You Should Play Before I Forget
The pains of forgetting caused by dementia are often tied to a host of stigma and fear, with the affliction often used as a convenient narrative device for tragic tales. That’s because many stories around dementia focus on the disability, rather than the person living with the disease themselves. This sadness becomes shallow and inauthentic, a cheap and discomforting way to quickly get the audiences’ empathy.
Before I Forget, a short narrative experience about living with dementia, is still a tale of melancholy. But it also foregrounds the remarkable achievements and life experiences of its protagonist: a brilliant cosmologist named Sunita Appleby. As Sunita, you start the game in an apartment you only have the vaguest memories of. You don’t really remember what you were supposed to be doing either, and the game’s first few minutes is one of the most harrowing and nerve-wrecking sequences I’ve played through in games. And as you interact with notes and other household objects in Sunita’s house, the washed out hues of your surroundings will gradually radiate with colour once more.
Thus the more you play, the more you’ll unravel the reality of Sunita’s circumstances and experiences: the truth behind her husband’s conspicuous disappearance, the trajectory of her hugely successful career, and even the childhood events that have left an indelible impact in her life. Even though these revelations also deepen the game’s tragedy, especially once you’ve reached the conclusion, it is also a celebration of Sunita’s exceptional life. It’s a much-needed reminder that she’s not defined by her dementia, but instead by her gentle spirit and tenacity.