Finding Paradise: One of the greatest explorations of human regret and loneliness

How Finding Paradise explores regret and redemption (Image via Freebird Games)
How Finding Paradise explores regret and redemption (Image via Freebird Games)

The creator of Finding Paradise, Kan Gao, was once asked what defined the core of the games he developed, to which he replied:

"In my work, I often deal with loneliness."

The legendary RPG Maker developer has been active for over a decade now. Each of his games features strong emotional themes that he claims were made out of a necessity to connect with the people around him.

The stories he tells in his games aren't shallow-formulaic attempts to connect with a broad audience and instead are overly specific, deeply personal, that thread a thin line between being authentic and surreal.

That's why his games are often hit or miss for a single audience. Taking myself as an example, I'm not really a fan of his first major release, To The Moon, or his latest project, Impostor Factory. For me, the title that touched me deeply, and dare say, changed my outlook on myself, was Finding Paradise.

Note: Spoilers ahead, reader discretion is advised.


Finding Paradise's exploration of the deeply personal feelings of regret and loneliness

Being lonely as a child is something that has traumatized me deeply. I can't seem to ever find a subconscious desire to reminisce about the past. Often, as I reflect on my life for perspective, the starting point of life for me was in my late teens, when I met my closest friends.

I can't involuntarily ever look back at the time before then, as I blocked it off and subconsciously pretend that 17 years of my life never really existed. It would be more accurate to say that my childhood was in a separate life I lived, and who I am now is defined by the experiences and self-awareness I've had since my rebirth 5-6 years ago.

As a result, I feel incomplete, shallow, and empty inside. Like an artificial being whose decisions are influenced more so by logic and societal awareness, rather than a foundational personality I should've developed since my birth.

I don't know how much more disconnected I will feel as I grow older, but I think I caught a glimpse of the answer to that question in Finding Paradise.


The loneliness of Collin Reeds

In Finding Paradise, Collin Reeds is a retired airline pilot who has recruited the services of Sigmund Corp in anticipation of his fast-approaching death. Agents at Sigmund Corp are tasked with interfacing with Collin's memories during his final hours and rewriting them to rid him of regrets, so he dies believing he was a truly happy man.

When the day arrives, you take on the role of one of the two agents sent to rewrite his memories. This will take place in numerous steps. First, you must identify and unravel the nature of the regrets your client has. To do so, you have to explore all relevant memories he cultivated through different stages of his life,

Second, you must coherently alter these memories to inspire Collin to recollect his past differently, like a new recollection of his memories, one without the regrets he desperately wants to get rid of before dying.

I prefaced this with my own experiences of loneliness and isolation because the stark contrast between how Collin and I from Finding Paradise handled the same problem startled me to my very core.

The twist in Finding Paradise is that Collin, like me, grew up lonely. At the same time, he had an incredible friend who helped him in his darkest hours and even gave a concrete direction in life he'd maintained since his childhood.

Faye and Collin having one last conversation (Image via Freebird Games)
Faye and Collin having one last conversation (Image via Freebird Games)

This friend was a figment of his imagination that he engaged with while maintaining awareness that she wasn't real. Collin coped with his distress by literally having conversations with himself almost until he was an adult. Collin was an intelligent kid, who believed in himself and had what I can only describe as an excessive amount of self-awareness,

I envy him so much because the first time I played Finding Paradise, I couldn't help but wonder, "Why didn't I enjoy my own company?", "Why was I not grateful to my parents for their love and many gifts to me that kept me company?."

I realized I had to heal and absorb more of my roots into me instead of constantly distancing myself from every person I encountered from that time.

Letting Faye go (Image via Freebird games)
Letting Faye go (Image via Freebird games)

I was stuck in a loop of self-hatred. I hated myself for not having any friends. I hated my parents because we never lived in vibrant localities or apartments where I could make friends. Never once did I conclude that no one was to blame and that I could still be happy by embracing whatever solitude had to offer me.

This article never intended to review Finding Paradise or recall the story in its entirety. It is merely me reflecting upon myself after playing one of the most personal and emotional games that came out in the last decade. I hope that that is enough to convince you to play Finding Paradise, as I am simply incapable of talking about it in a technical fashion.


So what did Collin regret?

Surprisingly, the big reveal of Faye being an imaginary friend in Finding Paradise was never seen as one of Collin's undesirable elements. I often wondered if it was alright to leave it that way because while it did show a method of coping with loneliness, it showed the most extreme form of said method.

I don't think I'd ever be able to sell myself an imaginary friend unless I'm locked up in a white room. But it appears that Kan Gao feels that it is healthy behavior, at least until adulthood. So it's interesting to wonder what Collin's actual major regret was in Finding Paradise.

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According to Kan Gao, Collin didn't have any regrets. He just failed to accept his past mistakes the moment he saw that there was a way to rectify them, aka Sigmund Corps services.

The idea is explained in more detail in a YouTube video made by Kan Gao, but it's, in my opinion, a cornier direction to take the story of Finding Paradise in.

Finding Paradise is unique and is the last game in the series that features the meticulous mechanic of exploring the memories and regrets of a man throughout his life in an attempt to fix them. It seems Kan Gao has shifted his focus to a more linear form of story-telling, for a sub-plot soon to become the main plot, revolving around the protagonists, as evidenced by his recent project, Impostor Factory.