RWP: “What Remains of Edith Finch” – Amy Lo

I was inspired by Shana’s talk in our CS247G class. Ludonarrative consonance is a concept in video game design that emphasizes the harmony between gameplay and narrative elements. “What Remains of Edith Finch,” developed by Giant Sparrow, is a prime example of a game that successfully achieves ludonarrative consonance. “What Remains of Edith Finch” is primarily a narrative-driven game that focuses on storytelling and exploration. As players assume the role of Edith Finch, they are immersed in a mysterious and tragic tale of a family plagued by a perceived curse. The gameplay mechanics align perfectly with the narrative, allowing players to discover the secrets of the Finch family through various interactive vignettes.

The game employs a variety of gameplay styles, each tailored to the specific story of a family member’s demise. This diversity in gameplay not only keeps the experience engaging but also reinforces the thematic elements of the narrative. For instance, players may engage in surreal sequences where they transform into different animals, mirroring the character’s emotions or perspective. By merging these gameplay mechanics with the narrative, the game establishes a strong sense of ludonarrative consonance.

Another aspect of “What Remains of Edith Finch” that contributes to ludonarrative consonance is its excellent use of environmental storytelling. The Finch family’s home, which serves as the primary setting, is a captivating space filled with remnants of the family’s history. Each room tells a story, showcasing the lives and personalities of the deceased family members. As players navigate through the house, they uncover journals, photographs, and other artifacts that provide insight into the lives of the Finch family. This environmental storytelling seamlessly complements the narrative by allowing players to piece together the puzzle of the family’s past. The interactive exploration of the environment enhances the immersion and reinforces the emotional impact of the narrative, creating a cohesive and resonant experience.

One critique of “What Remains of Edith Finch” is its linear structure and limited player agency. The game presents a predetermined narrative path, where players follow a set sequence of events and stories. While this approach allows for a tightly woven story, it can lead to a lack of meaningful choices or exploration. Players may feel like passive observers rather than active participants in the narrative, which can diminish the sense of agency and immersion.

In “What Remains of Edith Finch,” gameplay mechanics are not simply vehicles for storytelling; they also express the underlying themes and emotions of the narrative. Each vignette the player encounters is carefully crafted to align with the character’s experiences and struggles. For instance, one story focuses on a character’s obsession with photography, and players engage in a mini-game that simulates the act of taking photographs. This interactive element allows players to share in the character’s passion and serves as a metaphor for capturing fleeting moments in life. By intertwining gameplay and narrative in this manner, “What Remains of Edith Finch” achieves a profound sense of ludonarrative consonance, where gameplay becomes a narrative expression.


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  1. It is interesting to me that you felt that the game had a “linear structure and limited player agency.” Was it a linear structure if rooms could be visited in various orders? Also, the game may have had a predetermined narrative, but this is not a characteristic that is unique to this game or walking simulators. Games that are conisdered to have some of the best stories, including the Last of Us (which just got turned into an HBO show), oftentimes have a predetermined linear storyline. Do players need to be given choice in how a story plays out in a game to feel a sense of agency?

  2. I was interested in your thoughts about the limited player agency in the game. While I agree that there isn’t a high degree of it in the game, I wonder if adding it would make the experience significantly. It would certainly be fun for the player to explore on their own terms, but I personally was always aware that it was Edith’s journey that we, the players, were witnessing first hand. She, as a playable character, has the background and context to navigate the house deliberately, while I feel like I might take much longer exploring every nook and cranny. For me, it centered the game as one where the player experiences what Edith is experiencing, not one where the player just explores some family. Would be interested to hear your thoughts!

  3. It was really interesting to hear your thoughts and critique on the game. The game really does a good job of compartmentalizing each story in each room, and the structure and mechanics of the game lend itself very well to the physical arrangement of the space. I’m interested to hear more about your thoughts regarding limited agency — I agree with there being a very linear and predetermined path, but I think I found a lot of agency in being able to spend a lot of time roaming even though I knew I had somewhere to go next, and just absorbing evidence and extrapolating about the family’s routines and habits and daily lives as I explored.

  4. Hi Amy, it was wonderful to hear your opinion and analysis of this game! One thing that I thought was interesting was your comment that “players may feel like passive observers”. In my own experience I actually thought that there were moments where I felt like I was a far more active participant that I was comfortable with, and simply having a mode to interact with the things presented to me was enough — where do you think this difference in experience comes from? What aspects of a player cause them to feel like they have more/less agency given the same circumstances and how might we design around that?

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