There Is No Escape: On Supergiant’s “Hades”

Vivian Lam in LA Review of Books:

WHEN SUPERGIANT officially released Hades in September 2020, the state of the world wasn’t very far from the literal burning hellscape of the game. Zagreus, the discontented prince of the Underworld, seeks to run away from a home where he’s never felt he belonged — a quest that quickly proves futile, as he is killed over and over again and forced to restart where he began. In many respects, it’s no surprise that a game about repeatedly attempting to escape from a violent, labyrinthine hell from which there is no escape (as one fan noted) continues to strike a chord for many.

But the appeal of Hades lies less in its offer of escapist fantasy than in the way it forces players to confront everything they seek to escape in endless, recursive loops. And it is in the very act of repeated confrontation, the game argues, that survival in the absence of escape becomes possible.

In his Theory of the Novel, literary critic György Lukács attributes the genesis of the novel to the loss of the closed totality of the Homeric epic. He describes antiquity as an era where objective reality could be portrayed “as it is” because there was no disconnect between the self and the world. Divinity had left its fingerprints on every part of materiality, and total understanding of this immanence wasn’t necessary — just full acceptance.

More here.