As video games continue to mature as a storytelling medium, we see more and more people come forward and try to tackle sensitive subjects through the medium. Everything from cancer, to gender identity, to mental illness, has been approached with respect by game makers all over the world, both telling their own stories, as well as the experiences of others. So it comes as no surprise that every once in a while a game comes up that approaches something that is almost too difficult to imagine experiencing.
A Song For Viggo puts you in the position of playing as a parent who is accidentally responsible for the death of their own child. It has me enthralled with its brave storytelling, stunning art style, and respectful approach to very difficult experiences.
Approaching a topic like this requires a delicate approach and a lot of respect for the weight of the subject matter. Developer Simon Karlsson has stated that he went out and sat down with multiple people who have experienced the loss of a child, including those who have been in a similar situation presented in the game, in order to get a respectful, real viewpoint for the game.
It’s a point and click-style adventure game that seeks to put you into the everyday struggles that come after a tragic event, starting with having to plan the funeral of your child, and continuing on with life afterwards. The topics of marital division, suicide, depression, and how it effects your other children are all major focus points in the narrative, and it appears the game will present these things in the context of normal, everyday life. You’re not going on some metaphorical adventure or poetic abstraction: this is real life, with all its mundane little choices, and with the added weight of a profound loss towering over everything you do.
The soundtrack for the game carries an added narrative depth to it as well, consisting of chilling piano pieces (if the music in the trailer is any indication, anyway) that are actually being played by Karen, the mother of the lost child, who has turned to playing music as a coping mechanism while in mourning.
Moreover, the game is presented in a rather breathtaking art style. Every screen of the game, as well as all the characters and objects, are handcrafted out of paper. Not digital paper, but real, physical paper. The amount of detail in the environments and objects are stunning, considering its hand-crafted nature, and it gives a kind of neutral beauty to the situation, as well as carrying with it a kind of shadowy darkness that the subject matter needs to really be impactful.