5/365 – Meditation Games #5 – Remembering 5J

Developer: Ludipe

Launcher Quote: “In Spain, January 5th is the night before Three Kings Day. Children write letters, tidy their rooms and leave milk and cookies next to the door. They’re hoping the three wise old men will bring them the toys they asked for. For us, Christmas really ends on January 7th.

My grandfather died around this time, which for some reason felt even more shocking. He owned two toyshops and Christmas was always a busy time for the whole family. It had that additional meaning for us that always made it different. When he passed away, this day acquired yet a new flavour, though it was a bittersweet one.

But my grandfather did so much more. He traveled to so many places I completely lost track of them. He built the house where my family still lives. He didn’t just sell toys, he made friends everywhere, started businesses and was always building or fixing something.

This tiny flat-game is about how January 5th has felt over the last few years. I hope that every time we lose somebody important to us they leave knowing how much we loved them.”

In its simplicity, Ludipe’s 5J conveys not just the process of grieving and remembering someone who we love that we lose, but also one of the most familiar presentation elements for games, that being the juxtaposition of two instances of what is essentially the same scene or setting in a game. Most commonly, I’ve seen it in the horror games that I’ve played over the years – heck, Silent Hill practically made its entire game around presenting a normal and a dark version of itself – but you can also see it in dream sequences, hallucinations, time travel, and other such fantastical settings.

But what strikes me about 5J is that Ludipe uses this same element in a very close-to-home, very real environment – that being the way that a home and a holiday can change once someone who is family passes away. In the swapping back and forth over what appears to be the course of a few years of comparison, you see the stark difference in the feel of the holiday, moving from happy and joyful to bleak and silent. The things that were done with the grandfather when he was alive seem to lose meaning when done without him, and even though the presentation is straightforward you can’t help but feel the miasma of grief that settles over the family as they remember that they’re missing someone that had once been always there, present, and had brought a sense of life to the holiday.

An offer of hope, however, is planted in the ending to the game. Eventually, the scene remains much the same from when the grandfather was alive to the present, as the music continues, the family begins to be and look festive again, and the holiday seems to become…well, a holiday again. It’s a message that even though we may miss and grieve over someone we love that we lose, that at some point, we’re able to move on, still feeling that pang of loss, but accepting that they’d likely want us to continue to celebrate the holiday, and their life, and remembering it as it should be – with happiness.

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