Behind each family history we can find a source of strength and a reminder that we are all important. This is what Chelsea Hash, art director of the videogame What Remains of Edith Finch, sees. The game is based on the history of the Finch clan, whose members believe they were haunted by a curse that condemned them to a premature death.
"It’s a game about stories. Not just stories but story tellers and what the stories they tell can reveal about them," says Hash to the video game, which this year won the Bafta Award for the best title of the year 2017.
How does it feel to have won the BAFTA for the Best Game of the year? Did you expect it?
It was entirely unexpected! We held out hopes for narrative and after that was passed, I was just glad we were up there. The other games in the category were obvious stand outs so it's been surreal to be acknowledged in this way.
How was the process of creating the game? Where did the idea come from? How long did it take you to shape the whole story and why did you decide to tell it that way?
What Remains of Edith Finch is not just an a narrative exploration game for players, but it was an exploration in the narrative design process. Ian Dallas was first inspired by a moment in his childhood, with a view of the continental shelf sloping out and away into the abyss while scuba diving. While not an autobiography, the story was inspired by the experience of growing up in the pacific northwest, but paired with the narrative structure and stylings of weird fiction and media like the Twilight Zone. While the tone and mood were clearly established from the beginning, the story evolved in every step of development. We established ambitious experiences that were inspired by unique game feel and visual style with a specific narrative thrust. It was essential that the mechanics, visuals and story elements complimented one another and we discarded many good ideas that didn't land.
It was very important that the environment participate in selling the narrative. A significant portion of the subtext of the stories exist in the rooms in the house. The work that went into rendering the ocean fed into narrative need to have empty space. The player's experience can be fed both by interactive and non-interactive moments. Presenting things to be seen is one of the key ways the game communicates.
The game is "magical realism", what do you think is the way to tell a story like that successfully?
Magical realism exists outside of pure fantasy while still indulging in the wonder and mystery of things not literally occuring. Depending on the story you're trying to tell, it's useful to frame things as being of and by this world we live in, rather than creating an alternate universe. Personally, I'm of the opinion that pure fantasy has a certain distance that it creates between the reader and the world builder, as you get to choose what rules you break and in some sense you're breaking all the rules and it turns off the readers brains for subtlety.