Yup, we’re back on this game again.
Recently, while checking up on some of my favorite entertainers online, I found that Matthew “MatPat” Patrick uploaded a new episode of his show Game Theory where he exposits his theory that not only did Isaac survive the events of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, but that his life serves as an allegory for the life and hardships of the game’s creator Edmond McMillen.
It was such a well researched theory that even I have to admit that it blew my theory out of the water. However, thinking back on it, I started to notice some elements that help to further support MatPat’s claims that he either didn’t have time to cover or failed to notice.
So then, consider this a fan-made unofficial addendum to MatPat’s theory. In order to keep things shorter and encourage you to check out his brilliant work, I’m not going to retread much of his original video and instead encourage you to watch it for yourself. Also, in the spirit of theorist camaraderie and on the off chance that MatPat actually reads this, he is free to debate, agree, or otherwise comment on this article in the media of his choice and I encourage him and anyone else to share their thoughts with me.
First, lets discuss one of the central points of MatPat’s theory; that the events of the game are essentially the vision quest of a hyper-creative and heavily abused personality trying to come to terms with his imperfect, “sinful” nature. He does a lot to support this, but leaves out a major factor that helps confirm this; most of the enemies you face in the game are variations on Isaac’s character design.
The Trites and Widow are just Isaac’s head inverted with spider legs coming out of it. Gapers resemble Isaac with blood stained tears. Mulligans and their variants all depict Isaac in various stages of decomposition. Even The Seven Deadly Sins bare a striking resemblance and McMillen himself admits that It Lives is an in-utero Isaac. If MatPat is right about this being a quest for self-acceptance, it would make sense that Isaac would see himself, not just as a monster to be slain, but as EVERY monster to be slain.
The similarities also continue into the playable characters, but of particular note is “???”, AKA; Blue Baby. This leads into the connection between the character of Isaac and Edmond McMillen. While MatPat might be technically correct in assuming that Blue Baby is a physical manifestation of Isaac literally suffocating to death in his escapist fantasy (he’s found in the toy chest where a child could be said to play out their fantasies), the connection is much deeper.
Blue Baby has existed long before this game and was McMillen’s mascot back in his early days when he was still designing flash games on Newgrounds. In fact, he still uses the moniker of Bluebaby on Newgrounds to this day. This helps to solidify the connection between Isaac’s struggle and McMillen’s.
Also, serving to bolster that connection are the characters borrowed from other McMillen games. Such characters include Stephen from Time Fcuk, Larry Jr. and C.H.A.D. From Super Meat Boy, Gish from… well… Gish, and Triachnid from (of course) Tri-achnid. If McMillen and Isaac are intended to be one and the same, it would make sense that the little boy with a wild imagination (creativity is a boon to indie game developers) would be making up the same creatures that he is.
Lastly is what I feel to be the strongest evidence of this being a fantastical dramatization of McMillen’s real life struggle to accept him self. Going back to The Seven Deadly Sins (this is about coming to terms with your sinful nature as a human, remember?), all of them have Super Sin forms. However, only one has an ultra form; Ultra Pride.
Notice how radically different Ultra Pride looks to his standard and super counterparts? That’s because he and the baby that follows him are modeled after McMillen himself and his partner on the original Binding of Isaac, Florian Himsl respectively. They did this because they both agreed that pride is “their sin” and the one they are most guilty of. McMillen is admitting and coming to terms with sin as we play.
Overall and in closing, MatPat’s video gave me a new respect for a game I already adored and he deserves major props for his research. I will however disagree with him on one point; The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is not a depressing or sad game. After all, Isaac wins his freedom in the end… and so did Mr. McMillen.