I like the idea of escape within my escape. It is very meta, and pulls me in that much deeper to whatever it is I am losing myself in. The idea that I escape into a video game world to get away from the constant flow of bills and drama and life and love and work and pain, and then, within that game, the person I am playing as is also escaping into an imaginary or fantastic world to escape the tedium of THEIR life. It is like finding a hole into Wonderland, falling into it, and then realizing the Wonderland you were in was a cover up of an even more fantastic Wonderland, which you then fall into, head over heels, all over again.
It’s profound to think about it, and these six games made me feel like I was experiencing that exact feeling, over and over again. A sort of fantastic, meta, deja-vu of real, written, and virtual worlds, all mashing into one. Also, I am going to try to stay as metaphorical about the Wonderlands on this list, so the stellar American McGee Alice games will NOT be included here, even though I have a soft spot in my heart for them.
Far Cry 3
The only video game I’ve ever been in, and I was portrayed quite realistically.
I honestly think Far Cry 3 may be one of the most misunderstood games in a long time. This game was not the literal game it was presenting itself as. It was mocking those ideals, and I think people missed that (even though the game quoted Alice In Wonderland directly, many, many times). This was the “frat boy” version of what finding Wonderland would be. This was becoming the titular action hero who saves a whole island of people by killing 2/3 of the population. You are LITERALLY flying by the end of the game (you may have had a wing suit, but still) so people who took this game as literal and called it racist or self-important genuinely missed out on the nuances of the story.
This was the “First World Frat Guy” version of Alice In Wonderland. He finds himself through violence, sex, and redemption. It is as much influenced by Commando as it is Alice In Wonderland, and that is why it works so well, even if most don’t see that.
Kingdom Hearts (Series)
I’m sorry to say this, but the glazed look and hand gesture makes it look like Cheshire wants to grab Sora’s nuts.
Okay, I know this LITERALLY has Alice and Wonderland in it, but outside of that, think about this game. Sora is dropped into different worlds, where he must find trinkets and interact with the odd inhabitants in order to survive. There is always some friendly “white rabbit” in each level to help him along (in this case, whoever the level’s co-star is), and he must always overcome overwhelming odds to defeat evil and find his way back home, all while finding out who he truly is. The similarities go on for days, but the thing about Kingdom Hearts is, is swallows you in the best way possible. Each level is designed and executed perfectly, and everything from the voice acting to the perfect Disney style graphics immerse you so much, we very much become Alice, falling down the rabbit hole anytime we turn these games on.
Except for that Little Mermaid singing section of part two. We NEVER speak of that again.
If I loved this game any more than I do, this screen shot would be pregnant.
I love bringing up a game like Psychonauts, because when I do, I often get flooded with the awesome feelings I had when I originally played that game. It is like comfort food for the mind. And Psychonauts is obviously influenced by Alice in Wonderland, and that is apparent in many things. From the level design of the worlds they created in that game, to the actual “white rabbit”, Psychonauts is very much the same thing as Alice In Wonderland, just with an awesome new coat of paint. The idea of traveling into the mind to face one’s demons and fears, and coming out of it a better, brighter person.
Speaking of facing inner demons….
No one ever said Wonderland was always gonna be a healthy place.
Alright, I know I may lose you here, but there is a reason I think this. Think about the first Manhunt game. It begins with you being put to death for unknown crimes, but we come to find out you were set free, (this is the proverbial fall into Wonderland). Once there, you are made to interact with strange objects and even stranger people, slowly losing your mind as you try to figure out what is going on around you. In this case, your “white rabbit” is the “director”, who is sort of leading you from scene to scene with haste, reminding you that there are always more serious matters at hand.
Hell, you even have the Bandersnatch. Only this time it is a naked pig man. To some, it may seem like grasping at straws, but I made the connection in my head long before I ever thought of this list. The last thing to prove my point is, the entirety of Alice’s journey into Wonderland is finding out who she truly is and what she can survive. And what do you think happens to James Earl Cash across the game? He finds out just who he is. A monster or a man, that’s left up to us.
Even the classic art style of the game reminds us of the apex of good literature.
Bioshock is closer to Far Cry 3 in the sense that it is definitely more obviously connected to Wonderland. Even the fact that, in the first Bioshock, they take you “down” (the rabbit hole) into Rapture, and how your white rabbit was obviously Atlas, only a rabbit with far more nefarious intentions than most. It is also interesting because Bioshock played with the idea of free will and decision making, and though we all know Bioshock is more Ayn Rand than Lewis Carrol, it would be silly of us to not see influences in Bioshock from all areas of classic literature.
Same can be said for Infinite, which I think is even MORE Alice In Wonderland, with the white rabbit this time being the amazing Lutece twins. Plus, the idea of different dimensions and multiple alternative timelines creating different worlds is kind of what Wonderland is, isn’t it? No? Fair enough.
Silent Hill (Series)
Sorry, but in this game, your white rabbit is also a mannequin rapist.
Understand, just because we can recess into our own minds and imaginations, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing, or a place we would ever want to be. In this series, the Wonderland is Hell, and you only go there if you are dead or have done something your mind REALLY doesn’t want you to remember. I adore this series and connect it to Alice In Wonderland in my mind because I think if I traveled into the Wonderland in MY mind, it would look way more like Silent Hill than anything Lewis Carrol could have come up with.