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Little Red Riding Hood on Steroids in “The Path:” a game with themes of girls’ innocence and sexuality

July 16, 2009
Eleven-year-old Rose is just one of six characters — all girls — who is described as She is very innocent and wants to protect and care for all people and creatures" (

Eleven-year-old Rose is just one of six characters — all girls — who is described as "very innocent and wants to protect and care for all people and creatures" (

Breaking a new genre of computer gaming, “The Path” was released in March 2009 by an independent game developing studio called Tale of Tales. “The Path” is a game based off of the children’s story Little Red Riding Hood, but a lot scarier. “The Path” has six different characters, all girls, ranging from 9 years to 19 years old. The purpose of the game is to make it to Grandmother’s house safely by staying on the path and avoiding strangers, particularly male strangers. But you do fail the game if you make to Grandmother’s house without meeting the wolf. So that means that you can’t stay off the path—you have to go into the forest. In a segment on NPR’s All Things Considered, the game is described as

The moment you step off the path and into the forest, the terror of the game begins. Sunshine fades to murky darkness. You hear low moans but can’t tell if they’re from pleasure or pain.

And you know, all the time, that the wolf is out there waiting. In one of his incarnations, he’s a white light that sweeps you into the sky. It feels ecstatic and horrifying at the same time. When it’s over, you’re left lying in a heap.

While I have never personally played the game, this description is gloomy. The underlying sexual subtleties (from “moans” to “male strangers” to all of the main characters being young girls) is disturbing because it reinforces the sexualization of young girls. By reinacting girls’ innocence and vulnerability, especially amongst male strangers, does not teach girls how to protect themselves from unknown and difficult situations posed in this game. The creators, Michaël Samyn and Auriea Harvey (co-founders of Tale of Tales), explain in an interview with Adventure Classic Gaming that:

Sexuality is not so much a theme in The Path as are the concepts of seduction, temptation, attraction and curiosity. Those are all aspects of the main traditional theme in Little Red Riding Hood: growing up.


So we’ve got hints of sexuality and girls’ innocence as the main theme of the game here. In the same Adventure Classic Gaming interview, the question was posed, “How do you expect the players, especially male players, to relate to the main characters at their different stages of womanhood and with their different personalities?” Samyn and Harvey responded that:

From what we’ve seen, in general women tend to identify with a particular character and men are looking to fall in love with one.

Men looking to fall in love with girls, where five out of the six characters are under the age of 18, including a 9 year old? Ugh. This game makes me sick already.

  1. Erik permalink
    July 16, 2009 1:14 pm

    This brings up the much broader issue of animated pornography (including manga, etc…). For example, should animated pornography depicting illegal acts such as rape, sex with children or child molestation, suicide sex (snuff film-esque), torturous sex, etc. be considered illegal? Or even wrong?

    The issue is tenuous because it forces us to make a vital ethical distinction between the act and the idea . Animated pornography lies within this strange realm between thoughts and actions. While it may be weird, you cannot be prosecuted (or, in my opinion) really even blamed or considered morally bereft for having mere thoughts, say, about having sex with a minor. You can, however, and should be punished for acting on these thoughts. All of this is obvious. But animated porn depicting these acts is murky water.

    Sure, one might argue that this type of pornography (or video game) promotes rape or violence against young girls, etc. And indeed, it probably does. But then again, doesn’t almost everything in commercial culture? An argument could be made that, because we are subjected to images of an objectified Miley Cyrus et al on a daily basis, that allowing men (or whomever, but I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by really just addressing men here) to experience harbored sexual desires considered illegal or immoral by society through an animated sequence that does no tangible or rather prosecutable harm, is actually preventing such people from carrying out these acts in reality.

    I am not saying I would agree with that argument, but there is a certain amount of validity there (albeit immeasurable). Of course, this is all from a rather utilitarian point of view. The question of actual ethics here, insofar as there is such a thing separate from utility, is another question – and, not to quote Wittgenstein here (but yes actually to quote him), one I cannot speak of.

  2. Erik permalink
    July 16, 2009 1:17 pm

    Also, all feminist issues aside, — and I am not a gamer at all so I don’t get video games in general – but this game sounds really, incredibly LAME.

