Formation of empathy requires a lot of time. Especially when it comes to those from whom we seek unconditional love and support. Empathy is the very difference that lies between the black hole of depression and a comfortable life beyond judgment. This important topic is raised in the game If found. But this is not an ordinary moralizing piece, but a real visual novel in the style of a sketchbook.
Download If found game for iPhone and iPad (App Store)
Thanks to expressive minimalist illustrations, soft background sound, prescribed plot and thematic sequence, chaos and serenity of a young adult life literally jump out of us from the pages of a game book. And we become participants in a touching and even heartbreaking story.
With the help of a diary and an eraser, we immerse ourselves in the memories of the main character named Kashio during a turning point in her life. The action takes place in 1993 in the county of Mayo, Ireland. Returning to her small hometown of Achilles from Dublin for the holidays, Casio seemed to be lost. Having two diplomas of higher education and an ardent desire to get a Ph.D., she receives from her mother the words: “Why don’t you find a decent job and start a normal life?” Many of us are too familiar with this kind of talk. But early memories are based on the hint that Kashio’s source of pain comes from her own mother. She immediately sees who her daughter really is.
In real life, not everyone has a place to go, form a social circle, and allow themselves to become adults more easily — this is Kashio’s life. And when we literally erase every scene on the screen in her diary to move between everyday events, we immerse ourselves in personal memories through the perception of the heroine herself, observing her interaction with the environment. Working with an eraser is a simple game mechanic that forces us to open layers of vivid memories, one of which has powerful consequences.
Ultimately, the whole story is Casio’s journey in search of his place in life. The main group of her friends – Colum, Jack and Chance, are just young losers who are about 20 years old. They squat in an abandoned, crumbling house. The guys play in a punk band, and Kashio, desperately looking for friends, joins this company.
Despite the depressing state of the house, it is still a place where you can be free. Morning bustle with breakfast, rehearsals, watching TV together and watching the stars in the attic – this is exactly what the girl’s tormented soul needs. Of course, deep down she understands that all this is only temporary.
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Colum and Jack are well together, but Casio is getting closer to Chance. This gives us the opportunity to see the deeper feelings and thoughts of the girl. A budding friendship accurately shows that disturbing excitement from meeting someone new, like you and seeming perfect. But this sketch shows how fragile and fleeting such relationships can be.
Throughout history, we have become acquainted with the abstract dreams of Kashio to become an astronaut, to go to heaven to explore the anomaly and save the world from destruction. At first, the nature of such visions is rather vague, but in the end, the metaphorical goal becomes clear. Kashio’s love of astronomy ultimately helps her sort out her difficulties. It is difficult to call the problem profound, but it is catchy that something similar happened for most of us – the distinction between personal and professional.
No matter how touching the description of what is happening, miraculous illustrations convey it much better than words. Sometimes a little color appears in the background to provide contrast, but the real beauty of the game is in the style of a pencil sketch. Each character and most scenes are embodied through rude hand-drawn drawings, while the appearance and characteristics of the characters are perfectly conveyed, giving them charisma. Facial expression, body language, relationships and momentary emotions – all this is clearly conveyed in a seemingly rustic style of pencil sketching. The game allows you to convey so much, showing so little, due to the variety of graphic techniques. This is her dignity. Even space sketches against the backdrop of an endless field of stars are successfully combined with drawings by Kashio’s memoirs. Drawings tell a story no worse than the text, while they also dramatically change their shape. A soft two-tone scene can be replaced by sharp scribbles indicating a noisy crowd on a punk show.
The atmospheric instrumental soundtrack, painted in ambient tones, adds integrity to the game. The sound range is most often minimalistic, the light sounds of the synthesizer form the basis for the sound of acoustic guitar strings. This allows you to complement contemplative moments or warm feelings experienced by Kashio. In other cases, heavy bass lines and gloomy melodies create tension, emphasizing the unpleasant mood of the hero. Sounds also form the environment – on the shore we hear something similar to waves, and at night gusts of wind create a feeling of a cold winter. Each If found chapter uses a wide range of sound and music, making the series of sketches even more intimate.
Behind all this is the spirit of this Irish game. This is important for If found, because from the drawn world, cultural references and folk language literally pull us into the real and living world. We will have to learn some regional terms and note how everyday life in Ireland differs from ours. This applies to holidays, religion, and even the post office with a pub. Useful footnotes reveal definitions and context, teach pronunciation. The thoroughness with which If found tries to immerse us in Irish culture cannot but be appreciated, further humanizing both the story itself and its actors.
And although Kashio’s views on the cosmos have been interspersed with history throughout its exposition, the heroine’s spiritual struggle and the confusion of her soul are firmly connected with this world. A mixture of text, art and sound creates the same explosion of emotions that you can feel when you are lost and found by a marginal young man. Relationships, individuality, happiness and despair – all this can be found in the storybook, which we select, working during the game with an eraser.
As we approach the end of the game, Kashio’s mental health is becoming increasingly confused. But from the very beginning she really wanted acceptance and sympathy, this is what can save her from unwillingness to seek her happiness. And when we get the empathy we need, we are finally able to take control of our lives and begin to write our story. This may be the conclusion based on the game If found, but it is far from the only one. A touching story can affect your personal memories and sad strings from an unfulfilled one. The game If found itself becomes a real event, it appeals to the unspoken that is stored at each of us deep down. With this approach, the story drawn will seem, if not understandable, then accepted and appropriate on an emotional level.
Download If found game for iPhone and iPad (App Store)