Rationale and Authorship (Heavy Rain)

July 27th, 2010

Now that we understand the different roles the player commandeers in a video game, we can begin to understand the rationale behind our choices made in Heavy Rain.

Because of the subject matter, I will obviously be divulging major plot spoilers, so I urge you not to read on if you haven’t already completed Heavy Rain. If you have, however, then please feel free to include your own rationale in the comments section below. Perhaps we will compile the most interesting responses in a separate article if there’s enough interest.

Trial #1
Driving into Head-on Traffic

Being the initial trial, the parameters of the Origami Killer’s twisted game aren’t yet so clear. Like many, I presume, I accepted this trial partly under the assumption that the game wouldn’t hurt me – that so long as I followed the rules, Ethan would remain unscathed. This assumption and the supposition that “hey, it’s a game and I should just play along” overrid the consideration set outlined in the previous article. My assumptions turned out not to be true — whether by my inputs or by design, I don’t know — as I completed the challenge, but flipped the car and could not reach my reward.

Trial #2
The Electricity Plant

Considering the pain Ethan went through in the prior trial, I felt a little uneasy about the electricity plant. You could just tell that things were going to get worse. There are two stages to this trial but only one decision, since you cannot bail out of crawling through the glass-filled chamber. The question is whether you’re willing to walk through the electric minefield. The generators instill a sharp sense of fright and my knee-jerk reaction would have been to steer clear. However, above all else, I wanted to relieve Ethan of this burden and I knew that irrespective of me, he would have seriously contemplated this decision. I don’t know very much about power stations and while venturing ahead would obviously put Ethan at high risk, this unfamiliarity with the danger allowed me the waver the ethical dilemma of any unfortunate consequences. As such, I made my way through, but misread the signs and nearly killed myself, prompting Ethan to automatically forfeit.

Trial #3
Cutting off the End of Your Finger

The third trial will always stick in my mind as its the most savage of Heavy Rain‘s emotional string-pulling, and the first time a game made me feel immense frustration and self-hate. You’re situated in a vacant room and asked to cut off the end of your finger in front of the camera with any of the utensils available in the room. The stress is compounded by the fact that you will fail to cut your finger from the bone on your first attempt and have to fight the agony in a second attempt.

This decision prompted a primal sense of rationality, so I was quick to make and execute on my decision. I decided to go ahead with it. There was, of course, some conflict. As a viewer and a director, I knew that I would be putting Ethan in a world of agony that he would never wish to experience and I would certainly condemn myself for watching, let alone participating in. The chips were stacked against me though; I’d failed the last two trials which meant that Shaun would drown to death if I didn’t produce results. There was nothing in my way this time. I could get a tangible result, all I needed was to go through with the torture. Furthermore, having gone through this much pain already, I imagine that cutting off a part of a finger would be within Ethan’s threshold of pain. I acted quickly and chose the first tool I could find: a pair of scissors. I didn’t even look for anything else; who knows, the game might go back on its rules, but I needed to ensure a win here.

Trial #4
Killing the Drug Dealer

Would you kill someone to save someone else? The rational answer is “no.” It doesn’t make sense to forfeit someone else’s life for the potential of saving another’s. Heavy Rain played on these assumptions though. The target is a drug dealer who, when spurred, tried to end your life. In which case, killing a violent drug dealer can almost be regarded as an act of community service; if caught, Ethan could vouch for self-defense. Another fold to throw your deliberation occurs right before you make the decision, when the drug dealer quivers that he too is a father and pleads against his potential retribution.

I chose in favor of my understanding of Ethan, who I believed wouldn’t go so far as to kill someone else. I made this decision before I even went to the house as I believed quite strongly in my interpretation of the avatar. I am pleased with the decision I made.

Trial #5
Drinking the Vial

The final trial is a fitting apotheosis to the game: would you sacrifice your own life for someone else’s? I had a feeling that it would all come down to this, but the means at which it does (drinking a vial of poison allowing enough time for you to free your son) removes any potential distraction; it all comes down to principles.

I chose not to drink the vial. I figured that given my completion of only one trial, it was likely that Shaun would die and that it would be better to let Ethan survive and live with Madison (who can counsel him) as opposed to letting Shaun survive but live with the anguish of watching his father die. In this way, it was better for Ethan as he had an emotional attachment which could aid him if his son did in fact die in the rain. This decision was universal amongst the roles. It is an ethically sound decision that I wanted to see happen and believed that Ethan would too.

End Game

My endgame hinged on my final decision before I left the hospital as Madison: the orchid in the hallway. This opened the way to the house of the Origami Killer, which I successfully escaped from. I also guessed the proper password for the address of Shaun’s whereabouts which lead to the final confrontation. I couldn’t solve the crime as Jayden, so it came down to a battle between Ethan and the Origami killer which I won. In the end, Madison, Ethan and Shaun move into a new apartment together and Jayden retires.


There you have it, the reasoning behind and outcomes of my Heavy Rain adventure. Despite failing terribly at points throughout the game, I succeeded in the end. What about you? What was your rationale and how did you manage your different roles in deciding on your actions? Please let us know through the comments.