There are so many things I like about Ludipe’s entry for Rami Ismail’s game-a-day calendar Meditations. It’s a lovely demonstration of the flatgame format (and I really admire that Meditations has already offered multiple kinds of game – Unity, Pico-8, flatgame – in just a few days). Given it’s the weekend, I’m grateful that this game doesn’t require effort or skill (especially in comparison to yesterday’s game – I would not have had the energy for that today). And it does exactly what it’s meant to: it’s a simple but poignant illustration of grief, and how it can be exacerbated by the time of year.
Ludipe has written an intro explaining the personal story behind the game, but even without reading it you can garner much from the illustrations, colour, animations, sound, and how they all change as you click through to the end. Even the button you click on to advance the game helps to tell the story: a switch for which each side corresponds to “before” and “after” the illness and subsequent death.
So, scenes on one side feature the grandfather with his long beard and cane taking part in various holiday activities with other family members all dressed in colourful festive clothes, while Jingle Bells plays. These are interspersed with mostly colourless scenes: the grandfather in bed attached to a beeping monitor, a funeral, the exact same dinner setup as in one of the colourful scenes but without the grandfather or colour or music. I was particularly struck by one black-and-white scene in which subgroups of the family are placed in separate boxes, as if the grandfather was what brought them all together. And I liked what happened towards the end.
I’ve yet to experience the kind of loss shown here, but I imagine this representation would ring true for someone who had. One of the things we like most about holidays like Christmas and (in this case) Three Kings Day is the traditions we repeat year after year. They provide a sense of stability. Until, that is, someone who has been a consistent presence is suddenly gone.
As I said, I haven’t experienced this kind of grief yet (my closest relative to have died was a grandparent I rarely saw, many years ago). But I have experienced other kinds of loss, and distance. In the past couple of years I have had some of the loveliest Christmases of my life, but that doesn’t mean nothing has been missing.