Hellbalde was running away with so many golden masks throughout the evening (winning five on the night overall) that many had expected Ninja Theory’s psychological action game to take away the BAFTA for Best Game too. Then, in came a melancholic and moving tale from Californian-based developer Giant Sparrow to nab the final golden mask.
What Remains of Edith Finch had to not only fend off Hellblade, but also the likes of Super Mario Odyssey, Horizon Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to win. That’s quite a field to overcome for a game that comes from such humble beginnings.
“Edith Finch began as a game that was inspired by my experience scuba diving as a teenager in Washington state,” says Ian Dallas, creative director at Giant Sparrow. “The sense of the sublime that I found there where you’re looking at the bottom of the ocean and it kind of goes to this infinite darkness. There’s the sense that it’s something beautiful but also something overwhelming.”
Over time that initial idea developed into the story of a young woman returning to her old family home and recalling stories of her deceased family members. Each of these plays out as a small vignette while exploring their lives (and untimely deaths) through a variety of different gameplay styles.
“We don’t tend to draw from video games,” says Ian Dallas on the game’s inspirations. “We draw from real life ideally, but then secondly books and movies to make something that doesn’t feel anything like those books and movies – instead it’s a game interpretation of that.”
“In the same way that a poem or piece of music is about a feeling, it’s not about that feeling itself but is something that evokes it. It’s a way of exploring and more deeply understanding that thing that was motivating you so that hopefully you can transmute that to the player.”
On that level What Remains of Edith Finch has been a terrific success and this Best Game win shows that all the team’s work has paid off. Hearing from Giant Sparrow, though, it seems development of the game itself was it’s own strange and fascinating journey, as technical director Joshua Safarty explains:
“None of us really knew what this game was going to be when we started. The process of trying to do something different with a group of people who are all very passionate about making these stories and making art and the systems that help them run, that’s the process that we all love to take part in.”
“It’s incredible when it actually turns into something that other people can appreciate as well.”
Images courtesy of BAFTA.