In this media series, I divide the post into two parts: Part 1 for those who haven’t experienced the work yet, and part 2 for those who would like to read more deeply about it. Image description: an artist paints their subject’s portrait while standing in front of an easel. Other portraits they’ve painted are hanging on the wall.
The Lion’s Song is a narrative game in which your choices affect whether a few artists and scientists find the success that they’re looking for in early 20th century Vienna, Austria. The playable characters are mainly a violinist trying to find inspiration for her composition, a portrait painter trying to figure out his identity, and a mathematician who faces sexism from characters who don’t believe that someone who’s assigned female at birth can do math. It’s hard for me to tell, since if it’s there, it’s very subtle, but I think the game may imply that Emma (who also portrays themselves sometimes as Emil to work around sexism) maybe be transgender and/or genderqueer. The fourth episode ties the previous three together.
There’s some crossover between arts and sciences, such as how Wilma, the violinist, can find inspiration from a science textbook, and Emma/Emil, the mathematician, can have their portrait done by the painter, Franz. I like that the game shows that art and science can be interconnected. Another example that I can think of in everyday life is how science books can have photos and other illustrations in them.
I like the social justice theme in the third episode. The game acknowledges that people who are assigned female at birth have also been disadvantaged throughout history in the science fields, and further than that, it even acknowledges that there are more options for presenting and identifying as than just female or male. This episode reminds me of the book Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, and I just bought the Kindle version, which I’m excited to read.
I played Wilma differently than I would’ve acted in real life, but I played Franz and Emma more like how I would’ve acted.
I set Wilma up for heartbreak by letting her nurse a crush on her music teacher. She eventually gets together with him, but the last episode reveals that she gets so obsessed with him that she neglects her music career, and both her relationship and career fall apart. I’m taking this as a warning that getting too obsessed with anything can derail me. My mom recently warned me herself that worrying too much about how to transition from being on disability to becoming a mental health therapist could undo the progress I’ve made in my recovery and possibly even go as far as to put me back in the hospital. I’m being more careful now to think about other things, too, such as while I finished this game, which required some concentration.
The last episode reveals that Franz gets more depressed, which shows in his artwork. This surprised me, since he figures out his identity in the second episode, and he seems really happy about that. While I played him, other characters encourage him to interact more with the “real world.” His grandfather said that the real world is made of deeds, not words, but I don’t entirely agree with that, since words themselves can be a type of deed. I would instead say that both words and more concrete actions are important. The characters have different interpretations of what is real, such as how his grandfather considers it to be rock climbing, and Emma /Emilconsiders it to be science. Since his grandfather and Emma/Emil also have pretty specific views of reality, I don’t see why some of the characters think that Franz’s niche of painting is beneath theirs. This reflects how, sadly, in real life, some people think that what they care about must be objectively more important than what other people care about.
In Emma/Emil’s episode, I have them strike up a friendship with a disabled girl, Nikol, who finds out that they sometimes present differently and shows her respect for that by offering to call them Em, since both of their names have Em in common. I found that a heartwarming moment. At first, Nikol feels blah about most things, but the last episode reveals that my choices about their friendship lead to it helping Nikol get to a more positive place as she gets older. Em wins a debate with a professor who tries to humiliate them, but I have them remain calm and kind, which leads to the professor eventually mellowing out and even collaborating with them on mathematical developments afterwards. I like how Em makes a positive difference both academically and in their relationships with others.
The Lion’s Song. Nintendo Switch, Mu’Pu’Mi Games, 2018.