A Beautiful Horror House
Having spend a considerable amount of my life in a big family home where my family used to visit during vacations and spend time with the whole family, this game instantly struck the cord of nostalgia and old memories. I didn't grow up there, but it had a fascinating and mysterious sensation, much like exploring an old house or finding treasures of another era. A story we made when we were children, how lively and passionate they were! This game regains everything with great sensitivity and ingenuity.
From the words of the developers; What Remains of Edith Finch is a 2017 adventure game developed by Giant Sparrow and published by Annapurna Interactive. The game centers on the character of Edith, a member of the Finch family, afflicted by a perceived curse that causes all but one member of each generation to die in unusual ways. Edith returns to her family's home off the coast of the state of Washington and learns about her relatives and their deaths by visiting their bedrooms, sealed off and treated as shrines to their memory, with each death played out in a short gameplay sequence to the player. The game is presented as an anthology of these mini-experiences, wrapped in the dramatic retelling of the family's history and fate through Edith's narration.
[Warning - Spoiler Alert]
You play as Edith Finch, the last of the Finch family, who returns to their home to explore an abandoned house after the death of their mother. Players will soon realize that their ancestry is cursed. In a generation, all but one member died in an unusual way.
Writer / Director Ian Dallas wanted the wreckage of Edith Finch to evoke "the sublime horror of nature." A terrifying sense of fate-necessity-guides you through the whole experience. While exploring the sealed room of your dead relatives. It's a game about what's hidden and the consequences, not just the stories we tell ourselves. What is the cause of the collapse of the Finch family? curse? monster? Or is it just the family whose legends are so heavy that they eventually crushed them?
Environmental Story-Telling at its best:
The wreckage of Edith Finch won the Best Narrative at the 2017 Game Awards. This makes a lot of sense. "When the game is recognized in the story, it's not only for great scripts and cool cutscenes, but also for the journey that takes us as players." And, oh, what a journey!
Whether it's a shark falling from a tree or a bathroom toy flying through the air while dancing the Waltz of the Flowers, you certainly don't expect anything to happen. Throughout the game, we are caught between fantasy and reality, past and present. The stories take us to all sorts of magical worlds, light or dark, where the house is anchored in the dust, now eerily empty as the dim end-of-day light reflects off the takeaway boxes of Chinese Food.
The House Itself Looks like a Creature, a Monster, a Smile with Too Many Teeth.
The wreckage of Edith Finch is first-person, so players can see everything through the character's eyes (which will be very important later). You start the game on a boat that goes somewhere. Looking down, it looks like there is a diary with your name on your lap. Open it and the narration will begin. "Start over from home."
The haunted house can only be seen from a distance, and there are already strange things. It feels alive and looks like piles of memories or bent (family) branches. Open your mailbox (which, by the way, a lovely mini version of the house) and you'll see an unopened "emergency" invoice seven years ago. Dark trees and gray skies add to the eerieness of the house. What horrific accident caused all the residents to flee in a hurry?
Step inside through the dog's door and you'll immediately notice that tons of objects are everywhere: books, drawings, toys, dirty dishes, and a diary on the left. It's hard to believe this house has been empty for 7 years. . . The "tour de force" of this game is to create dialogue with the character without actual dialogue. Things are full of meaning. You don't have to talk to Molly to find out that she loves animals, or meet Lewis to find out that he has a flamboyant imagination. Every room has a story and whenever you feel like you are behind a painting.
The house is vertical and perfect for assembling a linear story. Walk the Finch family tree as Edith climbs the stairs and rises. The sealed door also perfectly justifies Edith's continued climbing. Every time a new room was born, I had to build a new room on top of another. I've already mentioned that there is no dialogue in the main game, but it's guided by text inserted directly into the environment.
The narration is inherently part of the game; it is even at times part of the gameplay: the letters and words become the world around you and interacting with it allows you to know what happened next: the words form a path to follow, guiding you through the dusty house and the lives of its former owners.
The Finch Family
Molly's room was the first place we explored as players, and that's really where all the developers started. In fact, What Remains of Edith Finch is a game that is supposed to take place underwater. Then they change direction because telling a story while the protagonist is scuba diving is too difficult. As explained in this article from PC Gaming evaluating the game's success, it took three or four months after development for the image of a shark to fall 30-40 in the ground. , which brings a comic side to the story.
“It was only right that Molly’s flight of fancy should come first in the story chronology, Dallas tells us, since everything grew organically from it. That key line, spoken with childlike guilelessness (“and suddenly I was a shark”) now seems like a disarmingly candid acknowledgment of the game’s unlikely origins. “It’s an introduction to the player, just like it was an introduction to us as developers, into what this game is going to feel like,” Dallas says.” PC Gaming
You may wonder how they can bring humor to tragic deaths, especially when you witness the death of one-year-old Gregory. The most common pattern of these stories is "oh, fun game! Wow, what a great environment! Haha, that's convenient! Wait a minute, he'll be... oh, oh no", a thought process is perfectly illustrated by Jacksepticeye in his let's play at 12:22: https://youtu.be/1uw7HE3_rS0?t=721.
The design of the game story is really smart because you play with the idea that there are no real consequences of playing a video game. If you die, do you have the right to be forgotten just by pressing the restart button? Well, not here. As mentioned earlier, the designer has chosen to let the player view the game from a first-person perspective. You actually reincarnate all members of the Finch family and lead the characters to their inevitable death while actively observing each story. You're in control of someone who lets you climb Calvin higher and higher on a swing, or, as you saw in the video above, fly a Gregory toy and drop it into the faucet of the tub. And even if it might be scary, you have no choice but to keep playing. It is a beautiful horror of necessity.
Reminiscent of Edith Finch shows how powerful video game storytelling is and how perfect it is as a medium to attract players. You are no longer an audience, you live all life and death. They are deeply connected to the finches. Especially in Lewis's story, which turned out to be the most striking in terms of story design, especially when he discovered that it was mostly cut.
“A more demanding original schedule would, Dallas admits, probably have led to some stories being cut, the two most likely candidates being those of Gregory and Lewis Finch. If you’ve played the game, you’ll understand what a loss they would have been. “They ended up in places we were really happy with,” Dallas says, “But they were not sure things for a long, long time. They were really hard to pull off.”
In Lewis's story, gameplay perfectly illustrates the dichotomy between Lewis's real life and his imaginary world. On the right side of the screen is the canning factory where he works, using the joystick to repeat the same gesture over and over again. Cut off the head of the fish. On the left side of the screen (which grows as Lewis slowly goes crazy), you'll navigate complex and colorful environments such as villages, the ocean, and finally the palace.
What Remains Edith Finch is a game about empathy, as Ian Dallas explains:
“I was really nervous about any maudlin sentimentality, maybe to the game’s detriment,” he says. “One of the things we talked about a lot, right up until we shipped, was what Edith should say at the very end of the game — like, her last line. But I just feel it’s really manipulative to have something that is consciously trying to pull at your heartstrings like that. It’s ultimately unnecessary and kind of shoddy. For me, it starts and ends with empathy — it’s about creating a space where you are encouraged and allowed the time to feel empathy for someone else.”
Each story is a jewel embedded in the family tree, and as you progress through the game you realize how poetic and beautiful death can be when you let go of all your sadness. For me, this game is a wonderful poem: a poem about mourning, about what has been lost, trying to approach death with sensitivity and even a little humor. In the end, we'll never know if the story is really about what happened to the sparrows, but does it really matter?