What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains (Logo)
I first heard of the game What Remains of Edith Finch when Jim Sterling posted a video about it, and immediately I knew I wanted to play it. As much a piece of interactive storytelling as a game, it reminded me of Gone Home, a game I loved, which involved your character exploring an empty house, reading documents and receiving pieces of story through voiceover narration.

Gone Home, however, contained very little game – it mostly involved picking up objects to read them, and occasionally inserting a cassette tape into a stereo. On that measure, What Remains of Edith Finch is quite different. While the basic mechanic of exploring a large, empty house is similar, Edith Finch uses this framework to connect a series of short stories, each told in a different style through a different mini-game, with varying levels of interactivity. The first, for example, is the diary of a young girl, and you play as her through the increasingly fantastic story she tells in her final entry, with the movement and actions changing as the story twists and turns in the way that stories by small children often do. Other stories can be as simple as a slideshow, or a flipbook cartoon.

The story goes like this: about a century ago, the Finch family travelled to America from Norway in an attempt to escape the family “curse”. After arriving, they built the big, strange house in which the family has lived since, and it’s in and around this home that each member of the family has died, one by one, some as children, some as parents, very few having reached old age. In the game, Edith Finch Jr., currently the only living member of the Finch family, has returned to the house in search of their stories. The lives of the Finch family are preserved in their rooms, each one abandoned exactly as it had been when the occupant died, and later sealed shut; the rooms hold their stories, and each story is about a death.

This could have been a very dark game. It’s definitely a sad one. But the game doesn’t just tell us how a group of people died, one by one – it tells us the stories about how they died, each coloured by the perspective of the storyteller, and often with a dose of whimsy that cuts through the sadness. The darkest, saddest chapters in this narrative are also usually the most fantastical. The death of children is always going to be a difficult subject, but What Remains of Edith Finch manages to capture in each child’s story the sense of wonder and happiness those children held in themselves while they were alive.

In a sense, Edith Finch is about the power of stories. This is a family that is constantly telling stories about itself, the “family curse” among them. We see stories used as a way to come to terms with loss, but we also see stories that keep people trapped, preventing them from moving on. Maybe Great Grandma Edie was wrong for keeping the stories alive; maybe her daughter Dawn was wrong for protecting Edith Jr. from those same stories. This game isn’t about giving definitive answers to such things. These stories aren’t there to give us the truth but the feeling of it; just as the game is not so much a challenge as an experience.

I played What Remains of Edith Finch on the PC, but it’s also available on the PS4; I hear the controls might be a bit better there – they could be a bit finicky in places with the mouse. Either way, I highly recommend giving it a try. It’s a short game – about a couple of hours – but worth it.

What’s in the Box?

Back in December, I made a donation to Worldbuilders – a charity started by Patrick Rothfuss that raises money for Heifer International, and gives out donated items as prizes to lucky donors. A few weeks later, I got an email telling me I was one of the lucky ones and asking for my address. And today, I got home and found this waiting for me:

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I had no idea what to expect, as I’d checked most of the boxes on what kind of prizes I’d be interested in. I decided to livetweet the unboxing, which ended with this:

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That’s a copy of board game Journey to the Center of the Earth, and a signed copy of graphic novel Porcelain. I’m eager now to try out the game next time I’m at Newcastle Gamers.

So this post is just to say thank you to Worldbuilders, and congratulations on raising $882,156(!).

Edinburgh – Day One

As anyone who looks at my Twitter feed cannot avoid knowing, right now I’m in Edinburgh for a few days, mostly for comedy at the Fringe Festival. (I’d post my usual view from the hotel window, but I’m about three rooms down from where I was last year, so just go find that.) Anyway, I thought I’d post about what I’ve been up to here.

My train up from Newcastle wasn’t until after midday,  so I actually started out by going to Newcastle Gamers, where there was a full day session going on. I didn’t have a lot of time there, but got in on a few rounds of Two Rooms and a Boom with a large group, which was pretty good fun, then finished with judt a few quick games after. Then it was off to Edinburgh!

After getting tickets and walking around a bit to work out where some things are, I started out with a free show, “My Mother Made Me Do It”, a two person show with Sahar Mirhadi and Dan O’Gorman. That one was pretty fun, though I thought Sahar’s set was a bit better than Dan’s. That was followed by Dane Baptiste’s solo show, which was pretty good, and then Holly Walsh, whose show “Never Had It” I’m sure will be a contender for the best thing I see all weekend – highly recommended.

Finally, after grabbing a quick slice of terrible pizza, there was my one and only Edinburgh Book Fest event, with Lauren Beukes and C A Davids. That was very good, a lot of interesting discussion about their books and South Africa. Turned out there was a signing afterwards, but all my Beukes books are at home, and I was a little too nervous/self-conscious to get Davids’ novel and line up for a signature. (Argh.)

