Game on for the man who tells a good tale

The Observer - - Comment & Analysis - Reb@e@ctwctaw­itNtiteitrcehraohn­las­d­nold­nele

What Re­mains of Edith Finch was a sur­prise best game win­ner at the Bafta Games awards on Thurs­day night. The in­die re­lease had been nom­i­nated in sev­eral other cat­e­gories, but its top prize vic­tory was such a shock that its cre­ative di­rec­tor, Ian Dal­las of Gi­ant Spar­row, claimed not to have pre­pared a speech. “I wrote a speech for all the other awards, but this one I fig­ured there would be some­thing in Ja­panese,” Dal­las told the BBC, a joke re­fer­ring to Nin­tendo, which dom­i­nated else­where with Su­per Mario Odyssey and the stun­ning The Leg­end of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a game so all-en­com­pass­ing it seems to have the spe­cial abil­ity of mak­ing time dis­ap­pear.

Edith Finch is a re­mark­able lit­tle game, though to call it lit­tle is, per­haps, to do it a dis­ser­vice. It is short, at two to three hours (and as a re­sult, rel­a­tively cheap), but it is vast in its imag­i­na­tion, scope and lit­er­ary am­bi­tion. Dal­las has spo­ken be­fore of the in­flu­ences be­hind this eerie and beau­ti­ful story of a girl re­turn­ing home to ex­plore the his­tory of her cursed fam­ily, cit­ing HP Love­craft, Edgar Allen Poe and par­tic­u­larly Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude as ref­er­ence points.

I’m not a hard­core gamer, by any stretch; I’m happy to dip into the block­busters to see what all the fuss is about, but it usu­ally stops there. Last week, I vis­ited Power Up! at the Sci­ence Mu­seum in Lon­don, as part of the city’s games fes­ti­val, and it lets you have a go on a col­lec­tion of con­soles from the early 80s to the present day. As fun as it was to play a plod­ding Ul­ti­mate War­rior on the Sega Me­gadrive for the first time since the early 90s, it also high­lighted the as­ton­ish­ing scale of in­no­va­tion that has taken place over the last four decades.

Edith Finch’s un­der­dog vic­tory is not only sat­is­fy­ing for its gi­ant-top­pling qual­ity, but for its part in the on­go­ing re­vi­sion of how sto­ry­telling can take place. Be­fore it, I had been gen­uinely moved by a game only once be­fore, af­ter a win­ter of slowly play­ing The Last of Us, even­tu­ally be­ing forced to face that gut-wrench­ing end­ing. This game had an even greater emo­tional depth and had the feel – de­lib­er­ately so, ac­cord­ing to Dal­las – of an ac­com­plished short story col­lec­tion.

Gi­ant Spar­row is cur­rently in the “very early” stages of de­vel­op­ing its next game, but at a re­cent panel, it re­vealed its in­ten­tions. “Our next game is about the en­chant­ing beauty of an­i­mal lo­co­mo­tion,” read a slide. Of course it is.

Edith Finch cre­ator Ian Dal­las with his Bafta.

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