Indie Game Award 2023 Winner's Interview: Grand Prix - LKA
“Martha Is Dead,” a game developed by the Italian indie team LKA, tells the thrilling and eerie story of a pair of twin sisters during the later years of World War II, touching on sensitive issues related to mental illness.
While significant edits were required before market release to curb its graphic and bloody visuals, the game has, nonetheless, been praised by Steam players for its stunning visual effects, gripping plot, and diverse puzzles. Judges at Indie Game Award 2023 also regarded the game highly, awarding “Martha is Dead” the Grand Prix award. Luca Dalcò, the founder and director of LKA, revealed that he was inspired by his empathy for people with mental illness as he has friends and family members with mental illnesses. As for the controversial depiction of horror and gore in the game, he emphasized that it was not used to gain an audience or sales, but rather as a means to express the horror.
Exploring social issues with games
The founder: Video games should incorporate social issues into their content.
Luca Dalcò expressed that he has a special empathy for people suffering from mental illnesses, as he has friends and relatives who are affected by them. He emphasized that he feels deeply saddened by those who lack respect and sensitivity toward this issue. Therefore, he hopes to tell stories about these people without discounting how terrible mental illness is.
“Video games need this type of content, and what would today's movies look like without it?” LKA's first game, “The Town of Light,” was adapted from a true story and explored schizophrenia. Luca Dalcò pointed out that this was the second time they had successfully produced a game that discusses social issues, humanity, and suffering. He emphasized that this achievement was quite special to him, it showed that game developers can improve the cultural status of video games by bringing more of these types of works into the mainstream. Therefore, his team will continue on this path.
Choosing the camera, an eye that observes reality, as the puzzle-solving element
In “Martha Is Dead,” the puzzle-solving element centered around the game’s camera left a deep impression on players. Luca Dalcò explained that the camera itself did not have any special meaning to the team, but it played a crucial role in the game. The camera is an eye that observes reality, adding to the protagonist's field of vision. Through the camera lens, players could seek an objective perspective of the surroundings. However, Luca Dalcò also emphasized, “but which is just as deceiving as the protagonist's gaze.”
Regarding the controversial depiction of horror and gore in the game, Luca Dalcò emphasized that it was not used to gain sales, but rather as a means to tell the horror. The horror of war and mental illness cannot be depicted with anything other than powerful images that deeply move players' emotions, guiding them on a path towards empathizing with the protagonist. This, in fact, is the precise purpose of the game.
Luca Dalcò smiled as he talked about winning the IGA2023 Grand Prix award. He said that winning such an award can change something inside a person. When his ideas and team receive such an important award, especially from a distant place with a culture so different from Italy, it becomes even more special. It serves as a powerful motivation for the team to strive to do better.