A Wounded Butterfly Tells the Story of Endurance, Loss in “Fragile Soft Machines”

If you thought Three Fourths Home was too artsy, you’re probably not going to enjoy Fragile Soft Machines. But I thought it was beautiful, even if the title makes it sound like a Tori Amos song. A butterfly with a torn wing travels the land, yearning to fly and see the world but unable to do so by conventional means. Every so often you’re prompted with text calling on you to answer questions, or you’re given the opportunity to grow vines that allow you to travel further. And so the game progresses, leading you to one of several endings.

Fragile Soft Machines uses the butterfly, traditionally a symbol of ephemeral beauty, as a metaphor for endurance and tragedy, which is novel enough to make it memorable in its own right. Tying into the symbolism of the torn wing that robs the butterfly of its ability to fly, the game’s primary mechanic of growing vines upwards forces the butterfly to leave behind various paths in favor of continuing onwards. The message is pretty blatant, but nevertheless, in a medium where achievement hunting is a popular pastime and the perfect ending always attainable, the reminder that in order to move on one must accept loss is startling.

Of course, that’s just my interpretation. Fragile Soft Machines takes only a few minutes to play through, so if you want the chance to see your own beliefs reflected in the journey of a butterfly, go right ahead.

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