You are walking down an empty street one night, and you find a smart phone on the ground. Surprisingly there is no lock on it, so you suddenly have access to someone’s private digital world. You reason, I should nose around so that I can find out whose phone this is, so I can get it back to the owner. This opens you up to the world of Sam, an 18-yo high school student. It also draws you into Sam’s mystery disappearance.
So begins the phone app game, A Normal Lost Phone. I confess I am NOT a game person or a gaymer, as some gay game loving guys like to call themselves. I’ve tried in the past to get into on-line games, computer games, phone app games, but most of them bore me to tears. Perhaps because I am a storyteller, the only games that have captured my attention have been narrative games.
That said, I only got so far with realMyst and Walking Dead before I lost my patience. Both seemed so impersonal. So I had doubts about A Normal Lost Phone when the developers contacted me to take a look. That there were LGBTQ characters in it was a draw for me. Also the company that created the game, Accidental Queens, was founded by three women, something all too rare in the gaming world.
I loaded the game app on my iPhone 6 Plus, and immediately I liked it. The graphics are pleasing with warm muted tones and a watercolor quality to them. The photo images are drawings and represent a diversity of characters.
They have original music (which you can turn off if you like) that is not your typical atmospheric ambient background tunes. It is actual music that the owner of the phone enjoys–modern pop and rock stuff. Sam, the young protagonist of the game, is a musician, so you can also hear some of Sam’s original music. You can view Sam’s photos, read text messages, emails, and social networking, (including some cool queer-friendly forums and a dating app. Why does Sam have two profiles on the Lovebirds app???)
As you search in and out of Sam’s apps and messages, mysteries unfold concerning Sam’s family, romantic life, and personal struggles with identity. I won’t say much more because part of the fun is discovering all these things and the big reveals along the way.
While the game is designed for teens, I found it compelling. For the most part the voices of the various characters in their texts and emails sound believable and interesting. The mother character seems a bit flat (and she is an obsessive bakers,) but otherwise most of the characters have the sound of real people in Sam’s world. I played the English version, (they have multiple language options) which is written in British English and uses British formats for some calendar dates and spelling. Any lover of Dr. Who will easily understand the British terms and lingo.
Lots of important social issues come up in the game including consent, homophobia, and the many complications of friendship, particularly when someone is coming into a new identity. I am happy that this game exists in the world. As an LGBTQ rights campaigner and as an artist who works with stories, I encourage you to check out the game and share it with young people in your world.
A Normal Lost Phone is available today. It is available on multiple platforms.