  3. Lain permalink
    July 19, 2009 9:58 pm

    I suggest playing it before judging. Sexuality is apart of it but its only important with one girl. The girls themselves while archetypes of women at various ages are extremely lovable characters, so I can see why a male player would “fall in love” with them, rather get attached, a few men I know who played the game just didn’t have the heart to send the characters they loved to the wolf. But I do think its a more important game for girls and certainly is targeted to them.

    Like I said, sexuality only plays a huge theme with one girl, Carmen, who is 17, is recognizing that she’s turning some heads and likes to flirt. On the other hand she is lonely. She is a girl who is discovering her sexuality. Perhaps staying on the path for her would be to dress modestly, and never explore sexuality or relationships, never go out and have fun. Sadly the media has focused on her the most because it does seem her wolf is someone who takes advantage of her trusting nature, possibly assaulting her (you never see what happened, you black out, wake up in front of grandma’s house, although the imagery strongly suggests assault. The developers intentionally left everything up for interpretation, not really saying what happened since this game is an experience for the gamer). And that causes a lot of different reactions from the girls who play this game, and raises a lot of questions about female sexuality in games in general. Carmen struts her stuff but she’s covered up and doesn’t have huge tits that defy gravity. She’s not what you would find in games that are trying to gain sex appeal, she’s discovering her sexuality based on how men see her but she is also sexual on her own terms as well. Because she is a sexual girl there sadly has been the reaction on certain forums that she’s a slut, which opens up a whole discussion about slut shaming, a conversation people might not ever discuss. Carmen is the side of female sexuality we don’t see in video games, the girl who wants to explore and have fun, if you do confront the wolf it is sadly a man who takes advantage of her but at the same time its hard to say that she should have stuck to the path. She’s the one girls can identify with when it comes to boys, am I slut for being interested in sex? If someone assaults me while I’m drunk, am I to blame? Her’s is the most heart wrenching but it opens up a whole lot of questions about how we view female sexuality, some prick playing the game might paint her as a slut who gets what she deserves, feminists I suspect would recognize her as a victim who gets blamed, and probably blames herself.

    All in all its still a game of growing up as a girl, the sexuality aspect gets overblown. The youngest, nine, is naive and her wolf is literally a wolf, she’s very young and doesn’t understand physical dangers and her own mortality, so her wolf is perhaps an attack of an animal she hugged, or just coming to terms with mortality and death in a broad childlike sense, the notion that the world isn’t all sunshine and roses, one must be careful. Rose, 11, is the very innocent one who’s wise beyond her years, but still very innocent and perhaps naive. Her’s is a weird one to interpret, it could be about religion or disillusionment, or literally just being naive like Robin was about her own limits. Ginger is a tomboy who doesn’t like stereotypical girly things, she’s adventurous and prefers to be alone, but she seems really happy. She however is reluctant to grow up. Her wolf is a girl in a red dress, and they simply play together. This can interpret as dealing with female stereotypes, getting a period (her red dress) and taking that extra step where its time “to put away childish things”, literally, and become a teenager. Ruby, 15, is depressed, a typical “goth” girl, her heart bent on rebellion. Her wolf is a man who offers her a cigarette, which she takes. That could be interpreted as something sexual but the large majority of interpretations I’ve heard suggested getting in with the wrong crowd, wanting to fit in, dealing with depression, maybe experimenting with drugs, and rebelling. Finally, Scarlet, 19, is dealing with the pressure of being the eldest. She has dreams and is lonely, but keeps it bottled inside and tries so hard to live up to her mother’s expectations. She expresses a lot of interest in music, and her’s was also really hard to interpret, but it seems to be about trying to please others while sacrificing one’s own wishes, but those wishes to fly away may prove too strong. Its suggested that maybe her wolf convinces her to move out of the house and pursue her dream, and she deals with letting others down while doing this.

    In the end, none of the girls are unredeemable and will come back after their traumatic experiences. Their death scenes are not their literal death (like Little Red Riding Hood didn’t really die, she needed to be saved from the belly of the wolf, and its the girl in white who saves her, not a man) but the death of one stage of childhood, the death of their innocence, and brings them one step closer to adulthood. In terms of feminist issues I would highly recommend this game to any feminist I know, someone else can play it and get an entirely different interpretation or reaction to a character. But people seem to be stuck on the sexuality aspect, when, like in life, its not everything, and its a far more complex game than that.

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