I’ve made it no secret that I tend to gravitate towards vastly more action-oriented games than Lydia. My Switch library is jam-packed with games like Dead Cells, Warframe, and countless others that involve all the hacking, slashing, and shooting shit up anyone would ever require. Tastes change though, and that’s evident in the fact that I have recently gotten SUPER into RPGs again. They were my fucking JAM when I was a kid but they fell out of favor with me when I got back into gaming later in life, but that tide has turned and now I’m all in again.
One area where I’ve never spent much time is with narrative-based adventures/visual novels. The exception is, and this is gonna make me sound old as fuck, when I played shit like Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego on Apple IIe back in the day. I used to play those suckers til the disks melted, but I was a kid and there wasn’t the INSANE amount of content available that there is now. Now you have the ability to finely tailor your gaming library to your precise specifications and with that, I just haven’t been able to get into the slower pace of more story-oriented games.
Well, the truth of the matter is that all the hacking and slashing gets a little tired after a while, and even the most battle-hardened of us need to shift our attention to something new and fresh every now and again. I’m much more receptive to trying new things right now and I’m enjoying my new-found open-mindedness when it comes to the kinds of interactive experiences I’m choosing to check out. When I saw the trailer for Lydia I was intrigued, but when I learned that the game centered around the idea of a girl processing her childhood trauma I was even more curious.
If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that I’ve talked at length about my childhood experience on The Ghost Generation. While I didn’t go through some of the admittedly MUCH more severe types of childhood traumas that some people had to, I did endure a lot of things that left indelible scars upon me that will probably never fully go away. The fear of abandonment from my father leaving me, the subtle sting of emotional abuse from my stepfather, the shame of moving from house to house with the piercing eyes of my desolate hometown judging us, the bullying, the anger- all of it. These things shape who we are and we all process them differently. For me, I dove headfirst into the world of music, drugs, and self-destruction like so many of us do. Some kids turn to violence, some kids channel it in more constructive ways, but EVERY single one of us, at some point, has sought escape from the world we got stuck living in. It’s a universal thing, our minds seek refuge and though that refuge is different for everyone, it is sought all the same.
Lydia is the story of a little girl seeking that escape, and a way to process the things going on around her. Developed by Platonic Partnership and published by Nakana.io, the game follows Lydia through the different phases of her life and her story unfolds in text and images. There isn’t really voice acting here, just the “mumbling” type sounds you hear so frequently in video games. There isn’t any action to speak of outside of walking one way or another and interacting with a few objects/people. The game itself is SUPER short too, I sat down after the kids went to bed the other night and finished it in what I’m pretty sure was about an hour. NOT my usual shit, not by a longshot.
You’re probably sitting there reading this like a list of shortcomings, but you’d be VASTLY mistaken if so. Lydia is one of the most profoundly moving video games I’ve ever played, and as a person who has lived through his own traumas it resonated with me in so many very real ways. The artstyle somehow manages to capture Lydia’s life in such a real and visceral light while also being abstract and artful at the same time. I’ve BEEN in houses like Lydia’s, I’ve walked down streets like hers, and I’ve experienced a lot of the same things she has too. I’m not going to tell you anything else about the story here, you can look it up if you want to or just play the damn thing but I don’t want to give anything away of my own accord. You need to go into this dark, I promise.
The subject matter might be very real for a lot of you and you may find it disturbing, I want to get right out with that part. Especially if you’ve suffered at the hands of abuse, addiction, and/or abandonment, I know how deep those scars can run- but I promise you this, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not playing this game. It’s an artful rumination on childhood trauma and the ripple effect it causes throughout our lives, and if you were to take nothing from it besides one thing I would want it to be this: Lydia shows us that were not alone. Her journey to escape and understand the things she is going through has the capacity to resonate very deeply with those who choose to experience this beautiful piece of interactive art and even though you might find yourself heading for a box of tissues I promise- this game is worth the emotional roller-coaster it’ll probably send you on.
It’s a REAL short game, but who the hell cares? I’ve played 50 hour-long epics that haven’t stuck with me longer than a passing brain fart. This is raw, this is art, this is our human experience and at the end of the day it’s only $4 on the eShop. There is also a $1 DLC available at launch and all net revenue from your purchases of the DLC will go directly to the nonprofit organization Fragile Childhood. I’ve looked into the work they’re doing and it’s powerful stuff so I’m definitely going to be downloading it ASAP today and you should too. It gives you an in-game coloring book for Lydia in case you were wondering, which ought to add an adorable element the proceedings that’ll probably make me cry even more now.
As a parent, these things hit me even harder than they would have with only my eyes as a frame of reference. My children are everything to me and I will never put them through the things I had to go through growing up, but so many children don’t have that kind of security. The ravages of emotional trauma have hurt ENOUGH of our kids and our world is in dire need of some healing. Today, I’m calling on our Ghosties to take a break from all the alien-zapping and demon-slashing to experience something that directly represents the ideals that The Ghost Generation stands for, and to contribute to a cause that is worth fighting for. Lydia has left it’s own marks on my soul, but these are marks I’m happy to carry. Lydia is stunning, affecting, beautiful art that deserves to be experienced by YOU.
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