Almost everyone has someone they can point to that has helped positively shape them into the person they are today. A sibling, a parent, a close friend; for Florian Veltman, game developer, that person is his grandmother, someone who means so much to him that he made a game as an ode to her.
Short and endlessly sweet, Lieve Oma is a character-driven game that is, at its core, a loveletter to Florian’s grandmother. This is a game you play less for the gameplay, and more for the characters and the feeling. From the Lieve Oma description:
Lieve Oma is a top-down 3D game where you go for a stroll with your grandmother through a forest. You can pick mushrooms when you find them, but the real reason you’re here is to have a discussion with your grandmother about the issues you encounter, coping with going to a new school, among other things.
Through dialogue, we learn about the child’s family and life, as well as part of the grandmother’s own story—one which reflects the child’s in ways that help the two bridge the gap of time and connect. With a simple, bright visual style, the game is kept visually lighthearted while the story touches on very real topics and themes that are relatable for both young and old. When the palette is cooler, the dialogue helps keep the tone lighter. The visual design blends well with the story being told.
Though a narrative game, the dialogue is at times sparse in the same way as real life, with pauses between conversations that are hard to have. Much of the backstory for both characters is inferred rather than explicitly given, but there’s enough in their stories for many to connect with, be it divorce, immigration, or just the feeling of drifting away from people once loved.
At time, the language can be a little off, but the dialogue is believably written, with little touches, such as the grandmother yelling over the the phone, to really bring these characters to life. The grammar suits the characterization given, whether intended or not.
My grandmother is probably the most important person ever to me, as she provided me with the stability and care a child needs growing up. We all have or have had people helping us become a responsible and caring person, and this short narrative game is an ode to these people.
– From the Lieve Oma Tumblr.
The gameplay is simple, and not the exciting part of Lieve Oma. The player character must gather mushrooms spread around the different areas of a forest following a linear trail. The mushrooms aren’t the important part of the game, in the same way they’re not the reason the grandmother asked her grandchild to join her on this walk.
A small touch I really like is that the child’s gender is kept purposely ambiguous so that as many people as possible can identify with them, regardless of the gender they personally identify as. The character was also designed to seem slightly more feminine because of the lack of choice for women in games, so that the default assumption wouldn’t just fall to male. This doesn’t mean much for the story itself, but it’s a lovely design move that takes the player and their own life into consideration.
Ultimately, Lieve Oma is a game of hope, trust, and love. The game doesn’t want to scare the player into thinking everything is awful, because it’s not, and the visuals help reflect that. The main character has someone to lean on and open up to, a woman who is everything everyone wants and needs during trying times. That this grandmother is written with such obvious love speaks volumes for both Florian, and the woman who inspired this game.
This is not a game someone plays for mindless fun, but instead to experience a story and tap into good emotions. Games like Lieve Oma are why I love indie games, because they connect games with both art and personal experience, finding ways to express love, and to touch the hearts of the players.