Best Of 2021: Sable’s Final Choice Is At Once Heartrending and Joyful

The span of playing Sable is between contemplating a choice to the uneasy resolve of making a decision. Sable’s story begins as its title character leaves home to travel around her corner of a vast, desert world. Throughout her travels, she gathers masks that represent the various jobs and roles found across her culture, such as a mechanist, climber, or cartographer. After her journey, she must then return home to choose the mask she will wear for the rest of her life.

In a certain sense, Sable’s ending is signaled from the very beginning and unfolds more or less as expected. When she finds a mask that suits her–which can happen whenever the player so wishes–she returns home to the people that raised her to make her choice. The problem is that this journey changes her. It introduces a world of new possibilities, of potential selves. Choosing Sable’s final mask is as easy as deciding who you want to be–and we all know how agonizing that choice can be. Sable spoilers ahead.

However, in reality, much of this choice’s difficulty comes from the material world. At least in the places in which I have lived and with which I am familiar, choosing a career comes with intense material pressure. Becoming a doctor or a lawyer might have big financial payoff, but obtaining the training necessary can be devastating financially. Many, even most, other jobs pay too little or are looked down upon. Even liberating choices of identity, like coming out or a political awakening, often come with discrimination or violence in their wake. Sable foregrounds these issues by crafting a world without their existence. It focuses instead on the joyful agony of choosing who to be. The promise of a better world is not an end to hardship, but that we would have the time, the resources, and the support to deal with the regular difficulty of life.

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