Spoilers for Transistor below.
I’ll be honest with you all: I don’t really know what a transistor is used for in real life. Wikipedia is telling me that it’s a tool used to amplify and/or switch electronic signals, and considering that Transistor’s battle system is all about switching around various powers to get the combination that works the best for you, the player, the name makes sense. (Although I would argue that my initial thought of “USB sword” is also very fitting, despite the lack of catchiness.) While, yes, this system creates what is essentially the game’s magic, I found it interesting that the act of “downloading” a person’s consciousness into a sword wasn’t really considered strange. When the player is first instructed to provide sanctuary to a townsperson that has already succumbed to the Process by absorbing them into the sword, it’s just a matter-of-fact kind of deal. Sure. Why not do that–totally normal. True enough that magic doesn’t always have to be a scary, alien concept in a fictional universe, but since the Transistor (sword) is essentially the only one of its kind, the idea that everyone is just okay with this struck me as kind of bizarre. Yet, when the world around you is dying, affording this much suspension of disbelief isn’t too hard.
Looking at the game now after the fact, I think I was distracted from the true magic in the game. Not that the power of the Transistor should be entirely discounted, and there is definitely something to be said for transformation, but the line spoken near the end by Royce Bracket, member of the Camerata, hints towards the true magic taking place here. He states that the Transistor is a brush, while the Process is the paint by which the city is created and re-created. Compared to the blunt theme of transformation throughout, what I find is the true magical force in this game is that of rebirth: a power that Red ends up embracing, but only on her own terms. Continue reading