Unravel was one of the gorgeous, enchanting highlights of the Electronic Entertainment Expo media briefings last week, but it did something else I wasn’t expecting: it showed me something I don’t remember ever seeing before in a game.

Unravel is about a small creature made out of yarn going out into the world. The impetus behind Yarny’s (as he is known) actions is that he represents the last connections between a family and their matriarch. Yarny is a ball of yarn come to life that belongs to an old woman … and I want to pause the description here. When the grandmother came on the screen, I realized that she is something I’ve never really seen in a game before. I can’t remember playing anything on my NES, PlayStation, or PC that prominently featured an elderly female character that wasn’t some kind of witch or sorceress. I’m sure it’s happened, but it’s so rare that I could not think of an example. And it immediately illustrated that Unravel is different, but it also exemplified how many stories gaming has left unexplored.

Unravel creator Martin Sahlin of Coldwood Interactive touched on this a little bit with his remarks during the E3 media briefing.

“I think games are really powerful things,” he said.”They have the ability to grab you and move you in a way that few other things can. That gives us, as game makers, some responsibility. We should try to do more than just entertain. And Unravel was created in that spirit. It was born out of the need to make something more personal. Something with a heart.”

If you want to give something a heart, making a game about a grandmother who is alone in this world seems like an excellent way to do so. Sahlin goes on to explain it beautifully.

“The yarn represents love and the bonds that we make,” he said. “And it unravels because that’s what happens when we’re separated from what we love.”

And Unravel is going to give players the opportunity to play as this physical representation of those bonds. It’s going to turn the difficult obstacles of human relationships into solvable gaming puzzles as a way of illustrating how people can tie their lives back together.

I can feel my heart swelling just thinking about it, and it’s making me want to check in on the ones I love. And, at the same time, it makes me long for games that will tell stories beyond space marines and adventurers — not that I won’t line up for those as well.

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