Anyway, it’s been a good first day. I have a lot more lined up tomorrow,  although annoyingly none of it is before 12 o’clock. Very few free shows in the AM, and I’m not willing to get more full price tickets than I already have. I’m not very good at finding things to occupy my time when it’s not already planned out, so not sure what I’ll do with myself all morning. The Royal Mile won’t even be going yet, so can’t even go for a wander by all the street performers there. Oh well.

I’ll be writing up another of these tomorrow, so you’ll see if I find anything.

Thursday Linkdump

A bigger one this week.

1. Authors Responding to Fans
Another one of those topics that stirs up a lot of argument on Twitter, this week it was about whether authors should respond to reviews, or to fan work in general. I’m going to skip most of that and just point you at the post where author Hal Duncan rips apart the notion that authors should keep their noses out of fan spaces. He lays it out in some detail, but his essential point is simple: if you’re working with something he created, he has every right to point out if what you’re doing with it is problematic. Duncan’s post is characteristically long, but worth getting to grips with.

2. Boy Books and Girl Books
At Book Riot, Kelly Jensen talks about the problems we cause when we divide books up into “books for girls” and “books for boys”.

3. The Internet Makes You Dumb
Clive Thompson talks here about how use of the internet and social media is making kids smarter, not dumber.

4. Writing Diversity
Aliette de Bodard shares her thoughts on writing diversity in SFF, another topic that’s been popular recently.

5. Girls and Video Games
Elizabeth Simins has written a great comic about her life as a girl who likes video games. Go read it.

6. Fake Geek Guys
In this video, Jennifer Landa goes to Comic-Con to discover the truth about Fake Geek Guys.

Endings and Beginnings

For the last five years or so, I’ve been playing World of Warcraft. I’ve mentioned it before – it’s the reason I went quiet for over a year because I got in a bit too deep while unemployed. Anyway. This weekend, my raid group, the guild I’ve been with since I switched my account two years ago, decided it was done, and they’d not be continuing.

Which left me with a choice. I can try to find a new guild, start over with another group of total strangers, keep playing; or I can quit too. Right now, I’m looking at the second option.

I was on a six month renewal, so right now my account’s paid up until November. But I’ll not be raiding any more, and only playing casually. I’ll see the end of the current expansion pack, at least. After that, I’m done.

So what’s left is to decide what to do with my time. At the very least I’m gaining 6 hours every weekend, as well as all the other time spent logging in for little things. I don’t want to sink that time into watching TV, playing other games, or just checking Twitter.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be setting some time aside every day to do some writing. Blog posts at first: book posts, all the stuff I’ve been promising but not delivering for the last few months. After that, I hope I can talk myself into trying to write fiction again. I have a lot of ideas, but no idea what to do with them.

However it goes, there will be a change. In my life, and on this blog. Let’s see if I can do it right.

Twenty Twelve

Twenty-twelve will probably be looked back on as a very significant year for me. It’s a year of firsts, and of discovering things I hadn’t found before (but should have).

This year, I:

  1. Travelled abroad for the first time since my mid-teens. I went to Toronto – my first time crossing the Atlantic – did some sightseeing, went to Niagara Falls and –
  2. Met up with friends from the internet in real life for the first time. A few thousand miles from home I met with a couple of guildmates from World of Warcraft; it was nice getting to know them face to face.
  3. Also while in Toronto, on a bored evening, I joined Twitter. Several years late to the party, I’m now totally obsessed with reading my feed. It’s a very interesting way to see all these little bits and pieces from interesting people, share links and content, and occasionally some big conversation will start up that makes you think.
  4. I travelled up to Edinburgh for a couple of days for the Fringe Festival, saw a few good comedy acts and An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. I just wish I’d planned things better to get more seen.
  5. Spent a weekend in Krakow with my parents and some others. Didn’t do a lot, just saw a few parts of the city. On the last day we went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was interesting – and much bigger than I had expected. The kind of thing you don’t forget seeing.
  6. I started little a forum-based role-playing game over on the Kevin’s Watch message boards. It’s my first time doing something like this, and I’m still getting the hang of it; unfortunately it’s been sorely neglected since I had the completion date on my house confirmed. Speaking of which…
  7. 2012 is the year I bought my first home. In November I completed the purchase on a little two bedroom flat, which I’ve spent the last month decorating and partly furnishing. I’m a little disappointed it is taking so long to feel like it’s ready, but I expect to be moving in about a week from now. It’s almost enough to make me feel like an adult. Almost.

So, with 2013 a new stage in my life begins – I move out of my parents and into my own place. I’m also starting a book club on Kevin’s Watch in January, restarting my Book-a-Week posts here on the blog, and getting back on track as a GM over on my game.

Here’s hoping for even more new things and firsts in the year to come.