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Video Game / The Town of Light

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"It wasn't fear anymore, it was madness. And when you're mad, you cease to exist."

The Town of Light is an Environmental Narrative Game with elements of Psychological Horror, developed by LKA and released in 2016 for PC, with Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions following in 2017.

Renée is a 16 years old girl who gets locked up in the Volterra asylum in Italy as the girl represented a danger to herself and others and a cause of public scandal. During the course of the game, the player explores the modern-day asylum in all of its crumbling glory to retrace Renée stay in the asylum, learning her story and the horrors she had to live through.

It is Very Loosely Based on a True Story, set at the Volterra Psychiatric Hospital, a former psychiatric hospital in Tuscany, Italy, that was once home to more than 6,000 mental patients. It was shut down in 1978 after Law 180 was passed, closing all psychiatric hospitals in Italy.

Tropes present in this game:

  • Abandoned Hospital: We enter the hospital in 2016, almost forty years after it was closed down. The decay is beautifully captured.
  • Abandoned Playground: One can be found right at the start of the game if you walk off to your immediate left. You can even try out the merry-go-around.
  • Ambiguously Absent Parent: Renée's father is never mentioned in her recollections.
  • Bedlam House: Volterra asylum was infamous for its cruel treatment of patients including electroshock therapy. The hospital was called 'the place of no return' because patients supposedly never returned home. Thousands of patients were held in the tightest of spaces. The tragedy is thoroughly explored in Renée's flashbacks and through documents scattered around.
  • Child by Rape: A caretaker at the asylum molested Renée (and others) repeatedly which led to her having an abortion.
  • Creepy Uncle: Onofrio, a friend of Renée's mother, supported the family but apparently also molested Renée.
  • Downer Ending: The story ends with a doctor narrating that the long-term recovery for Renée post-surgery is unclear but it doesn't look good.
  • Driven to Suicide: After several years of communication censoring by hospital staff, Renée discovers that her mother died and tried to take her own life on multiple occasions.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy Is Torture: A flashback shows Renée undergo electroshock therapy. The scene plays out like a Nightmare Sequence and fades to white when the procedure begins.
  • Eye Cam: The first part of the lobotomy surgery is seen through Renée's eye where her eyelids open and close as she watches up from the operation table.
  • Fade to White: Going with the idea of light, the standard chapter transition is to a Loading Screen consisting of just a white background.
  • Flashback: Renée walks the corridors of the derelict asylum which triggers flashbacks of both her inpatient stay and circumstances prior. Sometimes takes the form of a Flashback Cut when we only see a flash of a memory bubbling up like when she was making love to a stranger in the greenhouse or took a visit to the Depraved Dentist.
  • Ghost Butler: Some doors are plot-sensitive and open on their own once you have unlocked a new chapter.
  • How We Got Here: The game opens with Renée waking up at the asylum in 1942, right before the lobotomy surgery was to take place. But then we cut to the present day and explore Renée's time leading up to that scene.
  • Hysterical Woman: Renée's story is one where her womanhood was pathologized. It makes you realize how long of a way we have come in understanding how the human mind works and how mental illnesses can be treated effectively. It doesn't help that Renée was molested as a child by different men.
    • An alternative interpretation is that Renée's suppressed homosexuality turned her into a Psycho Lesbian. In the 1930s, homosexuality was considered a mental illness and could land someone in a sanitarium.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Renée discovers that correspondence from her mother did not reach her.
  • Lobotomy: In the final scene, Renée is undergoing lobotomy surgery, presumably turning her into an Empty Shell for the rest of her life.
  • The Maze: Chapter 13 leads you to through a garish maze of a house with hideous wallpapers.
  • Monochrome Past: Flashbacks are composed of mostly black and white imagery.
  • Pedophile Priest: One of the paintings in The Maze level depicts Renée with Don Gino who frightened her. We can only assume that he was lusting after her.
  • The Place: The Town of Light.
  • Promiscuity After Rape: Renée developed unhealthy sexual behavior in her youth which may be related to experiences she had with her Creepy Uncle and a Pedophile Priest.
  • Punishment Box: We learn that delinquent patients were held in isolation rooms.
  • Rape and Switch: Downplayed. Renée was molested as a child which may have led to her pursuing a homosexual relationship (imagined or not) at the asylum.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: One explanation for Renée's mental instability is that she had unresolved trauma from sexual abuse in her childhood.
  • Security Blanket: Renée had a doll called Charlotte who provided her some comfort in the harsh times at the asylum.
  • Sentimental Music Cue: The song "The Town of Light" plays over the closing scene of Renée sitting on a bench in front of the hospital.
  • Shear Menace: In a cut scene, you stab yourself in the stomach with a pair of scissors. You do the same to your doll if you fetch it from the cemetery.
  • Shower of Love: One flashback shows Renée and Amara making out in the showers.
  • Silent Credits: The end credits roll in complete silence.
  • Story Branching: On the basis of your Dialogue Tree choices, the story will develop in different ways.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Renée's absent-minded look in the closing scene, a result of the lobotomy surgery.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Renée's stay at the asylum is this from start to finish.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Renée's recollections are often at odds with the official hospital documents.
    • She describes herself as a frightened, depressed but otherwise composed girl while doctors paint a picture of a delinquent, hallucinating and violent person.
    • In reality, Renée's and Amara only met for a short time but in her memory, they maintained a close bond for years.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The story is inspired by real facts and events though the main character is entirely fictional.
  • Wardens Are Evil: According to Renée, the nurses were pretty insensitive and brutal. She even got sexually abused by a male caretaker.


Video Example(s):


Lobotomy in The Town of Light

Lobotomy scene in "The Town of Light" (warning: very graphical)

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Main / Lobotomy

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