Walking Around, Finding Mushrooms, Bein’ Grumps: Lieve Oma
I haven’t been gaming for very long, but what got me interested in games finally was not the fantasy lives you could lead or the incredible foes you could conquer. What intrigued me, ultimately, was this new narration delivery system. The stories that games tell are so unlike traditional forms of storytelling, and not just the games that change their outcome due to the choices you make, but all gaming interaction inevitably lends another aspect of presence in the narration. Gamer presence makes for a different, more active role.
Because of this, I tend to take a special interest with games that reflect a nuanced yet universal element of the human experience. Details and settings tend to be less important to me, although I’m obviously interested when a game centers around a diamond of realism set into a rock face of, say, science fiction or fantasy. Like if I could play as a pregnant woman in space, trying to defuse a bomb before she goes into labor, that’s a perfect scenario. Love that game. Make me that game.
Lieve Oma is on sale right now, knocked down from the high price of $4.00 to somewhere around $2.50. I bought it last night while on a Small Weird Game Spree, and I must say, it did almost bring me to tears at times. The art direction alone is worth the price of admission, but there’s more to this game than that.
The premise of Lieve Oma is, you’re playing as a kid who’s been dragged to the forest by her grandmother to gather mushrooms for dinner. You’re in a foul mood in the beginning, but as you trudge, lagging behind and reluctantly gathering the small, glittering mushrooms, your Grandmother slowly loosens you up. The creator of this game, Florian Veltman, includes this blurb:
“My grandmother is probably the most important person ever to me, as she provided me with the stability and care a child needs growing up. We all have or have had people helping us become a responsible and caring person, and this short narrative game is an ode to these people.”
Eventually you tell your Gma what’s been bugging you, which I won’t reveal here because I think the beautiful simplicity of this kid’s plight is what really makes the game so successful. It’s not anything groundbreaking or abnormal, it’s not a presses-stopping headline. This kid is just having some trouble, and doesn’t know quite how to process her feelings yet. These scenes of you as a child are eventually intercut with scenes of you as an adult, walking through the same woods, through the snowy winter. Your grandmother calls you on your cell phone; you borrowed her car to drive up to the woods, she’s wondering where you are, when you’ll be back.
At times, the gameplay did get agonizingly slow – but I believe that’s on purpose. Time is the silent third character in this game; the little girl’s strife, compared with her future competent and happy self, is so relatable. Time is the only variable that changes. You can’t hurry through the game, just like you can’t hurry through the time it takes to grow up. What we can gleam from Lieve Oma is the unconditional love this child was able to get from her grandmother that was not available to her anywhere else, and how that strength and warmth helped her grow into a functional adult. The game communicates all that without stepping outside the boundaries of a very believable premise – while still making its down to earth setting seem a little magical and whimsical. All that and it’s a GAME! Unbelieveable. What an incredible age to be alive.
Here is the itch.io link for Lieve Oma. I highly recommend playing it.