Facing Regret, Finding Grace in Pinstripe’s Emotional Hell

I imagine that many people experiencing hell—literally or figuratively—are filled with regret. This also appears to be the assumption of Thomas Brush, creator of the indie game Pinstripe. In Pinstripe, you control a former minister, named Ted, who is searching for his kidnapped daughter in—you guessed it—hell. Brush’s version of the underworld is covered in snow and ice instead of fire and brimstone. Beauty and strangeness collide in a dreamscape of gorgeous artwork, remarkable voice acting, and stirring music.

As Ted chases after Mr. Pinstripe—a malicious, spindly-legged, glowing-eyed man in a suit who threatens to adopt and corrupt Bo, Ted’s daughter—you discover clues about Ted’s past. It’s implied that he and Bo died in a car crash while Ted was driving intoxicated. The title character bears the same name as the brand of whiskey he was drinking at the time.

Most of the people Ted meets don’t care about Bo’s kidnapping. Instead, they anxiously await their next batch of Sack Juice, an addictive substance Mr. Pinstripe provides. You get a sense that Mr. Pinstripe is feared, but also desired because of the Sack Juice. Many of the characters you encounter are filled with anguish, melancholy, despair, and a longing for something to dull the pain.

Ted lets nothing deter him from finding his daughter, however, not even the potentially soothing effects of Sack Juice. Most of the game is spent trying to unlock doors and solve puzzles as you chase after Bo and Mr. Pinstripe. Bo’s slingshot is the tool you use to solve puzzles, hit enemies, break things, and activate objects—it’s just another reminder of the daughter he’s lost. One of these puzzles involves unscrambling a message from Bo that reads, “PLEASE SAVE ME DADDY.” When he finally reaches her, she’s been turned into a creepy shadow version of her former self, one who is angry with Ted and wants to stay with the crazed Pinstripe, her “new daddy.” Ted’s guilt and regret only compound.

Ted’s deep fear is that he won’t be forgiven—not by her, himself, or anyone. His situation reminds me of David in Psalm 38, where he cried, “...there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” Pinstripe is about Ted bearing this burden in an icy hell, where no one, not even his child, is on his side. “Insecurity and loneliness, requiring perhaps a reliance on a disgusting substance like Sack Juice to feel better, sounds like the perfect hell,” said Brush in an interview with Indie Obscura. “Loneliness to me was best visualized by a cold, barren world. ...As the story unfolds, we learn Teddy is the perfect example of someone going through an emotional hell.”

Thankfully, Pinstripe doesn’t leave us in despair. Ted’s journey ends with him coming to terms with his mistake. Here again he is like David, who is finally able to confess and apologize for sinning, who begs God not to forsake him even though he doesn’t deserve forgiveness. Ted too comes to accept that though he made a horrible mistake, peace is still possible. Just as he puts scraps of paper and clues together to figure out where to go next or to discover the combination to a lock, Ted pieces together bits of wisdom from his journey, especially from his encounters with other suffering people.

“Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” These are the words that flash across the screen at the beginning of Pinstripe, taken from Psalm 30:5. It’s tempting to stay in the night forever, never letting go of what we’ve done, punishing ourselves for our past mistakes, wallowing in regret. And yet, God doesn’t intend for us to carry that heavy burden.

In 1 John 1:9 we are promised this: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This is how I find peace. That is how I move on from my transgressions. While Ted’s peace is depicted by a sunlit home where his family comes together again, mine is found in the presence of a God who’s taken my guilt upon himself. That’s the only way I’ve found to move out of the darkness into the rejoicing of the morning.

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