Game Theory: Until Dawn’s TRAGIC Hero


You’re holding tough today, by the way Until Dawn ain’t getting me OH MY GOSH OH *Game Theory Intro plays* Hello Internet! Welcome to Game Theory The show whose viewers wouldn’t be surprised to see an episode dedicated to Sam’s anti-gravity towel Seriously! She’s getting chased by a psychotic killer and it stays up like that?? And then she crawls through vents and it stays so clean? This towel is clearly worthy of a theory But not today So if you’ve watched our GTLive live streams then you know that we recently completed a playthrough of the horror game Until Dawn *devastated MatPat* “No!!” If you haven’t watched our GTLive live streams then you probably STILL knew that we recently completed a playthrough of the horror game Until Dawn because YouTube hasn’t put a toggle in allowing subscribers to opt-in to those notifications Hey! Don’t blame the messenger Regardless, chances are if you watch gamers on YouTube You’ve seen this choose-your-own-adventure, teen murder simulator hybrid A game that mashes so many horror movie tropes you’d think they’d pulled Keenen Wayans out of retirement And had him do Scary Movie: The Video Game But here’s the thing, while we were all making fun of the gameplay “We are playing a game that encourages you to not move the controller” “COMPELLING GAMEPLAY” The really good, but still not really good enough graphics “Didn’t quite make it out of the Uncanny Valley on that one” *laughs* And hammy dialouge We all missed something: The point Along with a totem or two Whether it was intentional or not, Until Dawn is more than just a goofy horror movie cliche simulator And the villain is far more menacing than a gangly spider-zombie It’s a much darker, much sadder, and much more serious game than any of us YouTube gamers thought Carrying an incredibly serious message about mental illness and the nature of choice Now before I go on, this is a heavy spoiler alert We’re covering everything from the game, so if you haven’t watched any of the hundreds of Let’s Plays And still want to experience it for yourself, turn back now But if you want to completely change the way you look at the game Well, spend another few minutes with me We all clear? Good. Now this game is a blast, not only to play but to discuss You see, the game not so subtly points out that it’s built around the Butterfly Effect Where decisions you make earlier in the game have significant ramifications down the line It’s a game about choice And what makes this game endlessly discussable and watchable Is seeing how different choices lead to different gruesome murders for our – *record scratch* Jeez they’re 18 and 19 years old? Oh man, now I feel really creepy about trying to get Jess into her underwear No! No it is NOT when some of these kids are literally under the age of consent Creepy revelations about everyone’s true ages aside Make the right choices, nail each QTE and miraculously you may be able to keep everyone alive…Until Dawn Roll credits *CinemaSins ding* Well, not everyone Meet Josh, older brother of both Beth and Hannah We see in the game’s prologue that one year prior to the events in the game Beth and Hannah were killed accidentally after a prank went wrong Yes, you can roll the clip one last time Fast-forward to the present day where, halfway through the game, you learn that Josh is The Psycho A masked madman setting up elaborately sadistic, Saw-like traps For his quote-unquote “friends” to make them pay for the deaths of both his sisters Well, that and to get them all a few thousand clicks on a certain video sharing platform Gah! Everyone is a vlogger these days Now, outside of the supernatural and cannibalistic wendigos, Josh is the villain of the game, putting his friends through torture As such, it’s only fitting that he is the only playable character who will never survive the night regardless of your choices He only has one of two fates Either getting his head crushed by a wendigo Or, if you find enough clues, turning into a wendigo himself A fitting end to a crazed maniac Except, hold on. Josh’s story isn’t so cut and dry True, the torture of his friends is extreme And he isn’t adverse to going so far as to punch Ashley out cold But none of his actions directly lead to anyone’s death His traps are only there to scare, not kill Fake bodies, fake bullets, saws that don’t go all the way down Now compare that to Mike, AKA the village bicycle where anyone gets a ride *horn honking* Who can kill Emily in cold blood, and the world rejoices *party blower noise* Or how about Ashley? Who in some scenarios can choose to kill Chris while he pleads for his life Simply by keeping the lodge door locked Then, in the final scene, Sam can actively choose to blow up the lodge early, killing everyone else in there And then Matt who can