A Mortician’s Tale released

Dealing with a death is crushing for most people, but for some it’s part of their day job. A Mortician’s Tale [official site] focuses on that side of death, playing as a fresh young funeral director as she learns the ropes of the death business. Along with preparing bodies, going through the processes leading to burial or cremation, she’ll handle loved ones, attend funerals, hear stories, and, you know, get on with her job. The game’s out now, launched today.

So! There we are, working in a funeral home, running all sorts of tasks. We’ll learn about the very physical realities of handling bodies, about the different ways people deal with death, and a little about the state of the industry. I’ve not had a go yet myself but am keen to, especially after reading Kate Gray’s Waypoint bit on it.

A Mortician’s Tale is out on Steam for £9.11/€11.99/$11.99, which includes a 20% launch discount, and is on Itch too. It’s for Windows and Mac.

Developers Laundry Bear Games say they’re inspired by mortician/author Caitlin Doughty and other members of The Order of the Good Death, a group of funeral directors, artists, and advocates trying to make death a bit less grim and a bit more normal. I like that. At the most recent big family death, I became a sort of second-in-command for getting things done, being there for trying procedures, and trying to make it a celebration of the person’s life rather than a mourning of their loss. It was… nice? Sad, of course, but nice. It was what they wanted.

9 Comments

  1. Zmobie says:

    Does it talk about the fact that funerals can be a total ripoff?

    • Zmobie says:

      To be clear, The Order of the Good Death seems like a good initiative with good people which seems needed in that industry.

    • jusplathemus says:

      In short, yes.

      Spoiler! You start to work at a small family-like funeral home that eventually gets bought up by a bigger company maybe halfway through the game (it’s short, can be finished in under 2 hours or so).

    • oyog says:

      I’d like to briefly link you to an Ask Me Anything that the woman who founded The Order of the Good Death did on Reddit. She’s a mortician and she seems very much aware of the shortcomings of the funeral industry so I imagine will take those opinions into account.

  2. thehollowman says:

    Ten quid for 2 hours? Not something I can support. Seems like it should be a few pounds on itch.io, a serious misstep here. Steam is already at Mixed reviews.

    • jusplathemus says:

      I was really looking forward to it, but I’m sorry to say, that it isn’t worth it. It has it’s strengths, but overall, the game is seriously lacking in many aspects and not just in length.

      • poliovaccine says:

        That’s a shame. Since this article is more a blurb than a review, would you mind giving some details/opinions in specific?

        • jusplathemus says:

          Sure!
          Pros: The ambient music is pretty good, the game looks nice visually (even if a bit simple) and the base idea is great. I actually learned some (kind of) interesting stuff.
          Cons: It’s… empty. Gameplay is frustratingly shallow and guided, which wouldn’t irk me if there was something else that’s good. (For example, I love VA-11 Hall-A, though it has hardly any gameplay – the focus is on the characters, the conversations and the worldbuilding, and they are very, very good. Well, in my opinion anyway.) Problem is, there’s nothing else in A Mortician’s Tale. You read some emails (boss, friend, colleague and some magazine subscription), then repeat some tasks (of which there are very few in the first place) and it tells you every single time what to do, just like some tutorial. And as for emails, I wasn’t expecting choices, but the opportunities were certainly there and that bothered me. I mean, it’s fine if I can’t have any impact on the outcome, but please don’t make it look like I (almost) could. Again, all of this would be fine, if there was something else that’s worth experiencing. But there’s just nothing.

  3. poliovaccine says:

    Interesting. I think this whole “death positive” notion is needed more broadly than just within the industry of funerals. Western culture in general needs it. Some of the most ghastly tortures of the modern day are carried out in service to the vain belief that any measure of life, no matter how painful, wretched, dysfunctional, unwanted, is necessarily superior to death. I was about 11 years old when the whole Dr. Kevorkian thing happened, and I thought it was just a fucking sin, the shit he took. I’ve always had a horrible fear of containment, being buried alive or drowning or dying stuck in a vent… so being left to drift along in a machine-assisted coma, or to be trapped in a body which no longer allowed me to communicate the desire for suicide or the ability to enact it myself, that is the ultimate horror – even being buried alive, eventually you’re allowed to die. Stuff like that old Terri Schiavo debacle just look like burying someone alive to me.

    When I was really young I asked my folks to please install one of those Poe-style telephones down into my grave in case I was pronounced dead and buried by mistake (I was young enough I didnt consider that I’d more likely outlive my parents haha). I also made them promise to not keep me alive on a machine, or to help me suicide if I were rendered unable to ask or do so myself, even if – *especially if* – I was still conscious.

    The Kevorkian thing terrified me because it never occurred to me that anyone or anything should be able to block that request. It opened up a whole new potential hell to my imagination: one in which you’re painfully, tediously trapped in a comatose body, with hardly any front-brain activity left to dream with, waiting in a timeless state for relief from your confusion and suffering, and meanwhile a dumb fucking legal battle rages around your body, keeping you anchored to the horror for what feels like an eternity, without any reference for marking time.

    I remember another case where an Asian woman had, just like me, very clearly expressed her desire to be euthanized in any such scenario… and in spite of that, her parents were hardline Christians who fought like hell to prevent it, for fear that their daughter’s soul would go to hell… which to me is just deeply ironic, the way it so totally misses the point.

    It frightened me that our whole society’s fear of death was enough to override the clearly-stated, legally-intact, sane and uncompromised will of this poor woman. It didn’t matter that she had very specifically planned for such an event, because our whole society felt such an innate reaction of “yeahh but” that they collectively got in the way of this woman’s own death.

    I know this game isn’t exactly about euthanasia, but that’s just one example of how badly deficit our culture’s relationship with death has become. It effectively doesnt evolve beyond our first reactions to the very idea as children – “oh he’s not dead, he’s just sleeping, in heaven.” We have the capacity to know better, but western culture in particular is so prissy about things like death and sex and getting high and etc, etc… it gets really tiresome tbh haha

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