Editor’s Note: this article contains spoilers for htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary.
htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is a game that offers players the illusion of control. An innocent, defenseless girl named Mion wanders through a hazardous, underground environment. She has no idea who she is or how she came to be there, though things gradually come to her through her ascent. You’re compelled to aid her, but can’t directly control her. Instead, you’re only able to direct two fireflies, named Lumen and Umbra, that assist her on her quest. The big “reveal” in the game comes when players discover their agents, the fireflies, were originally Mion’s parents.
While this may come as a shock, it’s something that’s been alluded to throughout htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. The game itself is an allegory for parenthood and the trials people may go through when raising a child. The story and gameplay all can be related to experiences that come from raising a child.
The control scheme is the most obvious element. Lumen and Umbra can’t really make Mion do anything. htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is a gigantic escort mission. You can direct her to places, shift things in the environment to aid her on her way and attempt to help her through dangerous situations, but players don’t get to live her life for her. You can take actions to make a hazardous world as safe as possible, but can’t protect Mion from everything. All you can do is your best, making some wise choices and making as many preparations as possible, then hope it was enough to enable her.
None of the creatures and situations in htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary directly affect you. They all center around Mion. This is because, as her parents, it isn’t about you; it’s about her. As any guardian will realize, you have to step back and be an observer. While your child will acknowledge you, you don’t get to live her experiences firsthand.
But, you always want to be there. You want what’s best for Mion in htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary, which is to escape the tumultuous ruins. Which is the whole motivation for the game. You connect with this little girl and do everything possible to keep her safe. You recognize how frail she is and the opportunities she could still have ahead of her. If that means working under the gun as Lumen, risking your own life so Mion can make it through a space safely, so be it.
All of this makes the ending even more heartbreaking. While it is easy to get attached to the Mion you’re guiding through these dilapidated areas, you find it was all to help your real child. Umbra and Lumen are willing to sacrifice a clone of their daughter, one that they’ve spent hours caring for, to bring their real daughter back. You’re sacrificing one child for another. But then, if it means your beloved daughter’s survival, it somehow makes the justification for the actions more understandable, even if they are still unconscionable.
The original Mion’s behavior to her parents, killing them and her dog after feeling replaced and abandoned due to the creation of the clones, and Mion clone’s final battle after finding she’s only a vessel to bring the first Mion back, offers one final parallel. As much as you love your offspring, there will come a time when they don’t need you anymore. In the rebellious, teenage years, they could even become your enemy, all because you’re doing what you believe is best for them. (Of course, the Mions’ behavior is absolutely warranted.) They could feel the need to fight, break free and triumph over their caretakers. Turning against Lumen and Umbra can be seen as the Mions realizing what’s right for themselves and reacting in a valid way to differentiate themselves and move on to the next phase of their lives.
While you’re “in charge” in htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary, the player doesn’t have a full handle on the situation. They’re tasked with overseeing a virtual daughter and guiding Mion through life. You get her through the ups and downs, ensuring her survival and doing what you believe is best for her. Then, when the time comes for Mion to reach the end of her journey, she discovers her own truth because of these interactions. She matures and advances to a new chapter with a contemporary who has also grown and shared a similar experience.
htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is immediately available on the PlayStation Vita. It will come to Windows PCs on May 18, 2016.