When it comes to accurately portraying facets of real-life in fiction, video games aren’t exactly the best medium to do it. I mean, Knocked Up taught me more about using a condom than any sex-ed lesson gleaned from making two characters “woo-hoo” in The Sims.
But that wide gulf between realism and video gaming has now narrowed ever so slightly thanks to a wonderful little Australian-made mobile game called Florence, and it does so by focusing on something that most people have experienced at some point: being an awkward, directionless 20-something.
The game focuses on Florence Yeoh, a 25-year-old Asian woman with a boring desk job, a social life confined to Twitter, and a pushy mother who calls her up at work all the damn time. Then one day, she meets a dashing musician named Krish, and everything changes, for both Florence and the player.
As their relationship unfolds, it quickly dawns on you that Florence is something else. This is no half-arsed dating sim. This is an eerily realistic snapshot of what it’s like to actually meet someone and slowly fall in love – so much so, it hits every major emotional beat between my girlfriend and I.
The awkward first date involving variations of the question “So, uh, do you like stuff?” The slowly building comfort in each other’s company. The long-awaited first kiss. The really getting to know each other.
[Spoilers for the rest of the game kick in here! Stop reading if you don’t want to know any more.]
And gutwrenchingly, the drifting apart emotionally and physically from one another. (I should point out that my girlfriend and I are doing just fine, but I’d be lying if I said Florence didn’t make me appreciate her even more than already did.)
Just as I hope everyone has experienced that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling of falling in love, I hope you never have to go through a plate-smashing heartbreak. Having been at the end of both sides of the spectrum, I can confidently say that Florence accurately distils all those fleeting yet monumental moments into a game that pokes and prods at you while constantly asking “Hey, remember how this feels?”
Equally as relatable as Florence and Krish’s relationship are the little slice-of-life moments sprinkled in between.
The longing look at a dusty paint set symbolising a long-lost childhood passion. The constant snoozing of alarms until the very last second for those precious extra minutes of sleep. The curling up on the couch each night with pizza and Netflix on tap. And perhaps most notably, the leap of faith towards what you believe is your true calling.
These extra details paint a picture of what life is like as a millennial still trying to figure themselves out amidst a seemingly never-ending series of internal and external pressures.
But beyond relationships and existential ponderings, there are also a number of moments in Florence that speak specifically to those 20-somethings from an Asian background, all of which I can honestly say come from a place of reality rather than cliché due to my own experience as a Chinese millennial.
Things like dealing with overbearing parents who love to remind you that you’re going to die alone, having your passions discouraged in favour of your studies, and reconciling with said aforementioned overbearing parents after drifting apart are all touched upon in a very lived-in way, like the game is nodding at the Asians out there and saying “I know that feeling too.”
So if you’re a young person who plays games as a form of escapism, then you should probably shy away from Florence lest you want to get into a deeper existential funk.
Otherwise, you should definitely check out Florence – because not only is it more emotionally real than any other game out there at the moment, but it is also one of 2018’s best.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go tell my girlfriend and mum I love them very much.