‘What Remains of Edith Finch’: The Evolution of the Walking Simulator

by Mike Worby
Published: Last Updated on

Sit down for a second.

I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a good one, and I think you’re going to like it. It has everything a great story should have. It has love in every facet imaginable. It has a bevy of imagination. It has mystery and intrigue. And, of course, it has tragedy.

That bit is key because, as we know, storytelling began with the caveat that a story must fall into one of two categories: either that of a comedy, or a tragedy. What Remains of Edith Finch falls decidedly into the latter category. This, in and of itself, creates a bit of a dichotomy, though, as you’d be hard pressed to find a game (or a story in any medium) so full of the zest for life, and what makes it worth living. Or even further, what makes existence worth existing for.

If I were to try and draw you a picture of what this game is, I’d start with Gone Home for emotional gravitas, add in That Dragon, Cancer for its use of experimentation in the first person, and the walking simulator, and offer a touch of Firewatch for its evocative use of atmosphere and environment to tell a story. If it sounds like I’m describing maybe one of the best games you’ll ever play, than you’re paying attention. What Remains of Edith Finch may be the closest any game in history has come to emulating the transcendent experience of being absorbed into a story.

What Remains of Edith Finch
If you’ve ever had that magical experience of sitting by an open fire or lamp, late at night and reading a Gothic horror tale, this game is for you. If you’ve ever reached the end credits of a film and just sat there as the names and jobs rolled on past, this game is for you. If you’ve ever sat in your basement on a Thursday night, wondering why the hell you’re setting your alarm for Friday instead of just throwing in the towel and becoming a hitchhiker, than this is absolutely the game for you.

What Remains of Edith Finch is one of those key pieces of art that taps into the essential elements of what it means to be a human being, in all of its frustration, infatuation and conviction. It’s a game that ties itself directly to your right brain, and activates every abstract element of your imagination, before simply letting them run wild.

I feel like telling you the specifics of what this game is, and what it’s about, would be a disservice to you, but for the sake of credibility, I suppose I have to tell you at least a bit about the nuts and bolts of What Remains of Edith Finch. Okay, so, you’re a girl in the woods, and you make your way to your family’s ancestral house. It’s a home where nearly everyone in your family lived, and died, all via increasingly extravagant and depressing means. As you make your way through this impossible house of impossible things, you learn the truth of your history.

What Remains of Edith Finch
It’s a story of sea monsters, a tale of magical kings, a testament to wisdom passed on, and the transformation of one’s essential being. What the hell does that all mean? Well, you’re gonna walk, and crawl, and swim, and fly, and live, and die, but not necessarily in that order.

Have you ever read Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon or Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury? If you haven’t, maybe you should stop reading this, and go read one of those two all-time classic novels of imagination, intrigue and coming-of-age. They’re both about young boys learning to reconcile their childhood wonders with a world that is total and utter shit. Each one is a tale of impossible magic set amid the most dire, and demonstrably human, scenarios imaginable. It is this contradiction that makes each story so special, and it’s this quality that What Remains of Edith Finch shares

When you’re playing this game you’re not an adult, or a child. You’re not a cat, or a dog, or a bird. You’re not a character in a comic book, or a shattered factory worker escaping into the D&D simulator of your own mind’s eye. You’re not gay or straight, a boy or a girl. You’re somehow all of these at once, and maybe none of them.

What Remains of Edith Finch
Now I’m just going to be frank. If you pick up What Remains of Edith Finch, you may not find yourself as affected as I am. Hell, maybe you hate walking simulators. Maybe you think that coming-of-age tales are horse shit. It might be that the subject matter feels nonsensical to you, or that it goes off on too many tangents for you to care.

No matter what stance you end up taking on this game, or what conclusion you end up coming to, however, I can absolutely guarantee you one thing: you’ve never played anything like it. If this is the future of the walking simulator, then hand me a VR helmet and a time machine.

I don’t need to be Neo, I’ll happily be Joe Pantoliano eating virtual steak with some shit head G-man, so long as I can have more experiences like this.

Play this game. Play it right now.

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