s rawness. When I characterize the game as raw, I intend to convey how strikingly the developers have depicted the preponderance and iniquity of death as juxtaposed to the sanctity of life. Chilling and unnerving, gray, dull pig carcasses stacked in heaps serve as a leitmotif, a recurring image of death that populates the already desolate and dark landscapes. But in opposition to the image of death, little bright yellow chicks come and go, following the protagonist around, chirping away. In a world washed in black and gray, the golden animals counteract the great many images of memento mori.
As the chicks must be utilized so as to solve puzzles, they function as a way to keep the protagonist alive; they are life-giving and precious–necessary even, to the completion of the game. This notion of the preciousness of life pervades the protagonist’s every action, from his sonorous steps to his fearful breathing. As the player, the individual who controls and dictates the protagonist’s life, you feel responsible for this apocryphal boy. There is no music to distance the player from the character: you are with him, hearing only what he can hear. This proximity or intimacy makes failure even more significant. The responsive controls cease to function when a bullet pierces the boy’s chest. The child’s death can be felt at the player’s fingertips. And he/she–the player– is the one at fault, the one who has caused the demise of life in a world so bereft of hope as it is.