What is real?
Conway, Dogwood Drive and The Zero are not real, according to the computer at Equus Oils. Yet, the computer is happy to give directions to the Marquez Farmhouse as if it were real. As if a perpetually burning tree could be a real landmark. So, let’s assume for a minute that none of this is real in the traditional sense. Assume what you will. Conway is dead and traveling some part of the afterlife. Conway is imaginary, and this is all in his or somebody else’s head. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
Maybe Conway is real in the sense of being a part of the game. Maybe our Conway in the game was inspired by something from reality. Maybe Conway is a representation of reality, like the roads he travels in between Equus Oils and The Marquez Farmhouse. The roads are real, an actual section of Kentucky, straight off a map. The forest, lakes and rivers are all real. The names in the game are as they appear on a map. Maybe Conway is real.
What else is real?
There probably isn’t a real Equus Oils. There isn’t a perpetually burning tree. There is a campground near the site of the perpetually burning tree. The tree seems symbolic in this regard. It gets weirder. The mine seems to be based on a real place, although in the game it doesn’t seem to be in its real world location. As if maybe Julian and Ezra relocated it. Julian doesn’t seem to be real, but a lot of KRZ is based in reality.
What about The Zero?
The Zero isn’t real. So sayeth Joseph’s computer, Act I Scene I. There are no people in expansive caves underneath Kentucky. Oh wait, no. The caves are real, and expansive. People lived in the caves? Yes. There were bears. Yes. The Bureau? I’m not sure. Hall of The Mountain King? A real part of the caves, but probably nothing like in KRZ. That river by The Bureau? Rivers in the caves, yes. Boats in the rivers? Actually, there used to be a boat tour in the caves. The name of a particular river gives credence to the ‘Conway is dead’ theory, as does a particular section of the caves. Wooly mammoths? Actually, no. Never. That’s a common misconception due to the name of the caves. Reality keeps finding its way into KRZ.
And here’s where the reality of KRZ gets really, really real:
Emily, Ben and Bob are real. Really, real. They are not so much characters in a game, because they exist in the real world. In the game they are doing the same things they do in the real world; playing games and music. When we encounter Emily, Ben and Bob playing Kentucky Route Zero it’s because they really play the game. When we leave The Marquez Farmhouse after the encounter with Weaver, we encounter Emily, Ben and Bob playing music. What you are hearing at this point is actually music performed by Emily, Ben and Bob. Conway might not be real, but Emily, Ben and Bob are definitely real.
Ben Babbit is a KRZ creator. Emily, Ben and Bob are the real players in KRZ. What does that make you?