I am writing an essay on narratives in games and I keep struggling with What Remains of Edith Finch. I have blogged about it before, but I keep getting caught in notions of how I think Edith wants to rewrite her family’s history, making her ancestors as human and complex as possible. That idea keeps clashing with my own sense of the appropriate ways to talk about cultural artifacts (which these are not), and I in turn return to the house.
If the game marks the move from analog to digital culture, with the attendant nostalgia and hoopla, then the house helps with that transition. In some ways it represents the early days of radio, with the impossibly twisty towers reaching to the sky, and lots of flotsam and jetsam surrounding the site itself. In others, the journey we take through it, the way the game leads us (with a couple of stops to repackage the disparate parts of text that have slipped away), feels like the early days of the Internet, as token ring and ethernet compete for primacy, only to give way to the protocols that shape wifi.
With the early days out of the way, though, my main impression is that the way that the house fits neatly into the landscape – not so much organic as it is not engineered, a product of artifice and tinkering more than planning – feels 100 percent digital. Our digital world is laden with self-proclaimed masters of the universe, mostly white straight tech-alpha males who could imagine a thousand TED talks springing from the image I have taken from the game above, and all of whom speak glowingly of the magical intersection of tech and culture. They would see metaphor after metaphor I’m guessing, and they wouldn’t be wrong (just full of themselves) – digital culture seems in many ways to defy its own antecedents, as assholes like Steve Jobs get hagiographies and decent people like Steve Wozniak forgotten.
What Remains of Edith Finch, of course, offers us another way out of this mess, but that other way will need to be the subject of another post…