Updated: Apr 29
Those that know me know that my use of video game learning activities is nothing new in my learning environments. Before Minecraft and game-based learning became buzzwords, I've been making Language Arts learning opportunities with video games I've played. My students pick this concept as one of their favorite components of my classroom (no surprise there; teenagers/video games).
One of their favorite video game learning experiences has been from the game, What Remains of Edith Finch. This game is really just a walking simulator, where you learn about the ill-fated Finch family. But in truth, it's the story's narrative that makes the game so alluring. It's simply amazing, and my students seem to agree.
The video below gives a quick snapshot of our Finch journey.
Finally, the students had a creative freewrite, where they chose from 7 writing options. The options and some of their responses are shared below, as well.
Option #6 Milton Finch
Martin Finch, just like his family members, has a peculiar story that stands out from the many stories occupying the Finch house. Many viewers of Edith Finch have many theories regarding the story titled Milton’s World of Paint. Like many Finch stories, you wonder how the character will meet their sure demise at the end of the story, but Milton's World of Paint is unique for the reason that it keeps the viewer thinking way after the story's short run time. In this snippet of Edith Finch’s story, she tells the story of her brother's disappearance through a flip book. The book shows Milton walking through a door, closing it, and when the door opens, Milton is not there. Edith repetes the line “Milton disappeared when I was a kid”. This extracts the fact that Milton Finch disappeared in his flip book.The reason that this Finch story stuck out is the subtleness of the story, and how an explanation for Milton's disappearance clicked the moment the door opened, keeping the viewer thinking about the clip hours after.
Edith Finch Poem - The Irony of the Finch’s Dying Doing What They Loved
Sam took his daughter on a hunting trip.
Something he always wanted to do.
Who knew that wouldn't be the only trip
That he'd be going through.
With his dad and him in a fight
He did something he liked
Gus went and flew a kite.
He died while the sky lit up,
Flashing bright lights.
Calvin said he would and did.
He always dreamed of flying.
Who knew his dream he fulfilled
Would result in him dying.
Barbara died because of people who saw her on screen.
They came to her because she couldn't show
But what really mattered is they got their desired scream.
He praised them in his bedroom.
He hung them on his walls.
Who knew trains would be Walter’s doom
That's just what the reaper calls.
The Irony of the Finch’s Dying Doing What They Loved
The irony of the fact that all the Finches died doing what they wanted shines through in all the games backstories. The game Edith Finch tells the story of the last finch Edith as she finds out the last days of her family members. Through the game you learn all finches died doing what they love. The first male finch we met was Calvin who wanted to fly and he started swinging to try to get the swing all the way around. In the end he let go and flew before he died which was his dream. The third to last finch we meet is Lewis, a cannery worker who wanted to leave his reality and go to a different one. In his final moments he was crowned king of his fake reality and in dowing sow was killed leaving his reality behind. One of the few finches that lived to old age was Walter who was run over by a train. Walter lived in the basement his whole life due to hearing his sisters murderer. He was scared of a train that he thought was a monster, and his dream was to go outside. in his final moment he went outside and was run over by a train. Unfortunately, most of the Finches died at a young age however many died doing what they wanted. Whether flying, going outside for the first time in years or leaving our reality behind, many Finches died doing what they wanted. Sadly, in their last moments many Finches died doing what they wanted.
Most Memorable Finch Story
The most memorable/powerful Finch was Edie. I feel this character stuck the most for multiple reasons. First of all, she was always a mystery. She was the longest living Finch but we didn’t know that much about her. Also, she had disappeared before the van could come pick her up. Edie was supposed to go to a nursing home but she was gone before she could go. Lastly, we figured out that Edie wrote everyone's death. Edie was the only Finch that died of old age and she is why the Finch family was cursed. Thus, I believe the most memorable/powerful Finch was Edie.
Greek Mythology: Odin the ruler of Valhalla
In Greek mythology, Odin was the ruler of Valhalla, a location in the afterlife. This could tie in to the story because when a Finch died, they would go into some sort of afterlife, to live with Odin, the first dead Finch. In greek mythology, Valhalla was a place where dead warriors would travel to the afterlife to live with Odin, the king of the gods. When each Finch died, they would travel to the afterlife to be with Odin. Odin Finch believed that there was a curse in Norway where the Finches all started and he had hoped that if he sailed away with his house on a raft, he could escape the curse.
