As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I’ve come to believe that I understand the ins-and-outs of what it means to be different from the norm. I recognise the individuality of everyone I meet, support their right to express themselves however they choose and encourage others to accept people for who they are. Until now, I thought I was fully knowledgeable in the struggles of those in my community, but it took only an hour and a half of my time to realise that I subconsciously turned a blind eye to the reality faced by many every single day.
This hour and a half was spent navigating the various social menus of A Normal Lost Phone—a game in which you, the player, have found a discarded mobile phone that is brimming with intimate, personal information on an individual known as Sam. As you dig through the slews of text messages, emails and photographs, a tragic arc of disapproval and heartache begins to slowly reveal itself. Details, dates and references which seem bewildering to begin with weave themselves into the fabric of a narrative as you delve deeper, uncovering the true identity of Sam and the value of his relationships with those around him.
I am reserved about revealing any of the avoidable details about the game’s plot—with such a short playtime, discussing any resolutions or unexpected twists would only undermine the experience of the reader. What I will say is that A Normal Lost Phone provided me with a faithful understanding of transgenderism and the various other types of gender definitions that can appear within the community which I’d previously neglected. There are a large number of people, not all heterosexual, that find this labyrinth of terminology confusing or even intimidating, which A Normal Lost Phone will assist thanks to its affecting story and candid discussions about gender and sexuality.
While some of the earlier characters can feel slightly cliché at times, the creators have truly excelled in creating interesting and unique characters nearer the end of the experience. The conversations that take place between said personalities feature intimate knowledge and debate about LGBTQ+ issues, and I found myself consciously taking mental notes and learning about the subjects being discussed. It was refreshing to see a game tackle this taboo area so simplistically, in the style of a forum discussion among online friends, and is certainly one of the most integral parts of the experience.
A Normal Lost Phone also broaches the topics of homophobia and misogyny, with a few vile slurs making their way into the dialogue. Their use is warranted, however, by helping to realise the experiences that many LGBTQ+ people have endured at least once in their life. The inclusion of family characters that think any form of non-normative sexuality is a mortal sin also communicates that this is an unwanted reality for some, but unfortunately do create a pantomime sense of good versus evil at times. Their feelings on the subject, often regurgitated by Sam in his various digital communications, can feel exaggerated and as a result, may disrupt the experience’s overall subtlety.
When a game stylishly schools me about social issues, I consider it a winner. But when a game is able to actively educate me on a subject I wrongly thought I understood, I have to consider it a great achievement. A Normal Lost Phone may be a short, sweet experience, but its frank exploration of LGBTQ+ issues and bravery to wade into social territory where few games have gone before means it is a must-buy, and must-learn.
Candid discussions about LGBTQ+ issues
Smooth, immersive interface
Some characters can feel wooden