“If Found…”: The Story of Self-Discovery and Erasing to Rebuild

Artist Credits to DREAMFEEL, Liadh Young and Brianna Chew.

Artist Credits to DREAMFEEL, Liadh Young and Brianna Chew.

Emily Hughes, Editor

The story of DREAMFEEL and Annapurna Interactive’s video game If Found… is a narrative that uses two paths, one realistic and one fantastical, to spell the struggles of a young girl trying to understand her identity. She weaves her way through the complicated process of embracing queerness in a questionable society and balancing the stresses of fitting into a world not made for her. But to move through her story, we must erase the past.

Before reading, I would like to note that this article contains spoilers. Continue reading at your own discretion.

It’s December 31st, 1993 on Achill Island in Ireland. Kasio lies in a crumbling, decrepit mansion with no food, water, warmth, or protection from the stormy winter weather outside. Page by page, she erases the words scribbled into her diary, starting with the date she returned to Achill for the holidays. It’s better to forget than to remember.

Similarly, astronaut Cassiopeia drifts through space to locate a black hole supposedly heading straight for Earth. Originally alone, she makes a sudden connection with a mysterious figure who guides her through the endless starry night. Little by little, the world around her grows more dark and looming as she approaches the black hole, and she becomes all the more desperate to find a way to stop the approaching black hole.

Artist Credits to DREAMFEEL, Liadh Young and Brianna Chew.

To progress through each part of the story, the player is given one tool: an eraser. The theme of “erasing the past” could not be clearer, because as you erase each page, a new one is buried underneath. You physically cannot progress in the story without erasing the current scene. Additionally, as the story continues, your eraser grows smaller and smaller until it’s merely a stub. The desperation to erase every line and character and memory and scene grows until it consumes Kasio — and all the player can do is observe her spiral and continue to erase.

The metaphors don’t stop with the player’s role in erasing Kasio’s past. As Cassiopeia grows closer and closer to the black hole, she becomes trapped in its gravitational pull and is slowly drawn into its lifeless void. In parallel fashion, Kasio is pulled into her own black hole as she furiously tries to forget. The player doesn’t know this at the beginning of the game, but by the end, it’s slowly revealed that we’ve been re-reading Kasio’s diary entries, starting on December 3rd to mark her return to Achill for the holidays. Kasio has been obsessing over the month’s events to the point where she lets it consume her in a black hole of regret, confusion, and fear.

The profound connection between Kasio and Cassiopeia (who Kasio wishes she could be) does more than just provide us with multiple story lines. It perfectly represents the human desire to be more than what we are. We often yearn to reach the stars and achieve our true potential — and very few have the capability, resources, or determination to do so. Kasio traps herself in this fantasy world to escape the cruelty forced upon her by those she trusted.

Artist Credits to DREAMFEEL, Liadh Young and Brianna Chew.

Many aspects of If Found…‘s story prove to be relatable to a young audience, but no theme resonates with players more than the confusing process of understanding queerness. Kasio, as we learn early on, is a transgender woman returning to a home that is unwelcoming of her identity. She constantly questions who she is because her own family refuse to accept her. Slowly, the tension progresses until Kasio is kicked out of her home and forced to survive with the scarce help of her friends.

At one point in the story, Kasio must return home to collect some of her belongings, but knows she will not be openly welcomed. She’s forced to sneak into her own house, to which her brother catches her and tells her to never return. Without a family to turn to, a house to (legally) live in, or an identity to call her own, she further descends into the confusing, stressful journey of life.

By the end of the story, we’ve seen the past month of Kasio’s life become a roller coaster of emotions. As we enter the climax of the story, we’re actually reaching the beginning of the end: Kasio is in the abandoned mansion, cold and alone. We find that she’s been there for days, waiting to slowly fade away. She destroys the rest of her diary; meanwhile, Cassiopeia is drawn deeper into the black hole. She just lies there… and all the player can do is watch in horror as they realize what they’ve done. The music quickens and the graphics become erratic and epileptic. Kasio, on the verge of death, feels released, while the player feels trapped with every scene they erased and forced to dig deeper to continue on in the game.

Then, quiet. Erasing the last of the distraught imagery reveals a hug. A hug from Kasio’s mother. An embrace long overdue. The score shifts to a new, peaceful song, titled “I’ve Got You, Kasio”.

Image Source Credit: Gameffine. Artist Credits to DREAMFEEL, Liadh Young and Brianna Chew.

If Found… is, without a doubt, one of the most emotionally impactful games I have ever played. The ending embrace of Kasio and her mother, and the eventual return to Kasio’s home with her family brought me to tears. The first time I played through this game, I remember just sitting there sobbing at my computer screen. In all of my life, no game had ever brought me so much emotion.

I think that what sets If Found… apart is its deeply rooted focus on the struggle to understand oneself. Many young adults feel as though they don’t have a place in society. This game shows that, even if you want to just erase it all and forget, your history does not define you. You can be your best self — your most true self — if you don’t end your story now.

Beside it’s enthralling story, If Found… is a fairly inexpensive video game as well. As a busy high school student with limited money, it was nice to find such an amazing game for only about $5 (I purchased the game during a Steam sale — the original price listed on Steam is $12.99). Additionally, the game can be accessed through a multitude of platforms such as PC, the Nintendo Switch, and even the iOS App Store.

One of the most significant moments of the game for me is when the scraps of eraser left are turned into a pencil. The player opens a fresh page of their new journal and begins, for the first time, writing rather than erasing. The story being written discusses Kasio’s recovery and her preparation to re-enter the world as herself. No longer does she have to be afraid of embracing her identity because she now has a blossoming and loving support system. She’s no longer alone. I didn’t feel alone either. I took a step back and thought about all the people in my life who love me and support me. Both Kasio and I are not alone, and neither are you.

Image Source Credit: Steam. Artist Credits to DREAMFEEL, Liadh Young and Brianna Chew.

Anyone questioning whether DREAMFEEL’s If Found… is worth their time should question no more. The intertwined narratives that tell the story of one universal struggle connect effectively with all players. Whether you don’t know who you are or who you love, don’t know where to go, or don’t know whether to keep going, If Found… can help you realize that you aren’t alone. You don’t have to go through it alone.

The switch from an eraser to a pencil is one that everyone should have the chance to make. Everyone, no matter their history, can pick up the pencil and keep writing their story. Everyone, no matter their identity, can write their own story.

For some, like Kasio, they must erase to rebuild.