Kanane Jones wrote Final Girls as response to her own experience dealing with abuse recovery and the support she received from friends and therapy groups.
Set in a support group meeting, Final Girls allows the player to guide and shape conversations between a small group of women who've experienced traumatic events. The browser game plays through simple dialog trees.
Anyone with knowledge of the gathering intimacy of support groups will recognize the game's central dynamic, which is to gradually open up about oneself and the things that we really need to talk about.
"I wanted to to tell the story of these girls surviving and living on after their trauma"
"I'm an abuse survivor," says Jones. "Something that I've noticed is that we tend to tell stories about trauma that focus on the traumatic event, but we seldom tell stories about what happens after that, how people go on and live their lives. The abuse is a thing that happened but it's far from the most interesting or exciting part of my life and I would hate for people to focus on that about me. "
The game's twist is that all the women in the meeting are based on fictional characters from horror movies. They are the women who faced the beast. The meeting is led by therapist "Ellen," clearly inspired by The Nostromo's warrant officer in Alien.
Attendants include Carrie, Jay, Mary and Laurie, who are all dealing with the aftermath of horrible events. The phrase "final girls" is a movie trope signifying the last person (usually a young woman) to survive in a horror or slasher movie.
"I wanted to to tell the story of these girls surviving and living on after their trauma," adds Jones. "A therapy group seemed a reasonable way for them to come together and connect and talk about their lives."
Players may anticipate a journey through in-jokes about horror movies, but the game explores shared feelings and stories. "I wanted to say something about the importance of vulnerability and connection in living a full and healthy life," says Jones. "I have a really rich support network. A lot of that is because I started opening up about what I deal with and how I feel about things, and listening to them do the same with me."
The game received attention following stories on Boing Boing and The Mary Sue as well as a tweet from artist Merritt Kopas, in which she said that "you sift through piles of shooters and RPGs and you find a gem like this that reminds you in all seriousness why we videogaming [sic]."
"I've been really surprised by the reception," says Jones. "I thought that maybe 20 of my friends would play it and then I'd go on and make something else. I'm really happy that it turned out to resonate with people."
Jones followed it up with a recently completed visual novel about a space journey and a wonky AI, called love/space.
The decision to feature fictional characters from horror movies was mostly driven by Jones' own familiarity with the genre. "I'm obsessed with horror. Good, bad, American, Japanese, whatever, I love it all. I watched two dozen horror movies on Netflix while I was working on art for this game.
"I would say the characters are inspired by, rather than really based on the movies," she adds. "One of the criticisms I've gotten is that they're not actually final girls, which is mostly true. Laurie [from Halloween] is the only one that's technically a final girl, though I'd argue that Mary [American Mary] is intended as a subversion of the trope. I mostly picked them because they're all characters that resonate with me in, or else because I really like the movies they're from.
"Ellen Ripley in particular is one of the best representations of a trauma survivor in film that I've ever seen, so of course I really identify with her."
You can play Final Girls here.