A Memoir Blue is a short game, but a meaningful one. It’s Cloister Interactive’s first game — an indie studio helmed by Asian American director Shelley Chen. It might be confusing to those not familiar with interactive and interpretive games, so here’s an explainer to help you process the wordless imagery.
Spoilers for A Memoir Blue ahead.
A Memoir Blue tells the story of Miriam, a champion swimmer who reminisces about her life and family after a familiar song appears on the radio. She revisits her childhood throughout A Memoir Blue, especially memories associated with her mother and swimming career, through a series of vignettes using water-based imagery.
The game starts with an award ceremony. Miriam seems unhappy with her swimming medal, but we don’t know why. She’s sitting alone in a living room when her cell phone rings, but she doesn’t answer. As she exits the room, we start to see flashbacks of a child and her mother.
In a PlayStation blog post, Chen says she took inspiration from her own life — as a child, she and her mother escaped to a neighboring seaside city from her father. At first, Chen says she didn’t realize what was going on — it was just a fun day with her mom.
“My recollection as a child was that we had taken a wonderful day trip to the neighboring seaside city,” Chen explains in the post. “But when I became older I realized my mother had taken me with her as she ran away from home.”
Miriam’s mom works to support her daughter as a single mom, which means she misses some of her daughter’s biggest childhood moments. Miriam frowns and squabbles with her mother during A Memoir Blue, but they seem to genuinely love one another, even if Miriam’s often left feeling lonely.
Cloisters Interactive uses imagery and music to show how the characters are feeling. 2D characters represent past memories, whereas 3D ones inhabit the present. When Miriam reverts to a 2D figure at the end of the game, it could be a reference to how she’s reconciled with her childhood memories and is moving past them — or perhaps regaining a part of herself that she lost.
In a December 2021 interview with Paste Magazine, Chen notes that Asian parents are often modest with their feelings, which sometimes makes it difficult for their children to express themselves too. Chen says the game was “a way for me to thank her.”
Throughout the game, Miriam is unable to pick up the phone to directly tell her mother how she feels. A Memoir Blue’s ending is very open-ended. The last “puzzle” involves moving aside Miriam’s rows of trophies to reveal photographs of happy memories with her mother.
Miriam smiles as she listens to the same lullaby-like song that plays at the very beginning of the game. Another phone call interrupts the song, but this time, she picks up. Credits roll. Miriam takes the call, but we don’t know how her relationship with her mother progresses from there. It’s all up for interpretation.
Miriam seems to be ready to build a more open and loving relationship with her mother. She realizes there’s more to gain from empathy, understanding, and forgiveness than from clinging to old resentments and casting blame. When it comes to our most important relationships, it’s better to look forward and make the most of the time we have, rather than dwell on the past with bitterness and regret.
“Our mission is not only to tell stories, but to share experiences that will also appeal to a player’s heart,” Chen says in the PlayStation blog post. “I hope you enjoy sinking into Miriam’s uncovered past by letting go of the ordinary and immersing yourself into a world of deep blue.”
A Memoir Blue is currently available for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.