[Spoilers follow for The Park]
Despite being a relatively short experience (I finished it in around 90 minutes), The Park is one of those games that sticks with you for a while, leaving you idly thinking about it and wondering what it was that you actually experienced while playing it. It’s for this reason that I feel like $12.99 isn’t really that unfair a price for a game of its nature.
Ever since finishing the game, I’ve been thinking about what it was that actually happened. To me, it seems like you have the option of either considering what you witness throughout the game as being pretty literal, or as an allegory for a deeper metaphor, or perhaps somewhere in between those options. According to Funcom’s own team, though, this is part of the fun. I actually asked Erling Ellingsen, the company’s Vice President of PR and Marketing, who replied by saying that theorizing was part of the fun with a game like this.
Here are some things that are given, no matter what interpretation we walk away with: The Bogeyman, who was once Nathaniel Winters (the founder of Atlantic Island Park) is very real. The Park builds off of what is seen in The Secret World and provides a strong prelude to what is seen in that game by showing us the origins of the park itself and how Nathaniel Winters came to be the Bogeyman. Lorraine encounters him throughout her journey in the amusement park as she seemingly searches for her son Callum, and while riding the roller coaster the two have a conversation that’s rather telling (more on that later). The other given truth is that Callum is dead. Whether he dies at the end of the game or whether he was dead before the game took place, though, is up for debate.
The literal interpretation would be that what is seen in the game happened exactly as we saw it. Lorraine’s son Callum runs into the old amusement park, and during the ride up the escalator leading into the main park, they get sucked into the pocket dimension controlled by the Bogeyman (a canon ability he has in TSW). This alternate dimension feeds off of the fear and other emotions of those victims who enter it, and is a realm of perpetual night and deterioration. Here, she tries to find Callum, but he gets tempted more and more by the powers of the park (and the dark powers over the land that are hinted at in notes the player can find). Her past unravels as she looks for him, though. If we take a literal understanding, it seems that she brought Callum to the park many times, and over time something was “changing him” and even hurting him (Winters?). This final trip to the park, though, they are drawn into his world and he drains them until Lorraine has no other options but to escape her life with Callum (hinted at in what the Bogeyman makes her experience of her past in the Horror House) and she willingly, at his urging, takes her son’s life.
But, there is circumstantial evidence as you play on in the game that might suggest that Callum was dead before the game takes place. For example, in Side-Show Alley there’s a newspaper clipping that talks about the body of an unidentified child that is discovered behind the cotton candy stand. Was this child another victim of Chad the Chipmunk? Perhaps Callum did run into the park at one point in the past after hours, but he fell victim to Chad, was dismembered, and his body dumped behind the cotton candy shack. Further, though, there’s a note in the parking lot outside the park that the player can discover that talks about how the Bogeyman’s victims are often forgotten. Whether this means that their entire lives are forgotten or simply what happened to them is forgotten remains unclear. Perhaps Callum was killed and perhaps because the body was unable to be identified, Lorraine was unable to come to terms with his death. But there’s another theory I read about that says that Lorraine may have in fact killed Callum herself, possibly wearing a Chad the Chipmunk costume. This comes from a note that says that it was strange that Steven (the normal Chad person) was wearing the costume at the diner one night when, in fact, he was also on shift at the park itself. Perhaps Lorraine herself was corrupted during all of her visits to the park, donned the Chad costume, and ended up killing Callum herself that night, but because victims of the park are forgotten, maybe she forgot she killed Callum and entered this endless loop of searching for him. Even the Bogeyman suggests that she already was alone before she entered the park.
But there are some loose ends no matter what. The park attendant seen at the info booth is the big one, because as it turns out, at the end of the game, the man she is talking to is not a detective, but rather he is an agent of a group called the Council of Venice. And, since he is the one seen at the park entrance too, that could suggest that the council was aware of what was going on in the park, and they unwittingly were letting people fall victim to the Bogeyman either as a test to see if they had any latent powers themselves, or so that they could gain a better understanding of him. Also, the park itself closed in late-1980, and graffiti in the park suggests it is actually later than that when we are exploring the park. Does that mean that it has been several years, and Lorraine is just stuck within the park’s grasp that keeps her coming back? And if so, why is it that the park seems functional when we meet the council agent at the ticket booth if it’s actually possibly a few years after the park is closed? Was this a trick by the council to lure people like Lorraine in? And why is it then that the agent can see Callum as he runs in (is Callum a ghost but he is able to see it too?)?
Lots of possibilities here for certain, but that’s what makes The Park the fun experience that it is.
So, for those of you who have played the game – what do you think? Do you have any direct theory about what we saw?