Finding love in loss.

Horror-platformer game Rattenkönig (German for “Rat King”) concludes with the disembowelment of a player-controlled rat, after it throws itself—and its dead sibling, whose tail is irrevocably entangled with its own—into a pit of circular saws.

Before arriving at this grisly end, navigating through a factory-like platform setting with a deadweight carcass knotted to my rat’s body resulted in failed leaps and constantly snagging into obstacles. But my grief stemmed not from these clumsy platforming attempts. Rather, it came from knowing that the rat was forced into its familial care-taking labor… and, thanks to tragically simple game mechanics, forced to do it poorly

No mechanic allows it to lovingly tend to the sibling’s body, nor its own. The rat yanks its sibling along claustrophobic passages, struggling forward as the dead sibling crashes into walls and slams onto the ground after each successful jump. I felt burdened with guilt each time the sibling wedged into a corner, stunting the living rat’s kinesis. Did the living rat endure the same helplessness I did, unable—perhaps unwilling—to embrace family amidst its own unending agony?

The bleak, dystopian disembowelment, which saws the living rat in half and severs it from its sibling, ironically felt like relief from suffering. In the final cutscene, the rat crawls to and caresses its sibling, liberated enough to seek and spread love on its own terms. And amid my sorrow, I found triumph in loss, peace in cruel mercy.

By Alina Kim

Alina is a political writer based in Washington, DC. Her bylines include Xtra Magazine, ABC News, and more. When not in the newsroom, she can be found speedrunning Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. Found her on Twitter @the_alina_kim

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