We aren’t the same person to everyone. Not really. Each person in our lives perceives us differently, which can be frustrating given all of us are just trying to live our own truths. Being understood as exactly who you are is a constant struggle that we all can relate to. But it takes on an especially frustrating meaning when you’re a queer person. Because most people have a heteronormative, cisnormative idea of what a person is, you tend to not be understood by most. It ends up messing with your head because you’re trying to break free of that kind of thinking. You don’t fit that template. But everyone keeps trying to put you in a more “normal” kind of box to fit their own ideas of you. If Found is all about how other people perceive a trans woman who’s just trying to figure life out, and it attempts to make the queer experience of not being understood broadly relatable. It largely succeeds.
If Found is about a trans woman named Kasio who ends up estranged from her birth family soon after the game starts. It’s a game that hinges on the moments in life where everything falls apart, what caused those moments and what comes after. Kaiso’s first of such moments is when the falling out between her and her mam takes place, where her mam proclaims she doesn’t understand who Kaiso is anymore. After that inflection point, you get periodic reminders of how she sees Kasio in letters where she’s constantly rationalizing who you are to better fit her own worldview. It’s okay that she wear women’s clothing, sometimes people do that, her mam says. Just make sure to keep it private, lest the neighbors start to talk. But throughout the letters, Kasio’s mam constantly misgenders her, rationalizing any way she can as long as the situation approaches what she knows is “normal”. Kasio’s mam has her own idea of who Kasio is in her head, and she fights like hell to hold onto that, driving Kasio away in the process.
Let’s be clear about this: If Found is a story about the trans experience of being perceived wrong. But it’s also made universal enough to be analogous to any queer story of alienation. I know I saw a lot of my mom in Kasio’s mam. When I came out to her, she told me she was “devastated”. After that day, everything she said indicated she was in denial about my orientation, rationalizing that I “just haven’t met the right girl”. She also goes out of her way to tell me she loves me despite it all. But much like Kasio’s mam in the midst of If Found, she loves her idea of me and refuses to see the real me. If Found is a trans story, but it seeks to make the struggle more broadly relatable. And when it comes to the themes of queer alienation, it clearly succeeded with me.
But the developers of If Found aren’t content to stop at making trans pain more universal to the greater queer community. They also want to show that it’s relatable to the human experience at large. This manifests in Kasio’s interactions with Shans, a member of the band who took Kasio in when she left home after things fell apart with her mam. Two of her acquaintances in the band are two gay men who are in a relationship, while Shans also lives there as part of the band. Given that he doesn’t have people to talk to when the couple is being lovey to each other, he grows closer to Kasio as they talk to each other. There’s hints that something more might be forming, like an illustration of their hands almost touching across the table while eating at a chips place. Then, during a house party, they jokingly talk about moving to Dublin together and what that would be like.
The next morning, Kasio awakens to find Shams holding her and learns he wasn’t joking about living together, and Kasio reacting understandably upset at this revelation. What follows is a painfully relatable incident of mixed-up young emotions running wild, but most telling is when Shams tells her that she understands him better than anyone else had, that he can talk to her easier than anyone. This is another moment of someone’s version of you being different than who you actually are, but this time Kasio’s queerness has less to do with it. She’s still figuring out who she likes and what romance is to her, but a guy making assumptions about who she is based on interactions across a small amount of time is something relatable to people queer or not. We’ve all been either Shams or Kasio, or even both at different times. That this encounter is emphasized in a story that started at another point when everything fell apart is no accident. The fallout with Kasio’s mam parallels the Shams incident, showing how assumptions and alienation happens whether queer issues are involved or not, and serves as an on-ramp towards the realization that these issues have always been relatable, if only people would just get over their cisheteronormative view of the world. These are struggles that we all should be able to connect with. It’s just one generally isn’t seen as relatable due to the queerphobic lens so many people bring with them.
We’re not as different as we appear to be. While we need to acknowledge this is a story about a trans woman with its own unique challenges attached, we can all relate to people assuming things about us, building a person that isn’t us in their heads. And we can all understand the feelings of alienation that come with those assumptions. It’s just that, for queer people, these assumptions can upend our entire lives. Even so, If Found is a relatable story by design. Developer Dreamfeel wants to peel back the layers of nasty queerphobia that prevents so many people from relating to our stories to reveal that, yes, our struggles are very much human ones that anyone should be able to connect with in a more equitable world.