Exploring Pry

After replaying Pry, I think I’ve formed a more solid (if not yet complete) understanding of what the work is about. From what I can see, the protagonist is a soldier named James who becomes jealous of his brother because of his relationship with a woman named Jessie. What exactly happens between these three key characters is not all that clear, especially since James is constantly modifying his memories and remixing the events in his head. But that’s part of what makes the story so intriguing. Exploration is a key component in navigating the work, and having all the answers would defeat the purpose of the piece. For instance, I went through chapter 6 four times and found that every traversal was different. This may be because the chapter automatically ends at a certain point and forces the user to move on before they’ve fully explored it. Whatever the case, I was discovering new content every time I visited that section. After this experience, I feel that exploration is a key component that drives the user through the piece and solidifies their understanding of the narrative. 

I would argue that one of the stronger themes in this piece is blindness. As we fight to keep James’ eyes open, we are constantly reminded of his failing sight. Like him, we are sometimes forced to withdraw from the present world and reside in the realm of memories and his subconscious. His innermost thoughts are communicated with us in text, sometimes in full paragraphs or in fast-paced fragments flashing across the screen. Through these, we can theorize the causes for his failing sight (a fire, a disorder inherited from his mother, and Jessie’s violent outburst are only a few of these.) By constantly going back and forth from what James’ sees in the real world versus what he sees in his mind, blindness becomes one of the more prominent themes in the story (though it is certainly not the only one.) 

The form relates to the content by using unique features offered by touchscreen devices to reflect the depth and complexity of the story. By allowing us to “pry” open text and video, we may choose a direction and follow it for as long as it permits us. It presents us with seemingly endless seas of text and layers of video that create a sense of mystery, as well as a desire to investigate further. By presenting the content in this form, we feel a drive to engage with the work as the two components play off of each other in a well-balanced manner. 

One of the sections I found intriguing yet puzzling was when Jessie begins accusing James and tears apart his photo album. Though James said she didn’t find it very flattering to have her picture next to his mother’s, I get the impression that the wound goes much deeper than that. During this scene, she blames him for being deported, possibly because James told on her relationship with his brother (the story makes a point that relationships in the military were not allowed). The fact that this scene was shown numerous times throughout the second half of the story also implies its importance, and I am curious to hear other people’s takes on this particular scene. 

Source: Pry by Tender Claw

Pry – Part 2

The second part of Pry is just as immersive, while revealing more of the actual story. Chapter 5 starts with James taking another job that leads him to a bridge where he eventually falls off into the water after his vision fails him, he then appears in a desert where the text just keeps saying “Go back” with various other phrases. I think this is him trying to go back into his mind to the time he was at a base, since that was also mentioned. If you try to pinch into his mind, it’s just videos of him still sinking into the water from when he fell on the bridge.

Almost like while he’s sinking into the water, his mind is thinking about his past, somewhere else completely. Chapter 6 was pretty cool, as it started off with just two lines of text and every time you pried the text open, more would appear until eventually you could “tear” the text in half to see a video behind it. Eventually, the chapter ends and forces you onto the next one. Chapter 7 then begins with James and Luke sitting in the desert by a fire they built, and as you pry, you can switch between multiple videos while their voices talk in the background.

It was really cool to be able to switch between all kinds of different things happening in the same place while still hearing the story behind it. Chapter 7 also starts to reveal more of the story between James and Jessie. It’s apparent that James blames himself for Jessie’s death, even though she died because of an attack in a building. James says that it was his fault, and that she called to him but he ran away, leaving her to die. However the text, and presumably Luke, say that he wasn’t there at all, and he was in a different building across the street playing poker. It’s revealed through more videos that James and Jessie got into a fight, which caused her not to go to the poker game and end up in the building that was attacked, causing her death. James says that she wasn’t at the game because of him, and if she was there she would have lived, making her death his fault. At the end of chapter 7, James pulls himself out of the water, and the user is unable to pinch or pry into his mind anymore.

Concluding Pry

It is still difficult to discern which memories are true and which memories are in James’ head. He imagined Luke being there when he really was not.

He says one thing where he saw Jessie before they went to play poker, but the story also seems to imply that James and Jessie got into a fight in the janitorial closet at which point he may have accidentally killed her?

In chapter 5, he explains the process of how he ended up on the bridge. His conversation with Luke, the shooting of the airsoft rifle at the statue and braille bible, his vision almost gone, and their fight. He keeps repeating that he needs to prove himself. That he’s getting replaced and he’s dead weight. Up to the point where he falls off the bridge into the water. Chapter 6 begins with the folding and unfolding of text until the reader unfolds it enough to split the screen open and see the video beneath. That video however, after reaching a certain climax forcefully shuts. Continuing to try and pry it open, it will force itself shut a number of times. In this sense, it is almost as though James is trying to block out that memory, shutting it away, while the reader is trying instead to pry it open and uncover it.

Then in chapter 7, there is almost a seemingly unending loop and wormhole of video clips, until the reader reaches an ‘inner’ clip where James and Luke are building a fire together and talking. At this point, it will shift perspectives by featuring either Luke, James, or the two of them together when the screen is pinched or expanded, before continuing further on. In a way, this chapter and chapter 6 both clarify a lot and also add to much of the confusion in what is going on, or at least, what actually happened to Jessie.

Everything is relatively unclear and it is incredibly difficult to know for sure which is the truth between the images that are shown and the text that appears. All that is truly clear in the end is that Jessie died and James, one way or the other, blames himself for her death. Whether it truly was his fault, or he killed her, or it was simply an accident, he blames himself for what happened to her.

Only right at the end of the final chapter does the user not have to pry his eyes open. His vision is clear, and the sun is shining as he pulled himself from the water and back onto the bridge.

Pry by Tender Claws LLC

Pry, Chapter 5 – Epilogue – April 5, 2019

The second half of Pry continues the themes of the first half with James struggling with poor eyesight, PTSD, and his internal struggle with the mysterious character Jessie. As the second half goes on, however, Jessie becomes less of a mystery and more of a tragedy. By navigating through the three stages, the struggle that James faces both with Luke and Jessie is explained, with James’ eyes open by talking to Luke, his eyes closed by thinking of Jessie, and in his subconscious with the guilt he feels about Jessie’s death.

Chapter 6 marks the point in Pry where everything begins to come together. The expanding wall of text allows the reader to pry through the sentences to reveal that Luke and Jessie developed a relationship, which James reported after his love for Jessie grew into jealousy. Jessie found out and lashed out at James. Still upset, Jessie sat out of the poker game happening later. As a result, Jessie was outside during the game, when their base was attacked. Jessie died in the attack, and James blames himself for her death.

The second half of the story also goes into further detail about James’ deteriorating eyesight, which was likely caused by the attack. He’s afraid to tell Luke that his eyesight is poor, causing even more internal conflict.

Above all, the second half continues to be about PTSD, with James becoming even more distraught internally, his subconscious turning into an obscure collection of words. James’ depiction of PTSD becomes much more personal, however, with the addition of the guilt he feels towards Jessie and betraying his brother, which was hinted at in Chapter 3 with James reading about Jacob and Esau.

Pry is a commentary on a multitude of things: war, PTSD, love and jealousy, coming to terms with blindness, and more. It feels overwhelming, which is the point. James is overwhelmed by everything that is crashing down around his life.