It seems almost defiling for a mobile game to so truthfully and efficiently boil a jumble of feelings so complex and revered as love to a few animated comics, pieces of music, and mini-games, all in under one hour. But Florence absolutely does just that.
Through some very simple yet clever mini-games, Florence mimics two people falling in love. It’s all very cute and leaves a warm, fuzzy feeling. But it was the ending of the game that surprised me, and serves as a gentle but insistent reminder that happiness doesn’t originate from a relationship; it’s what makes a relationship work in the first place.
Not by choice, I exited my first and only relationship of nine months (281 days, to be precise) a few months more than a year ago. The fact is not lost on me that my time away from the relationship now outlasts the relationship itself. And yet, despite all that I have done and tried since, there still lingers an ounce of longing for what once was.
It was with this idealized view of my previous relationship that I entered Florence one restless night, at 2am, one of many nights where these feelings bubbled up inside me so much that I had trouble sleeping. Lasting not even an hour long, my experience with Florence was done before 3am, but its impact and message is one that still lingers on in my mind.
A Story Without Words
Many have praised Florence’s ability to tell an affecting story through interactive metaphors. With only one word written for each chapter title, Florence tells the rest through scrolling comics and mini-games, all set to a gentle soundtrack full of cello, oboe and piano.
Each chapter of Florence brought me back to a moment in my own relationship. Piecing together fragmented puzzle pieces slowly and methodically to create dialogue bubbles brought to mind our awkward first dates.
But just as the puzzle pieces of Florence eventually became progressively simpler, and those fragmented puzzle pieces eventually became complete bubbles that slid perfectly into place. Our interests, passions, hopes and fears became each others’. We soon had our common phrases, inside jokes, and nicknames that only we knew.
As Florence pushed her boyfriend Krish to pursue his passion of music, my “Florence” pushed me to write more online, perhaps being the reason I’m writing for Cliqist in the first place. I in turn encouraged her love of science and animals through little gifts, much like Krish’s gift of a simple painting set.
But that excitement and passion will lose steam after a few months, or minutes in the case of Florence’s miniaturized time table. After a painful fight, weeks of silence and one heartbreaking rainy Sunday afternoon, we reached day 281.
Up until that point, Florence was poignant, beautiful and unbelievably relevant. But it was also predictable. After the breakup, Florence surprised me in a way I’m now embarrassed to admit.
Following variations of the “more fish in the sea” metaphor, I certainly didn’t rush to find another relationship. Still, I figured that the mark of a full recovery would be another relationship that made me feel as happy as the first.
Thus, I expected Florence to follow a similar path. She would be crestfallen for a time, but slowly get better. Then, when the time was right, someone else would sweep her of her feet. In a way, it was what I dearly wished would happen to me.
But she didn’t.
Instead, Florence turned to herself. She followed her passion of art, made new friends, and reconnected with her family. Upon finding an old photo of Krish, she smiles, remembering what once was while focusing on the present.
At the end of Florence, there is no hint that she will stay single forever, nor that she will find someone else. She is simply happy in the present, doing what she loves and being with the friends and family she loves. This may seem obvious to those older and wiser than me. But for me, it was a lesson I wasn’t expecting, and one that touched me deeply.
Florence may not have taught this to me, per se. It’s not as if these thoughts weren’t present in some capacity, from myself and from those of my wiser friends. But Florence surprised me by showing not just how being in a healthy relationship can be wonderful, but how it can shape us as people in a positive way long after it has run its course.