GOTY #7: Forests are for Trees

GOTY #7- Forests are for Trees. This game is the first itch.io game I have played, and it opened my eyes to the number of developers experimenting with design tools and creating great games. Forests are for Trees uses a stencil buffer to create tree portals that you can step through and examine the forest through different colors. As noted in my review, these colors affected me and allowed me to create a story of my own out of the hints of a plot in the sound design, and I quickly created an emotional connection with it. This article will be comprised of multiple stories I have made throughout my play sessions.

Story one

Background: Green to Red.

Trees: Pink, Blue, Dark Purple.

    Christmas is finally here. The day where some of us gather and open presents under trees together. Today is different, though. Today is the day that reminds me of all of the times that I used to have with someone very important to me. The dark purple in the trees remind me of all that I have lost, while the pink reminds me of the love that I had for you. Christmas, despite its general joyful feeling, can be a moment of sorrow for families that are struggling to cope with the loss of a family member, regardless of how long it has been since the night that changed everything.

It’s similar to how we gather around a tree. One with lights, ornaments, and green beautiful leaves, while we look outside and see the bare branches of the trees that have been there for far longer than the Christmas Tree. They suffer around the holidays, and we gather here looking at the beauty of the Christmas decorations, and the nicely wrapped presents, and the candy-filled stockings, all while the area outside of our house is freezing and full of dormant trees, showing no signs of energy nor joy.

The truck I hear in the background, I can’t tell what the driver thinks of this holiday. I have no clue if they celebrate it, and if they do, I don’t know if they are struggling to celebrate it this year. Do they love it, as the pink trees in the distance show, or are they running through the memories of the past hoping that one day they can feel that joy again? The joy of a whole family, celebrating and smiling throughout the day knowing that everything will be okay. I miss that joy. I miss it so much. I miss you so much.

Story two

Background: Orange to Blue

Trees: Mostly red trees, varying in brightness

The orange to blue background makes the environment seem calming, but the way the tree colors blend with it sends warning signs of what’s to come. The red trees are a vibrant red, almost telling me to leave this forest. The bird’s chirping suddenly feels like they are trying to tell me that I should not be here. Of course, I shouldn’t, the forest is for the trees, not for the likes of me. I continue to travel, examining the trees around me.

One by one, I stare into them and see welcoming places. Forests that seem to be inviting me to explore, but I never enter. Maybe it’s the anxiety that comes with new situations, where I could just stay where I am, at an odd position between comfortability and uneasiness, or maybe it’s because the trees are more cluttered in the other forests. This forest’s trees are spaced out, leaving room to seek more comfortability and keeping me at a steady pace while exploring the forest. There is something so haunting about it, but I am smiling as well.

This reminds me of the time I had pneumothorax in 8th grade. My chest felt like a balloon ready to burst, with my ribs ready to break open and my lungs and heart ready to fall out of my chest in a bloody mess. None of this really happened, but having pneumothorax hurts extremely bad and makes it harder to breathe. Pneumothorax is a collapsed lung, and luckily mine was only very small and did not require treatment.

When I took my final painless breath in my science class that day, I did not know that in seconds, my lung would spontaneously tear open. When it happened, I grabbed my chest and tried to breathe. Each breath brought pain from my chest all the way up my neck. I felt miserable, and frankly, I thought this was the end for me. I got up, went to the nurse, and was told that it was simply sinus congestion and that I should go back to class immediately. The nurse’s reassurance was wonderful, and knowing that oxygen was still reaching my lungs gave me hope that maybe things were not too bad after all. The nurse was the blue in the background, while every instance of pain was the red trees warning me that I needed help.

Fast forward to gym class, one of the last classes of the day. We were told to run laps, and knowing that my chest was in immense pain, and knowing that my friends showed various signs of worrying about me, I made the dumb decision to run the heckin’ laps. I ran them, and by the third one, I was ready to collapse on the stairs and have the rest of the students trample over my unconscious body and bring the end that my body seemed to want desperately.

But then I saw the trees staring at me, and the birds chirping telling me to turn back. That collapsing on the stairs was a choice, and there was something far worse happening to my body than I originally thought. I stopped running at that moment and told the gym teacher immediately that I felt like my lungs were messed up, and that my chest felt like it was ready to explode. My gym teacher was smarter than me and told me to just sit for the rest of the class, which led me to stay conscious and go to the doctor where they gave me the news. That I had a pneumothorax and had to stay in bed for two weeks.

After going through this last memory, I stepped through one of the various trees that I could see, leaving the dark decisions of the past behind me, and knowing that in the future I will handle dangerous situations knowing that there are ways to be safer. After stepping through the tree portal, and seeing the forest in front of me, I exited the game and played it the next day, and took a new journey in a new forest.

Conclusion

Forests are for Trees reminded me of good times with family and friends, while also reminding me of loss and sadness. Each forest’s colors represent some event from my past, and each chirp of the bird or car in the background symbolizes something of great importance each time I play the game. It may not affect you, or any other player, but Forests are for Trees is an experience of experimentation that had a very important effect on me, and shows how meaningful experimentation in game design is.

Check out my interview with the developer, Ian MacLarty here!

Download the game here!

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