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Deeply sad, November 18, 2023
(Review largely hidden because most of my thoughts contain spoilers.)
(Spoiler - click to show)My main thought coming away from this one is… this game was deeply sad. Eddie (i.e., child Ed)'s pain comes through so clearly in the game he created, with the idyllic lake serving as a security blanket, so precious that it even comes up in his imagined futures of winning the lottery and being president of the moon. Otherwise, his life is steeped in bleakness: the bullying, the sister dying/dead of leukemia, the bad/absent father, the best-friend-of-convenience… There are moments of joy, like the lake and the cat, and overall the game doesn’t feel too bleak because it’s so mitigated by the childish excitement—you can feel how happy this kid is to have created a game, how clever he feels, and it’s very cute. But now, as adult Ed looking back on it, it mostly just brings him pain.
The ending felt like a gut punch. Ed’s daughter, named Erica after his sister, comes into the room needing to use the computer. She’s kind of rude and dismissive, preoccupied with school, stressed by the shift to online learning due to the COVID lockdown. So her attitude is understandable; she has no idea what her dad’s just been through (and in fact it seems likely that she has little or no knowledge of this part of his past at all). But oof, did it feel like a knife twist.
This game reminded me of the type of literary fiction that essentially reads as a portrait of a deeply unhappy person. I’ve never liked this kind of story because it leaves me wondering what the point is. Here, Ed basically asks that question for us at the end. “Does ancient history matter?” He says he doesn’t think so, but isn’t 100% committed to that answer. And I mean… my thought is, of course it matters. It matters because those events made Ed who he is today, just as ancient Rome played a part in shaping the way our world is today. Even if Ed doesn’t want it to, how can it not matter?
But then, maybe the reason he’s asking is because he does want it to. Maybe he wants to know that this experience of reliving his traumatic past wasn’t pointless after all.
On the whole: too sad for my taste. But definitely a well done game.