basically leave his girlfriend, Emily, for dead when a tower falls I mean seriously, the game gives you a lot – A LOT – of opportunities to kill off Emily In short, pretty much every playable character in this game Can take an action that will directly lead to someone else’s death Except for Jessica And except for Josh But unlike all the other characters, Josh doesn’t get a happy ending And sure, I get it. He tortured his friends and, yeah, thats really bad But don’t let Beth’s yoga pants distract you from the truth What these teenagers did to Hannah was also really bad These aren’t good people They set up a prank where Mike, Hannah’s crush, leads her on to the point that she starts undressing, expecting a little totem action, if you get what I’m saying All while they film in secret and laugh at her embarrassment It’s ruthless! And unlike the quote-unquote “heros” of the story, who did this out of sheer meanness Josh’s saw traps aren’t just born out of revenge He has another excuse, mental illness Throughout the game we gradually learn that Josh has had behavioral issues since the age of eleven Since then, he’s been treated with various medications for depression In total, for nine years And we learn that the mysterious analyst appearing between chapters in the game Was actually Josh’s psychiatrist helping him to cope with the loss of both his sisters When we finally get to step inside Josh’s eyes at the end of the game, Chapter 10, It’s clear he’s being haunted by the vision of his sisters “No no no no, you’re not real” -“Why didn’t you save us Josh?” Through his hallucinations, we see that he blames himself in large part for their deaths Despite being passed out that night, physically unable to do anything to help them Now, does all of this excuse his eagerness to strap two people to chairs Force one to choose between his life and the life of his crush All while spinning saw blades descend from the ceiling? No, but it certainly sheds light on Josh’s motives Showing that he’s not a sadistic killer or cruel sociopath He’s a confused and grieving kid Remember, these kids are like 18 to 20 *record scratch* Still – still kinda creeped out about the Jess thing And the game actually acknowledges this *another record scratch* Not the creepy jess thing, just the fact that Josh is in need of help In alternate dialogue for Josh’s big reveal as the psycho Sam makes it clear that his behavior is more of a cry for help than it was anything malicious “Come on, it was just for fun! Nobody got hurt! “You’re crying out for help, Josh” In short, Josh is a sympathetic character who needs help, medical help Help that, quite frankly, he’s not getting And this is where we go from Josh being in a weird gray area A character who did some awful things, but had some excuses for it, to someone who is outright innocent Throughout the game, we can piece together Josh’s illness by the symptoms he demonstrates Chapter 10 shows us that he clearly has very vivid visual hallucinations He also has auditory hallucinations, hearing both his sisters’ voices in his head as well as the Psycho’s It’s important to note here, though, that the mask-wearing Psycho isn’t a separate personality Which would change his diagnosis How do we know? Well, if Sam escapes being chased by Josh, she can find a tape where he’s practicing his “Psycho Talk” “Hello – Hello, children…That’s not right…” I mean every good masked killer needs a catchphrase, right? The Psycho is just a character he puts on for the purposes of this theatrical event he had planned Not a split personality So we have visual hallucinations, auditory hallucinations, but Josh is also delusional The delusion that this is all a fun prank or game That this would actually be socially acceptable to his friends He also has delusions of grandeur Seriously, in his opening video: “Hello, friends and fans” “Hello, friends and fans”? Who’s he talking to anyway? Seriously, his channel has like, what, seven subscribers And after the events of the game, he’s going to lose all of them “YouTuber tortured me and gave me PTSD… unsub” I’d say that that’s a fairly solid reason to unsubscribe from a channel He’s also operating under the delusion that his friends don’t care about him Feeling so persecuted that he physically saws himself in half simply to prove how little they care When that actually couldn’t be further from the truth Finally, we see his speech deteriorate into incoherent rambling Based on these symptoms, Josh appears to have schizophrenia A brain disorder in which a person has trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy And has trouble managing normal emotions Symptoms include: everything we just mentioned Visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions, social withdrawal, disorganized speech And the condition tends to