Writer’s Note: I won’t discuss specific spoilers in this piece, because that’s what plays The House In Fairy Morgana for the time it takes to get to the rounds deserves to be preserved – but I’ll discuss the reasons behind the game, so be warned if you want to go into the game completely blind. Also, the images could be considered spoilery, too, even if I tried to keep them away from the BIG torches.
Also, please be aware that this is not a review – it is an ongoing diary of the game before a review, so we can really dive into the themes of a game that has earned so many 10/10 reviews had a perfect score of 100 on Metacritic for a while.
For those of you who want to always find out more about Fairy Morgana: Welcome to the three entry diary …
When I started The House in Fairy Morgana, which feels like a lifetime ago, I had no idea what to expect. The story is extremely caged, even frustrating; the characters will jokingly deny you the answers you are looking for, and even the text itself is occasionally censored. It’s, perhaps, the only visual novel I’ve ever played that keeps its secrets so tight that the plot isn’t even revealed until at least ten hours in, and even then, your trust has been eroded so much that you’re not it is not safe.
What’s so brilliant about The House in Fairy Morgana – which was the most popular game on Metacritic until recently, and now shares second place together with Megane IV, SoulCalibur, and Pro Skater by Tony Hawk 2 – is what makes you feel exactly the same as you feel the main character. Don’t get carried away in time, questioning your own health, desperately begging history to give you the satisfying end you deserve; history denies you these things over and over again.
My first entry in the newspaper was quite goofy, because the story begins with some strange, disturbing and uncomfortable plot; in the 20-30 hours I’ve been playing since then, I’ve struggled with issues of trauma, isolation, PTSD, abuse, identity, and religion, as the story slowly and painfully moves toward a sort of conclusion.
“Injured people hurt people” is a phrase that came to my mind several times during Fairy Morgana, but the truth is that the sentence is incomplete. Injured people hurt people because misery loves company. Every character in Fairy Morgana has been wronged by years of abuse and neglect, both because they have been denied what they need, and because they have been used and discarded by people who saw them as just human.
These injured people, the characters of Fairy Morgana, find it difficult to connect with other people without similar scars. The happiness of others insults them; watching people find love and intimacy when they themselves have no idea how to find it is just another dagger in their heart. So they understand ways to bring people into their world of darkness, to be as miserable as they are – or shut the world out completely.
Needless to say, most of these characters are women, who are treated like filth, like minors, with no merit of kindness, respect or humanity. Some choose revenge, and some just want, most of all, to be left alone. Many of them find some small piece of happiness only to have them detached once more from destiny. And, at the center of it all, our three main characters, who want it most of all to be just happy – but, because of the damage they have all suffered, all they can end up doing is always sabotaging themselves and others.
That’s what trauma does to a person. The scars he leaves are tender and raw; even if you may want to embrace someone, your body reacts differently, dismissing them as a means of self-defense and self-preservation. You will respond to kindness with fear, and to generosity with suspicion. You have been taught that no one is good, that everyone has further motives, and above all: that you do not deserve goodness.
None of this is true, by the way, but these are the things your brain will do to try and protect you. And this is the bloody and beating heart of Fata Morgana: people hurt people, because that’s all they know.
It’s easy, especially at first, to see this as a bunch of horrible, manipulative people who are abusive for no reason, but as the story unfolds, it reveals the pain they went through – the pain that tormented them from broken fragments in knives, and the rage which made them turn those knives to him who dared to approach them.
I find myself thinking a lot about videos of neglected dogs, kicking and kicking anyone who approaches them, and how much it takes to feed and care to reassure them that they are safe, right now. Even then, those dogs will probably never feel comfortable around other dogs or people. But they are not bad dogs: it’s a learned response based on what they went through. That’s how I think about traumatic responses, like someone who has had a lot of them: you’re not a bad person for having moments where your brain and your body go into a frightening way.
Similarly, Fairy Morgana characters aren’t (largely) bad – they’re tired, bloody, they’re lonely. The only way to know how they are behaving in their lives is to harm them in the same way, to mark them with the same fear, perpetuating a history of trauma and violence as a broken and ugly mirror that does not reflect nothing but ugliness.
Occasionally, The House in Fairy Morgana will be repeated. It will make me watch a scene from a different perspective, or play a story that was previously too beautiful, to show the real story below. Sometimes, it will take an age to tell a story that isn’t particularly interesting – the first story of the game, for example. There are also times when you might end up losing significant portions of the text that don’t really go away from anything. But, 30 hours in, I like it, warts and all.
It’s not perfect – and don’t be fooled into thinking that a 10/10 game should be perfect to deserve that point – but its beauty is in its imperfections. If it were shorter, or longer to the point, it wouldn’t be what it is: a history of the self-perpetuating cycle of trauma in hundreds of years. I don’t know if I’m nearing the end. But I want to know how to break this cycle – not just for the characters, but for myself.
The hard part isn’t always the injuries, after all. He wakes up every day with scars. He let other people run their hands through them, and not swear. She’s pushing the eyes out of the pain they’ve left behind. He stops trusting you again, despite every bone, every nerve, every tear from you screaming that you will be hurt only again.
The House in Fairy Morgana is a story about witches and curses and love, but it is also about the true cost of never giving up, and that the remedy for fear, pain, anger and tragedy can only be the ultimate. , sacred power of empathy.