Proof Milton is Still Alive!
To begin, as the game plays by many clues are given that Milton Finch may still be alive somewhere. First, scattered throughout the game are Milton's “Missing” posters. As he was never actually found dead or alive. In the family cemetery, there is simply a memorial instead of a headstone of him. Yet on the headstone only reads his year of birth. Second, inside the castle shaped art studio that holds some of Milton’s paintings, theirs hints to a world inside the painting. The black and white foot prints, the yellow footprints, and ink splatters around are hints. Lastly, the kings logo which appears in many locations throughout the unfinished swan, is also painted on an easel next to Milton’s memorial. However,There is a theory that Milton may have been the king from the unfinished swan but at the end he was on the verge of death so he decided to give away his paintbrush. In the story Milton's death is a mystery only showing subtle hints of what may have really happened or where he could still be.
Most Memorable Finch Story - Gregory
The most powerful and memorable Finch death was Gregory’s. When Gregory died, he had no idea what was going on, he was just a toddler. This makes it the most memorable death, because he didn’t even get to know the family history, or his family at all, or the family curse. Another thing that made this a powerful and memorable death was the fact that none of that would’ve happened if the parents weren’t breaking up. This makes it powerful, because since they were breaking up, the husband wanted to talk about, and because of one of his phone calls Gregory’s mom didn't have the chance to end Gregory’s bath, then it happened, after this, his dad thought that if he hadn’t called that night, maybe he wouldn’t have died, this was very powerful for Gregory’s dad. Ultimately, Gregory’s last bath was indeed the most memorable and powerful death of all.
Most Memorable Finch Story - Barbara
The most memorable Finch Story for me was Barbara Finch's story. I liked how her story was told through a comic book, because I really enjoy reading comic books. I also liked how she wanted the fame, because lots of people want fame and it doesn’t always turn out how they want it to in the end. In this case, Barbara did not want to be remembered for how she died, she wanted to be remembered for her famous scream as a child star. I enjoyed how they told the story through the pumpkin headed monster as a voice over instead of Edith reading it because I think it made it much more interesting because of his creepy voice. Overall, Barbara’s story stood out to me more than the others because it was much more interesting how she died than the other ones. I considered it a suspenseful story full of mystery up until the end.
Was the Finch Family Cursed?
As the story, What Remains of Edith Finch unfolds it is undoubtable to say that the curse haunting the family is just a metaphor. The curse that started off small began to grow as more people started to believe in it. With a mix of mental illness, ignorance, and wrong beliefs the curse lived on through several generations. The family’s cursed beliefs lead to the death of many Finch family members.
Whether the finch family was cursed with bad genes or bad ideologies mental illness resides within. Many mental illnesses can be hereditary or can be made in childhood. Although many of the Finches’ wild imaginations could be seen as great creativity it could also be caused by mental illnesses such as dissociation, maladaptive daydreaming, fantasy prone personality, and schizophrenia which can be passed on. Some of the Finches' deaths took place outside reality. Gregory, Lewis, Molly, and Gus all ceased to live in the real world before their actual bodies died, they were stuck in their own fantasies. Unlike many, Dawn and Walter were in constant paranoia. As Walter was hit with the trauma of seeing his sister's death he gained PTSD which filled him with anxiety and paranoia, Dawn was terrified of the curse which led her paranoia to consume her remaining life. Hence, in the Finch family there were many suffering from real mental disorders.
Another explanation of the curse is the family’s ignorance. Some of the Finch family’s deaths were caused by another person's ignorance. Many members refused to accept reality that they were guilty and decided that they had to blame it on a curse, they wanted to put reasoning to the deaths. Molly, Gregory, and Calvin all died with their parents being guilty to some extent. Molly was given a punishment of starvation, Gregory was being unsupervised in the bath, and Calvin was left unchecked on a swing that was near a cliff; their deaths wouldn’t have happened if the caretakers paid more attention. Unfortunately, the ignorance of others dug a path to the death of a few family members.