appear between the ages of 16 and 30 See that age joke at the beginning wasn’t just a non sequitur, it actually had a purpose All in all, it sounds pretty cut and dry, right? But then we look at his medical records The slate of doctors listed for treating him over the last 9 years, Dr. Hill included, are all MDs Meaning that they’re psychiatrists, people who went to medical school, had a year of medical internships, And have 3 years of residency to assess and treat mental health conditions Training which now enables them to prescribe medicine to their patients So Josh seems like he’s seeing the right people for his issues, except apparently he’s not Looking down the list of medicines and treatments he’s been given, they’re all for extreme depression You see, nerve cells in the brain communicate using chemicals called neurotransmitters I’ve mentioned them before in my video on the addictive qualities of mobile gaming And, as you can imagine, there are a bunch But the most famous are dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine Well, depression and schizophrenia are currently thought to be tied to different neurotransmitters With schizophrenia being linked to the overactivity of dopamine, while depression is thought to be tied To a decrease in the production of serotonin The drugs we see Josh being prescribed, though, are all focused around serotonin Fluoxetine is an SSRI, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor Which – to grossly simplify – is meant to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain Duloxetine is a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor Which again leave dopamine, Josh’s actual issue, untreated And both Amitriptyline and Phenelzine are some of the earliest antidepressants developed Effective, yes, but now replaced with newer, less side-effect heavy drugs And neither of them primarily focused on what Josh’s true problem is Regulating the amount of dopamine in his brain Knowing this, the results of Josh’s medical reports are unsurprising Each time, the medicine didn’t fix his problem And occasionally he would resort to taking more in an attempt to see any sort of result – any sort of relief And here’s why! He was being treated for the wrong disorder His primary issue is schizophrenia, not depression Of course the medicines would have limited effectiveness They weren’t doing anything to treat the primary symptoms of hallucination, delusion, paranoia, and disorganized speech What does this mean? It means that Josh wasn’t getting the help that he needed to mitigate his condition And leads us to the true meaning of Until Dawn In a game that prides itself on choice for its characters, Josh had no choice Schizophrenia is tied very closely to genetics, so he had no choice to get the disorder in the first place Josh had no choice when placed in the hands of experts, who misjudged and mistreated his condition He was passed out and had no choice when the rest of the group pulled a prank that would ultimately kill his two younger sisters And even in death, he has no choice You, as the player, cannot save him No matter what you do, there is no happy ending for Josh He was doomed from the start In a game all about choice, probably the biggest one that you can have is forgiving Josh Looking beyond his actions, the awful things that he did, and choosing to save his life Recognizing him for the young man in need of help that he is But you can’t do that. When you look at it this way, Until Dawn is a big metaphor, where the true monster Is psychological disorder It strikes randomly, has no mercy, and gives you no chance of escape, no chance to run and hide And the true villain of the game is Dr. Hill and the system that didn’t know enough, or simply didn’t care enough To give Josh the help that he so desperately needed Now that is truly a horror game But, hey, that’s just a theory A Game Theory Thanks for watching 🙂 Welcome back to the SUPER AMAZING END CARD TOURNAMENT Today we covered a game full of sexy characters and important choices So in honor of that, today’s poll has one important question for you Hot or Not? The wendigo Bangable undead or a face only a mother could love Click on one to choose or click the links in the description to cast your vote And find out next week whether you guys would swipe right or swipe left ♪ Bow chicka bow wow ♪ And hey! If you want to check out some hilarious highlights of our playthrough of Until Dawn Click here to check out the GTLive channel for moments like this: *Josh screaming* While MatPat and Steph repeatedly say stop “Oh no it’s actually killing him!” “Oh it’s – oh no!” “Oh no!” “I actually killed hi- oh god!” Spoopiness to the max! And that’s about it for today, so if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some strategizing to do In real time

