There’s an old Ikea commercial about a woman getting a new lamp. She gets rid of the old lamp, placing it out on the sidewalk with the garbage in the rain, and from outside, we watch through a window as the woman turns on her new lamp and sad music swells. Then a guy steps into frame and says, “Many of you feel bad for this lamp. That is because you crazy. It has no feelings, and the new one is much better.”
It’s a funny commercial that makes us consider the emotional efficacy of the tools of cinema: shot placement, setting, lighting, music, etc. When these tools are used correctly, we can be manipulated into feeling sad for an inanimate lamp.
Games have their own unique tools of storytelling, and Thomas Was Alone uses all those tools to a similar effect as it crafts a shockingly moving story about a bunch of rectangles.