The plot of PT, explained

I’ve repeatedly found myself in fascinating conversations about horror gaming recently – meeting new folks who love horror games, venturing into the realm of horror board games (I can’t recommend Camp Grizzly enough) and waiting patiently for Friday the 13th: The Game has definitely given me even more opportunities than normal. And, as is wont to happen, PT has come up quite a bit – its impact, its unfortunate fate, just how pants-shittingly scary it is. But in all of that, the most fascinating discussions have been about the game’s story – and how, indeed, it does exist.

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However, that story can be difficult to fully grasp while dodging a spasmodic ghostly stalker and trying not to look a whole houseful of paintings in the eye. And despite the fact that it’s been two years since PT first grabbed everyone’s attention, I’ve yet to find a clear, succinct explanation of the story for those curious about it. (The Grate Debate has a good video breakdown, but at 40 minutes long, succinct it is not.) So – for reference if nothing else – I’m going to do it here, digging through all the complex clues breaking down my theory on just what the hell happened in that house – and how it all comes back to you.

The plot significance of the game’s first few minutes are easily the most obvious: while you’re getting acquainted with your L-shaped hallway prison, a radio broadcasting a news report about a mass murder-suicide makes itself as apparent as possible, describing how a local father killed his entire family in pointed detail. It’s easily the most blatant bit of foreshadowing the creators could have cooked up that you had something to do with that whole mess. It is, however, by design – the what is out of the way now, and you can get down to why.

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Then comes the bathroom. Comparatively, its introduction is subtle: you see the door open a crack and can hear an infant’s crying inside. But, if you peer through the gap, something reaches out and slams the door shut. It comes off as little more than a cheap jump scare – a brilliant disguise for how important the room actually is. Immediately after, you get your first glimpse of the mysterious entity that will define the rest of your time in the house: a figure standing directly in your path on your third trip through the hall, it sobs in a disturbing and warped way before vanishing, leaving a cluster of roaches in its wake.

Finally, on your next trip through the hall, the bathroom doors stands completely open. Enter, and you’re locked in, only to discover what can can best be described as a pulsing fetus monster taking up the bathroom sink. You’re trapped in the room long enough to get a good long look at it before the door opens and you’re allowed to leave.

These are the pieces of information that the story hinges on. From there, the clues get smaller and vaguer, but they start to pile up:

  • If you linger too long in one spot, the ghostly figure from before ill viciously attack you, presumably breaking your neck. This does, however, give you a brief look at the ghost’s face, which is clearly deformed (rotten even) and short an eye.
  • A message appears on the photo of a husband and wife on the hall table: “Gouge it out!” with an X beside it. Press X, and the wife’s right eye is punctured. This is the same eye that the ghost is missing.
  • You can encounter the ghost again while traversing the house, which gives you a full look at her before she either charges you and vanishes, or attacks you. She has a noticeable bloodstain over her pelvis.
  • Another message appears over the basement door, reading “Forgive Me, Lisa There’s a monster inside of me”.
  • After being killed by the ghost the first time, you reappear in the opening room bearing a flashlight. Turning it toward the corner of the room reveals a paper bag on the table, soaked through with you probably don’t want to know what. Eventually the bag speaks (because of course it does), reciting the epigraph that appears at the start of the game. The bag specifically warns you about “the gap in the door” leading to “a separate reality”. It, like the ghost, is surrounded by roaches.
  • A third message appears on the wall by the front door that you must solve a puzzle to complete – it reads “I can hear them calling to me from HELL”. Along with the message about a “monster inside of me”, this shows that the writer isn’t stable.
  • Eventually, the house’s structure completely changes: the hallway becomes a distorted, never-ending tangle steeped in red light, with portraits of rolling eyes covering every wall. Instead of walking slowly like before, you sprint constantly. You aren’t stable.

After all those clues comes the final revelation: outside the bathroom in the red hallway, a portrait has fallen, leaving a hole in the wall that you can peek through. The radio can be heard in the distance, though the broadcast has become noticeably more vicious: a talk show host exclaims that “all the fine, upstanding folks [who] got their welfare cut, got their jobs pulled out from under ’em” must rise up and destroy the ‘rot’ permeating society. At the same time, you can hear a women in the bathroom being violently murdered – she’s killed just as the host exclaims, “Now’s the time! Do it!”

As the scene ends and you pull back (to find that “No turning back now” has been scribbled on the wall above the peephole), you can hear the door to the bathroom opening. Entering it brings you face-to-face with the sink fetus, which starts talking in an adult male’s voice. It explains what happened to you without much fanfare: you lost your job and started to unravel. Your wife had to get a job of her own to help pay the bills. Her manager only kept her on because he thought she was attractive. It all happened “exactly ten months back”.

Ten months is awfully close to nine.

In that instant, the why of PT falls into place. You were deteriorating mentally due to the stress of unemployment, enraged by your economic struggles and spurred by inflammatory talk show hosts encouraging you to blame everyone else for your problems. Your mental state declined rapidly. Then, you realized your wife Lisa was pregnant by her manager (perhaps because she couldn’t afford to lose her job) and snapped.

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You became someone else – another, monstrous you – killed your wife and removed the fetus before locking it all away behind the bathroom door. That room becomes the epicenter of something unthinkable that the loving, normal husband pictured in all the photos around the house would never commit. You forgot what you did while Lisa became something ghastly, a half-rotted specter moved only by overwhelming sadness and rage. The only thing left to remind you is the strange, gore-soaked bag, surrounded by the roaches that also follow Lisa as reminders of what took place. Beyond the door, where it all happened, is a separate reality visible only through a gap in the door.

What comes next for you is less defined. Some new malignant entity is clearly following you – possibly even the fetus creature itself, given that the voice which claims it’s coming for you at the end of the game (and bringing its “toys”) sounds noticeably similar to the fetus’ own bizarre adult voice.

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Yet that’s left purposely vague to drum up interest in a game that, sadly, will never be. However, it nonetheless shows just how much meaning a simple, terrifying romp through an infinite hallway can contain – and that, at least, is hopefully something that will live on through the horror games PT has (and will) inspire.

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