Similarly, since most of the Finch family believed in the curse it manifested into reality. Edie believed in the curse almost to the point of obsession. She suggested making a cemetery before the house, and she does not remove any of the dead family members items but makes death portraits that give access to their death stories to every family member living in the house. Edie also was someone who reveled on all the attention and mythology her family name began to earn as she got used to the curse. In her room she put out newspapers and pictures with falsified truth on how Sven died and how Walter was a mole man under the house.
Consequently, the curse of the Finch family was believed in so much so that it manifested into reality. Unluckily, the death of several members of the Finch family were caused by the family’s cursed beliefs. The several mental illnesses in the family, bad ideologies and passed down attitude as a parent, and one person's obsession. Sadly, many family members last moments were filled with the thought of escaping reality and escaping the curse that ceased to exist that had haunted them in their lifetime.
Most Memorable Finch Story - Lewis
The Finch story that I found most memorable was “The Loss of Lewis”. I feel that this story stuck with me the most because the letter was written in a way where you felt the way Lewis' mind worked or how his psychiatrist described it. You experienced more of his imaginary land than him in the cannery. The more and more talk of his mind wandering to places he imagined and how it wasn’t real. Lewis’ story stuck with me in a way where I could see the more we saw of his imaginary kingdom than his job. I also felt bad for the psychiatrist, how she said that she thought she could save him and how Lewis’ boss said he was a model employee. It made it more memorable to watch less and less of the real world in his mind and more of how he thought he was supposed be the ruler of his made up world.
Artistic Detail in Edith Finch
The amount of artistic detail in the game What Remains of Edith Finch is beyond phenomenal. This is expressed before Sam’s clip where you can see a swing hanging from the branch, all tangled up. This shows that the game’s creators make a very large effort to make the visuals consistent. In addition, there is the detail of Lewis’s world where there are bright and bold colors that pop out. For this reason, it shows that the creator’s of What Remains of Edith Finch make an effort to try different color pallets for their scenes. Another is Milton’s flip book where there were no words said. This shows that the creators can convey a story with only beautiful visuals. Overall, the immense artistic detail in What Remains of Edith Finch is fantastic.
Finishing Edie's Story
As the window to my childhood bedroom flooded with light, I started to sprint -- as well as I could for someone as old as I am. I reached the door, feeling its cold decay. I felt alive and … loved for the first time since Sven died. My mind was warm and I didn’t even notice my soaked shoes. I dragged my fingers along the door until the brass handle was in my grasp. I forgot all the pain that had ravaged my life, and as I turned the knob, the pops and crackles of burning wood filled my ears. I felt small and young and safe.
“Papa?” I squeaked.
“Darling?” I heard my father’s smooth voice surround me.
My eyes glazed with tears, but I blinked them back. My voice came thick, “Where are you?”
“I’m here,” he said.
“Where exactly?” I stammered.
“I’m in the walls,” he continued, “I am the house.”
My mind dimmed. I wanted to hug him, to tell him I missed him. I couldn’t hug the house, could I now? For the first time since I’d entered, I saw a buck curled in front of the fireplace.
“Hey Mom,” its voice emanated from the deer. “How’s life?”
“Sam!” I knelt in front of the deer, and grabbed his face. Sam stared back at me with the same blue eyes I’d mourned. My tears finally spilled over.
“How?” I blubbered.
A small frog croaked from in between Sam’s legs. I recoiled.
“Gregory,” Sam explained.
I leaned in and kissed the frog atop his head. I stood, scanning the room for more of my family. I saw a pile of wood made to resemble a human figure tied by chains and capped off with a space helmet. Calvin. A human covered completely in bandages with a shaggy blonde wig and a screaming mouth painted on. Barbara. She waved her crutch at me. A cat with a wreath of holly hanging around its neck. Molly. She mewed in response to my smile. A skeleton covered shredded fabric and black spikes on its head. A kite was stuck in between its arm bones. Gus. Everyone was there. All of the people who had died were here.
“How?” I asked, approaching Molly and kneeling so I could pick her up. She started purring.
“Dunno,” Gus shrugged.
“We want you to know this, before the tide comes back,” Molly cooed. “You’re not alone. You have Walter and Dawn. Lewis and Milton. And I can hear the cries of Edith, named for you.”
“Don’t forget us,” Barbara’s singsong voice echoed. “But don’t forget to live.”
