What Remains of Edith Finch is currently free on the Epic Games Store, so I figured I'd try it out. I've heard about it, though I didn't really follow it all that closely. Much like TV or movies, it is in a genre of game where the narrative, rather than the gameplay, is the primary draw of the experience, and as a result I didn't particularly care to read what people were saying about it. However, I did hear a number of people say that it was good, so I gave it a try. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0kKF5f8nS0 *What Remains of Edith Finch trailer, courtesy of GameTrailers* I was not disappointed. I don't want to spoil it; it's fairly short, entirely linear (albeit well-written enough that this is not a complaint; it really feels like you get to experience everything, rather than like you're being led by the nose), and deeply tragic. I recommend it wholeheartedly. This is not a review, however. Past this point I'm going to be analyzing the game proper, and # A New Adventure Genre? What I find interesting about the whole concept of the genre that Edith Finch occupies is that it falls into what a lot of people derisively call "walking simulators", with a couple minor puzzles to spruce things up. However, fundamentally, I recall games like Myst from my childhood. The puzzles are much more simplistic in Edith Finch, but that's perhaps a necessary part of the fact that they reflect reality. There is no reason for the game to have highly complicated puzzles because of the setting: the narrator/avatar is returning to her family home after all her relatives have died. Further, Edith Finch capitalizes on how the player interacts with the environment. Almost every action requires some manual flourish; you don't just click the mouse to open a door, you click it and then sweep it aside. It's actually got a fluidity and realism to the motions that I don't think many other games really hit, and while it serves a good narrative purpose it also would have tremendous applications in games where, say, the distance by which a door is opened can have gameplay consequences. As it stands, however, Edith Finch is light on gameplay, but the gameplay is all important. There aren't many places where it's complicated, but each of the player's actions has an impact on the way things unfold. It was actually somewhat exhilarating during many of the scenes; a scene where one of the narrators imagines herself becoming a cat and you get to pounce between tree branches was incredibly satisfying both from a storytelling perspective and from a gameplay perspective. # A Matter of Perspective Edith Finch is presented almost entirely in first-person, and it works well. There are times when we see things from a point of view that the framing character wouldn't actually see, but they all are matched by a good storytelling reason; these lapses in physicality reflect a state of consciousness. It really helps engagement, and one of the things that I found particularly clever is that the player can back out of any action pretty easily. For instance, if I had not completed fully exploring a room to my satisfaction before starting to open a door, I could reverse my action. # Wrapping Up I think that the real telltale achievement of Edith Finch is that it makes the player an active participant in stories. It could just as well have been an animated Pixar feature, in terms of its subject matter, but the elements of engagement that come from player agency–even if that agency is largely limited to moving along a linear path–provide a tremendous opportunity to draw players in. From a game design standpoint, it would be nice if more video games took lessons from Edith Finch; not in the sense that they should adopt mechanical minimalism, but rather that they should offer the player reasons to believe that they're in control of the story. I think of on-rail FPS games and Edith Finch as functioning in much the same way; they are a transition between set pieces with a loose narrative, but those FPS experiences are mechanics-driven (kill all the enemies) while Edith Finch provides a narrative-driven alternative, where the goal is simply to see all that's there. If your story is at a level of quality where seeing what lies around the next corner is sufficient motivation to play, you've made a good game. I think of something like Bastion or Transistor while I'm reflecting on Edith Finch: stories that have powerful emotional potential layered under gameplay, and I think that Edith Finch is compelling for having that solid core story rather than any gameplay element.