I remember that my grandma was pretty superstitious. Once she asked that my sister take off her hair clip because it was blue and thus it was bad luck. How does this relate to Devotion?
Devotion is mainly set in a Taiwanese apartment, revolving around one man’s life. The setting immediately reminded me of apartments in Hong Kong and it was eerily familiar. It tapped into the unsettling feeling I’ve always had while visiting the older apartment complexes of various relatives.
Spirituality and superstition plays a huge part in Asian culture. There are even TV shows that plays off how silly it is while also depicting how much money people can end up spending to pay mentors or consultants to help better their luck or secure the prosperity of their family. Devotion shows the more evil side to all this, in which people prey on the desperate and scam them out of their money in the name of “God”.
In Devotion, you play as Du Feng Yu, a screenwriter, who has a wife (Gong Li Fang—a retired singer) and a daughter (Du Mei Shin). In what is traditionally a very patriarchal society, Feng Yu’s ashamed of his career dwindling. His wife considers coming out of retirement to help with the family finances, especially since their daughter seems to have developed an illness. Feng Yu is against that and instead, he focuses on their daughter’s recent singing competition where she placed well, but ultimately did not win. Disappointed, Feng Yu and his wife continue to have arguments and their daughter retreats into herself and her illness worsens.
As you play, certain scenes seem to replay itself and you must travel through the same apartment albeit in different years. You slowly work out the timeline and how events occurred that led you to the current desolate and despairing household Feng Yu has created.
It is unclear what illness Mei Shin suffers from, but you get snippets of conversation from the Doctor, Feng Yu’s wife, and his daughter. It seems the doctors have deemed she has no physical ailment, and suggests this might be an illness of the mind. Downplaying the obvious mental struggles his daughter is experiencing in your rocky household, you find clues that indicate that Feng Yu turned to spiritual outlets to help his family.
Feng Yu starts getting advice from a spiritual advisor called Mentor Heuh. She shares her teachings and introduces him to the world of a goddess called Cigu Guanyin. Of course, Mentor Heuh’s advice doesn’t come for free, and he pays her continuously in exchange for guidance. His wife recognizes how unhinged he’s become and how devoted he’s gotten towards the cult of Cigu Guanyin and ultimately decides to leave. I really wish she had taken the daughter with her.
I won’t say any more on the finer details of the story, or the ending, but it was a very eye opening game that was very reminiscent of the culture I’ve been exposed to growing up. Whether it’s the reluctance to acknowledge mental illness, the want to put your perished dreams onto the next generation, or the toxic nature of a solely patriarchal society, all these are not new topics to me. However, seeing them in a horror game was refreshing.
There are elements to the game that brought me back to my life in Hong Kong too, outside of the superstition. This includes the typhoon precautions we see in various chapters of the game, as well as the general decor of the older-style apartment. Devotion is a beautiful game that can really lend insight into the concerning cult-like beliefs of some religious followers in Asia.