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  • Moments From Florence

    [09.02.21]
    - Nikhil Murthy
  • I finally got around to playing Florence and it is magnificent. It's beautiful and moving and the kind of game that you cannot miss and so I want to write out some things about it that you can take away for your own games.

    In case you haven't seen the game before, it involves small, toybox-like interactions to progress through a narrative in comic panels. You do things like match numbers to work, rub back and forth to brush your teeth and assemble things to say through a jigsaw.

    Also, if you haven't played the game yet, you really should start there. It takes about half-an-hour to finish, it's wonderful and there are lots of spoilers below.

    Moments

    Given the structure of the game, it's naturally individual moments that really stand out. The first one that I'm going to highlight is a pretty straightforward one, that of Krish cleaning up his room before Florence came over. It's a very familiar trope and a very cute one. It also helps us flesh out Krish by showing us his stuff. We learn his interests by cleaning up his mess.

    The centerpiece of the game is probably the part where you have to piece together a torn-apart photo of Florence and Krish hugging as it drifts apart. I'm not going to lie, this is a very literal interaction. There's no subtlety here. However, the medium is novel enough to carry it and the story and characters do enough to justify it. It's a powerful and beautiful moment and having the pieces move apart communicates the breakdown sharply.

    Compound Statements

    There's a moment in the game where you literally push Krish through the doors of the music academy that he has joined. There's a button with a pair of hands on them and you tap it until Krish is finally through the doors. In itself, this is very evocative. You feel like the supportive girlfriend pushing her significant other to finally chase his dreams. You understand Krish's reluctance to put himself out there and Florence's determination that he do so.

    This button with the hands shows up once more much later in the game. After you and Krish break up, there's a scene where you have to push yourself to get out of bed with the same hands that you once used to push Krish to follow his dream. The change in noun and change in context completely changes the meaning of the same action, but more interestingly, the fact that it is the same action flavors the current interaction with the previous one and tinges the past one with the present. Now, there's a melancholy to when you pushed Krish to school where once it was cute and the struggle to get out of bed takes an extra sharpness when it was an action once reserved for Krish.

    A more novel statement is in the accounting work that you do. There's a number matching mini-game that is used to represent this accountancy and it comes up first in the day job and later when Florence starts her own business. When the relationship between Florence and Krish is at its best however, the numbers match themselves. This functions beautifully as a translation of the feeling that work is easy and that you are floating, a feeling you get when deliriously happy. What's most interesting though is that the numbers don't match themselves once Florence has started her own art business. I run my own game company, I have to do some accounting nonsense every now and again and I can tell you that the work certainly never feels like it completes itself. I love that the game found the space to put in some of the slog that comes with following your dreams, which is a dynamic that is too often overlooked when talking about doing so.

    Mirrored Statements

    There's an interesting, if obvious, pair of mirrored statements around unpacking Krish's belongings when he moves into Florence's apartment and then packing them up again when he moves out. I spent a long time debating whether to pack the photo of Florence with Krish's family or to leave it there. Finally, I decided to leave it there for Florence.

    Similarly, when things finally finished breaking down, there's an action where you throw a map that Florence and Krish made of their memories together into the trash. When I made the map with them in the first place, I was excited by how cute it was. I now want to make a map like that with my wife. Once the pandemic allows me to, I will. Throwing that away felt particularly poignant.

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