Lydia is an interactive story about a little girl who lives in an alcoholic family and suffers because of her parents’ drinking. At last year’s Finnish Game Awards, Lydia won both the Best Creative Achievement and the Finnish Game of the Year. And at last year’s GameXpo, Platonic Partnership was voted Finnish Game Developer of the Year.
By virtue of its important theme, the game also aroused interest at Alko, as it fits in perfectly with Alko’s programme In the Company of Children. This responsibility programme seeks to examine adults’ alcohol consumption through the eyes of children, and challenge parents to consider how they use alcohol in the company of children and what kind of example they’re giving.
Lydia was originally produced as a paid game in English, but it has now been translated into Finnish and Alko will be making it available to all Finns free of charge through iOS and Android app stores.
The game is actually a short digital novel in which the player guides the main character, Lydia, through the story and reacts to the dialogue as they choose. However, no matter what choices Lydia makes, the story will take one bad turn after another – just as inevitably as serious alcoholism. The game is mainly quite sad – at its best simply melancholy and at its worst oppressive.
Lydia’s story begins when her parents hold a party and the little girl is packed off to her room to sleep. But the loud music and voices from downstairs keep her awake, and she can’t sleep for fear of some monster lurking in the shadows. She finds a teddy bear under her bed, and in the back of her wardrobe a door to another time and place. So she and teddy set out through the door to look for the monster.
It’s obvious that the monster is not a bogeyman living in the wardrobe, but rather intoxicants and life with parents who use them to excess. The adults in Lydia’s life make her feel worthless and guilty – as if every problem is her fault.
The story is divided into several short chapters that also enable you to peer into the future and Lydia’s teenage years – which don’t look very much brighter.
In the game, the parents and other guests hanging out in the kitchen transform into zombies, which is of course a very extreme way of a illustrating a bad example. Yet it provides plenty of food for thought – even for moderate users.
The story makes you consider how frightening it can be for a child when an adult who should be the safest person in the world suddenly becomes quite the opposite. It also reminds us how children hear and understand surprisingly much when it’s assumed they aren’t listening.
As a father, my hearts breaks at the very thought that a child of mine would be afraid of me, or that they would hear me say something that would break their heart.
Visually, the game is a work of art. Every screen and picture has been as skilfully rendered as a painting. The story is primarily told in black and white, but coloured elements are deliberately used to emphasise certain well-considered details.
The hypnotic music is a fundamental aspect of the game’s atmosphere, so it’s definitely worth playing with earphones. The racket from the adults’ party that carries into the child’s room is enough to make even the player anxious, so it’s no wonder that Lydia escapes into another world. Although the characters don’t actually speak, you can hear wordless dialogue in the background: the child’s babbling and the drunken adults’ slurred gibberish.
The story lasts about one and a half hours, so it’s easy to play through the game in an evening. You don’t need any special skills to play: the story progresses when you click on the white circles, and occasionally you’re asked to choose what kind of emotion Lydia will react to the dialogue with.
I think that problem users like Lydia’s parents are unlikely to stumble on this game, but if they do, it will hopefully make them see their problem through their child’s eyes. For the rest of us, it’s a good reminder to consider our own alcohol consumption and, in particular, how much alcohol you should drink in the company of children. Some adopt a policy of zero-tolerance, while others want to demonstrate that alcohol can be consumed responsibly. However, everyone is unanimous on one point: that children and getting heavily drunk don’t mix.
This is exactly what both Alko and the game’s developers are hoping for: “If even one player gains a greater understanding of alcoholism, or starts to think about their own alcohol consumption, our game has achieved its goal.”
If you would like more information about intoxicant use in childhood homes – both past and present – please visit lasinenlapsuus.fi
The writer is a game developer and a blogger at Isyyspakkaus.com.