What Remains of Edith Finch – How Family Can Build Us Up and Tear Us Down
Author: Caitlin Burns
Throughout history, the concept of family has always been a central part of our lives. From autobiographies to Twitter threads, we like to share tales from our lives with those we care about, be it close friends and family or just the internet in general. Video games take this concept and run with it, building extravagant worlds and telling fantastical stories that boggle the mind. A lot of these stories have deeper meanings that you don’t always see, but there is almost always a sense of family in them, be it your blood relations or your crew members. It’s my belief that games that take a step back and think about the nature of human relationships are ones that will leave their mark on our hearts.
One such game is What Remains of Edith Finch. Released to the major systems in 2017, this adventure game received high praise from critics, players and reviewers alike who all praised its storytelling, presentation and commonly use it as an example to prove that video games are an art form. As a gamer who has a fondness for story-driven games, I was immediately intrigued and decided to take a weekend to just sit and immerse myself in the game.
By the end of the game, I was sobbing at this masterpiece of an experience.
To give you some context, the game follows the character Edith Finch who’s returned to her old family home after the death of her mother. Right away, many players can relate to how Edith feels – how it feels wrong to be there without her mother, how everything is familiar yet strange. When I lost my grandfather, we went to his flat to collect some mementoes to remember him by. We walked through those doors and it was just… off. Everything seemed too quiet without him. I noticed tiny details that didn’t fit with my memories of him – such as the plants not being watered and the tea bags being left in the cup for too long. It was his place, yet not. Much like Edith’s family home.
As you explore the uniquely constructed Finch home, you go from room to room piecing together Edith’s family tree. Various flashbacks and playable sequences have you experiencing the passing of each of her family members, from flying off the edge of a cliff to being poisoned by holly berries. Each tale gives you an insight into what that person was like, from their stubbornness to their struggle with mental health.
Although this is a game about loss, how Edith speaks of her family is truly uplifting. Each one of them is so unique and had such a profound impact on her upbringing, you can feel the pure love in her voice as she talks about them.
Who I want to talk about, however, is Lewis, one of Edith’s brothers. The game hints at the two being close, with him playing video games with his little sister, showing her secret passages in the house and being everything you’d want in a big brother. However, after a battle with substance abuse and going through rehab, he began to struggle with his mental health. His boring daytime job at a cannery was slowly wearing him down. So, he imagined a fantasy world – where he achieved great things. It began to consume him, to the point where he’d not speak to anyone for weeks, causing his family and therapist to worry. Eventually, the real Lewis became a hated figure in his mind, and he longed for the fantasy to come true.
This culminated in him committing suicide and resulting in Edith and her mother leaving the family home for good.
Out of the entire game, this story was the one that hit me the closest to home. Many people struggling with mental health conditions can feel like Lewis. The depression, the apathy, the feeling that the life you live has no point to it. We lose so many amazing people who become stuck in ruts as Lewis did, who suffer in silence and retreat into their minds to escape from its monotony. However, our minds can often be our worst enemies and in Lewis’s case, it provided him with an escape that eventually killed him.
Lewis lost his sense of self, falling into a spiral of self-loathing and hatred that he sadly, couldn’t escape from.
The pain in Edith’s voice as she talks about her brother is clear. She feels powerless, guilty and the grief is still as fresh as it was when she first heard the news. The loss of a loved one will always hurt, as the hole they leave behind in the world will constantly remind you. However, the idea of someone you love, suffering in silence and deciding that death is the only option left to them, is a heart-wrenching thought. You rethink every interaction with them, overthink every word you’ve ever spoken to them and wonder what you could’ve done better.
Our family can be our greatest support in times of need. They can save us from the darkness, pull us up and remind us that we are loved, we are worthy, and we are capable of so much more than our minds allow us to think. However, if we are deprived of that support, we can feel isolated and worthless, and in the worst cases, we could follow in Lewis’s footsteps. So, be there for those you love. Whether it’s your sibling suffering from depression or a cousin struggling with OCD, be by their side through it all.
Sometimes, just knowing someone has your back can make all the difference in the world.
Be kind to one another,