Through allowing its players to enact only the single, unchangeable demise of all its characters, the gameplay of Edith Finch serves as a constant reminder of the fleeting nature of life, the fixed yet elusive truths of history, and the often incomprehensible “curse” of spontaneous death. The game’s thematic engagement with the importance of discovering one’s genealogical history, together with its disregard of player agency in favor of telling the fixed stories of its deceased characters, breaks new ground for how a videogame can honestly represent ‘real’ human experience. Furthermore, it’s worth acknowledging that the authentic resonance of the gameplay is indebted to the dynamic simplicity of the walking simulator genre, which trades in entertainment value for a more reflective pacing.
For all the entertainment that virtual being in a videogame can provide, it can also be a particularly alluring and even potentially dangerous form of fictive immersion. Now that we’ve already touched on the formal operation of videogame immersion elsewhere (which I’d recommend having read first) it seems like a logical next step to discuss the phenomenon’s ethical implications. With reference to Marcel O’Gorman’s book, Necromedia, this post will explore the videogame industry’s culpability in a technoculture that idealizes gaming as an infinite cycle of immersive consumption. In response to this problem, I will consider how reflection on one’s gameplay experiences can disturb this cycle and thus work gameplay productively back to its origin in the finite self – that is, the player as human.