80 comments

  1. That toggle for notifications on a channel would be literally platform changing. In the best possible way, like I've always thought being able to choose what videos you're push notified of would be a great idea

  2. Sam and Chris were the only decent ones. Sam tried to stop the prank and Chris was blackout drunk like Josh was.

  3. Eu ainda não entendo porque o Josh "torturar" o Chris e a Sam, tipo eles dois, foram os únicos que não participaram da brincadeirinha idiota com a Hannah…Era mais fácil ele ter feito isso com a Em, o Matt, o MIKE!, a Jess e a Ashley…

  4. Instead of trying to find the true villain of the game, can't we all leave it to circumstance. Surely one has more role than the other but even if one part is removed from the recipe, this wouldn't have taken place.

    Hannah was naive for thinking Mike would love her and wrong for thinking she could sleep with someone else's bf (mike wasn't single then) also she ran out into the wilderness instead of hiding anywhere else in the large house.

    The Washingtons were guilty because they refused to listen to the advice of the flamethrower guy and built the lodge(it's said while sam travels in the car that they tried to find the man who warned them about building there but couldn't find him

    Dr Hill is also a villain for not prescribing the correct medicine

    Wendigos are the villain because they chased beth and Hannah to death and tortured them (I'm not sure about the illness/cannibalism part, id love some explanation)

    And obviously the group except Chris and Josh is responsible for pranking a shy girl. I guess Sam tried to warn them but she was still into it

    So yeah, everyone except Josh and Beth are villains here

  5. Well, in the case of the prank, Sam was actually innocent, as she was not present and was upset by their actions.

  6. Although I love your work MatPat, I can't but feel, at least in this case, that the writers didn't think this way and its purely coincidental that everything worked out in your theory's favor. I mean, we are talking a film narrative that is meta aware enough to decide against giving you the player options to prove a point. Something there just doesn't add up.

  7. The bear trap I believe was set by the flamethrower guy for the wendigo because there was an arm for cannibalism it was going to try to eat it and get caught in the bear trap

  8. Chris is innocent since he didn’t even now about the prank/ Sam is innocent because she called Everyone out on how mean the prank was and Ashley’s became innocent when she saw the pictures of that night saying she regretted being apart of it everyone else yeah they are pricks

  9. The only people that did not prank Hannah was josh because he was drunk and so was Chris both were out cold. Sam was not there to prank hannah either. And Hannah's sis. So what the neck and josh even is crazy with Sam which she said that josh said that she was the only person that he could talk too. Josh is crazy and needs more help period.

  10. Can I just say that Chris was passed out drunk with Josh so he wasn’t involved with the prank at all, and he got punished the most but I don’t know maybe Josh blames Chris for getting him drunk so he couldn’t save his sister IDK

  11. late response, but this game is set in alberta. our age of consent is 18, so no, it is quite legal… sooo yea.

  12. Once I found out Josh was the psycho, I didn't like him for a minute or two. But then once Chris and Mike brought him to the shed, I really felt bad for him. It isn't his fault at all. He was just trying to cope with the death of his sisters.

  13. I frickin hate ashley so much, she’d rather let all of her friends die as long as she comes out okay

  14. I'd really like to see what he now gets from the Man of Medan game, I have… had… a pretty big theory, half of it was debunked when I found out that game takes place in 1947

  15. Oh man I'm actually really sad for Josh. Especially in the ending where he's killed by the wendigo, he just assumed it was another hallucination.

  16. I can't believe I haven't gotten around to watching THIS theory yet, that was an amazing breakdown of the game. As a person studying psychology in college and as a person with mental illness myself, I appreciate all the awareness you brought here. Thanks Matt, this was awesome.

  17. you have all my thanks for cutting out most of the gore. i love horror games but i’m pretty sensitive to that stuff so i couldn’t handle other youtuber’s playthroughs.

  18. Well actually their not spider zombies they are Wendigos
    Or maybe something else idk but definitely not zombz

  19. One thing that's important to remember is that what happened to Josh is a reflection of how Schizophrenia has been treated. Schizophrenia, especially when not paranoid, goes undiagnosed in a crazy amount of cases–even moreso in the early 2000s. The world has made leaps and bounds in the last few decades with treating it.

  20. Ya know as someone with mental illnesses I’d really like the horror trope of all psychos being mentally ill. Like it’s such a down punch and lazy writing

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