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I’ve never seen a flower look so… grotesque. In Lily, the player clicks away to uncover the innards of a flower. Peeling its leaves to reveal a pulsing stomach, blooming its petals to unveil a beating heart. The flower in Lily is entrancing in its beauty, yet simultaneously disturbing as its very-much-alive organs are made visible. The flower lives, but it also suffers; and that’s apparent from the insects (from mosquitoes to snails) that lodge themselves onto its many parts, and buzz around.
The game, as its Netherlands-based designer Charlotte Madelon told me at the European Game Showcase held off-site during the 2017 Game Developer’s Conference, is actually about understanding the adverse affects of childhood trauma. Trauma’s effects aren’t visible at a glance for anyone, but remain underneath the surface for those suffering from it. Trauma is an often forgotten disease that has many consequences, represented by the numerous insects that infect the lily throughout the game. And Madelon wants to bring awareness to trauma through the most interactive and accessible of ways: via a video game.
Lily is simple game with minimal interactions. You can use a lens to zoom into objects, pinch vines to stretch them away from the plant, or click on leaves and petals to unfold and bloom: revealing the flower’s hidden interior. You can also rotate the lily according to your personal whims. The game, at least currently, will only have one flower, this eerie yet beautiful lily. Though by the game’s imminent release, it’ll have dozens of insects and other objects to uncover within and around it.
Lily was inspired by Madelon’s own personal experiences, and a longing for an accessible experiment for education in understanding the hidden struggle of trauma. The game’s painterly art style spawns from a singular influence: Japanese artist Fuyuko Matsui. Matsui is known for her melding of classical Japanese painting but with an eerie, supernatural twist. Her influence shines in the flower in Lily, which somehow simultaneously straddles that same line of gorgeous yet creepy.
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I played the demo for Lily on a PC, clicking my way around the beautiful flower. Though Madelon noted that the game is actually aiming to be a mobile game: where players will ideally be able to tap their way around the plant, rotate it around with ease, and even pinch and zoom to get in close. She showed me a rough prototype of the game working on her own phone, though without some of the features currently in the PC build. Madelon is aiming for an Android and iOS release for the game sometime this summer.
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