“I remember when we were little,” Calvin spoke -- his breath fogging the visor of his helmet -- “you were so happy all the time. You’d pick us up and you’d build blocks with us. From what I’ve seen, you’ve shut down. It’s time to move on, Mama.”
I watched them nod. We stood there, silent. I couldn’t believe what was happening. They were telling me to move on, be happy. How could I?
“The tide will be back in a couple minutes,” Sven said grimly. “You should run.”
“I - I can’t leave you guys like this!” I shouted. My brain was foggy, and I was queasy. Gregory hopped onto my shoulder and lifted his face up to my ear.
“Grammy,” he whispered. “Happy now.”
He then started to glow, along with the others. Red like flame. I wrenched my eyes closed, but I could no longer feel Molly’s silky coat in my arms. I was cold. My shoes were soaked, and I could see the water at my feet. I needed to leave. I stumbled out of the house, not sparing it another glance. The fog was gone , so I was able to quickly maneuver my way through the rocks. I tripped. The mud splattered across me. What were they thinking? I couldn’t go on. Not without them. The water splashed over me, and I turned so that it wouldn’t get into my mouth. I eventually came to my senses, seeing how they were right. I still had many people in my life. I couldn’t abandon them now. And you, Edith. When I met you, you reminded me of all of them. I decided to be who I used to be for you. I know you don’t have much time left here, but I hope one day that you will learn about them. About your family.
Finishing Edie's Story
Things I can’t explain, but I need you to try and understand. When I got to the house a light switch turned on by a window, and it startled me. At first all I wanted to do was run back inside our house, but then I realized, will I ever get this chance again? I decided that I needed to go in the house, it was the only chance I had for figuring things out. I started looking for a way in, but there was no visible way to find anything in the fog. I made it to the back of the house as I tripped on something. I fell so hard splat on the ground-I went unconscious. I woke up startled as a squirrel ran across the yard, it went towards the house, then disappeared. I squinted as if I was seeing things. I tried to look a little closer, and I saw a little hole big enough for a squirrel to squirm under and into the house. I got up and tried to figure out how to dig more enough for me to go under. Hands wouldn’t do any good, sticks would grind the dirt up, and leaves would simply tear apart. I blinked around looking for something.. a barn! Just when I gave up there was a barn in the distance. I started to run towards it. I scope the inside looking for a shovel when I came across some paper and pen. Someone has been writing. There are many crinkled papers around this one neat, and perfect paragraph. It read “My time in hiding has been rough, not much food, leaking water, cold drafts, and of course, a hurricane.” I skipped to the bottom to see who could’ve written this, but the paper cut off right as the writing stopped. I stepped away from the table to find some tools in the corner. I grabbed the shovel and headed to the back. I started digging, the ground was wet. I dug until I hit something. It was so loud that another light switch turned on as if someone was inside. I ran to the trees and hid beside a bush. A figure in the light started looking out the window. He or she looked the other way, then slowly turned their head towards me. They moved their body more out the window towards me as if to see me I ducked down as low as I could. Just when I thought I was found, a cat runs out from a different bush and the figure sighs as they close the window and shut off the light. Phew. I took a deep breath to calm myself down. I went back to digging (quieter this time) and finally saw some light through the dirt. Once that happened, I started to use my hands. As a big enough hole was made, I started to burough my way through. I scrambled my way in and saw I was in the kitchen. I started to look around, lots of canned foods, a crockpot full of meat, and a big bottle of murky water. I heard walking upstairs, then weight on some creaky stairs. Agilent, I ran towards the bathroom and hid in the shower. I heard the figure in the kitchen pour some water, then gulp it down. They started making their way towards the bathroom. Of course, oh of course. They turned the bathroom light on, shut the door, then locked us each in. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that this person lives alone along the sea and they feel the need to lock their bathroom door as they pee…. Continuing on, they flushed the toilet and started to wash their hands, they stopped three seconds in and started to dry their hands. Gross… I took me long enough to realize that they didn’t stop because they had bad hygiene, but they stopped because they saw me. Oh god, no no no no no. this can’t be happening. But of course, it was. They put their hand on the curtain and started to pull it slowly… then, all of the sudden, they just turned and walked away. I took a big breath and processed what had just happened. I can’t believe Milton is alive and living here. And that’s the story kid, Milton is alive.