What am I Consuming?

This was the title of a segment of Felicia Day’s podcast, Felicitations, back when I last listened (it’s been a while, so I can’t say if she still does this), and it amused me, so here I have adopted it myself.

So what am I consuming these days in the way of entertainment? I recently played through a nice little video game called What Remains of Edith Finch. This is the kind of title that some would argue is not actually a game, but more of a “walking simulator”. There’s only ever actually one way you can go in the game, and there aren’t really any puzzles or challenges, so you just keep moving forward and enjoy the story unfurling before you. These are usually very atmospheric and Edith Finch is no exception.

The Finch family might be cursed. Many of their number die young of unusual causes. The titular character’s grandmother certainly believed in the curse, though others think her raising the younger generations on sensationalized stories of the tragic ends may have contributed to a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Wanting to bury the past, Edith’s mother moves them far away. Now, as the last remaining Finch, Edith returns to the family home on Orcas Island off the shore of Washington State to try to better understand her family history.

Part of the magic of the game is just seeing and experiencing the Finch home, which seems so real and gives you a strong feeling of who these people were and how they lived. The setting is just gorgeous.

Edith learns more about each member of the family and how they died, many in ways that may seem to have unnatural explanations, but that can be interpreted in much more mundane and realistic and heartbreaking ways. For instance, in 1947 ten year old Molly wrote in her diary shortly before passing away that, after being sent to bed without supper, she was so hungry that she turned into a cat and stalked a bird outdoors, then became an owl and devoured rabbits before transforming into a shark and hunting down a seal. Finally, she became a sort of sea monster. After attacking and eating the crew of a fishing vessel, she smelled something tantalizing coming from a house on the nearby shore. After following the scent up through drainage pipes and into her own home, the strange experience ends after she slithers underneath her own bed.

The more likely explanation is that Molly hallucinated these events before dying of poisoning, since we first see her eating whatever she can find in her room after being sent to bed hungry. This included her pet gerbil’s food, and entire tube of toothpaste, and some random berries growing inside her bathroom window. Grandma Edie (Molly’s mother) very probably believed the version of events in her daughter’s diary, but Edith’s mother Dawn (the niece Molly never lived to meet) thinks that’s nonsense. Although when they later adopt a stray kitten, it’s Dawn who names it Molly…

Each person’s story is told via a unique method. Barbara had been a child star, cast in a cult hit monster movie. Her end is told through a comic book that you, as the player, get to interact with in places. Some of these are quite creative!

If you, like me, enjoy video games for the story moreso than (or at least as much as) for combat and other challenges, I recommend this short title with a haunting story and gorgeous aesthetics.

I’ll leave off with this interesting glitch I encountered during my second playthrough (there is so much context you can miss when you don’t yet know the whole story). Where the front door was supposed to be, the ocean, and some floating trees!