Why Are So Many People Upset With ‘The Coffin of Andy and Leyley’?
It's a viral conversation.
A few days before Halloween, I woke up, rolled out of bed, and proceeded to skim a near-six-hour YouTube Let’s Play of VTuber Pipkin Pippa voice acting a strange, viral horror game: The Coffin of Andy and Leyley.
No, not the type of horror game with jump scares and spooky frights. This one was far more disturbing in a psychological way. Ennerving, unsettling, and sometimes a little quirky, The Coffin of Andy and Leyley is an indie sensation that took over Twitter (sorry, X) over the past fall. Every other queer artist on my timeline was obsessed with the game over October and November, praising its titular characters’ love-hate dynamic.
However, some of the content within the game caused a stir online, drawing detractors and fans alike into a heated Twitter discourse over taboo themes in art. Curious to learn more, or maybe you’ve seen the memes around the game and been utterly confused? Here’s what you need to know about the controversy surrounding The Coffin of Andy and Leyley.
What is The Coffin of Andy and Leyley?
The Coffin of Andy and Leyley is a self-described “walk-n-talk” adventure game that mixes visual novel elements with puzzle gameplay. Created by artist and writer Nemlei with production aid from Kit9 Studio, the game follows 20-something siblings Andrew and Ashley Graves as they try to survive in their quarantined apartment. The two quickly turn to drastic measures to avoid starvation, sending them on one hell of a paranormal, cannibalistic, and murderous journey.
Along the way, we learn more about Ashley and Andy’s relationship, which is tainted with trauma and codependency. Ashley is the more assertive of the two, with Andy generally submitting to her demands and requests. This generally doesn’t end well for those that cross their paths, as Ashley is selfish, insecure, prone to violence, and doesn’t really seem to care for anyone other than her older brother.
That’s all I can say without outright spoiling most of the game.
You can try The Coffin of Andy and Leyley for yourself by purchasing the game on Steam. It’s only $9.99, and it’s a fantastic exploration of codependency, childhood trauma, and the mutual pain that arises when two people decide to double down on a toxic relationship dynamic.
So, why is The Coffin of Andy and Leyley so controversial?
From here on out, there are spoilers for key plot points in The Coffin of Andy and Leyley. We’ll be discussing a specific scene toward the end of the game’s Steam Early Access launch, so if you’re still working your way through Episode 1, you might want to stop and return to this article later.
After Ashley and Andy sacrifice their parents’ souls to a multi-eyed demon (and mix their parents into a soup), Ashley solves an otherworldly vision’s puzzle about her relationship with her brother. At a young age, Ashley felt insecure and unhappy in her life, so she decided to replace everyone and everything in her life with Andy—from her friends to her parents. He means everything to her.
This leads Ashley to another vision, seemingly predicting the future. The two are shown naked in bed, relaxing after sex. Andy has visible scratch marks on his back, while Ashley sports a hickey and a bite mark. In the vision, Andy suggests sex with Ashley was “mortifying,” but a happy and satisfied Ashley implies he seemed to enjoy himself quite a bit mid-coitus.
After a bit of teasing, Andy cheers up and advances on Ashley once more, and the two start having sex again—when suddenly the vision ends and the pair wake up in their parents’ bed.
Ashley is mildly disturbed by the experience, while Andrew blushes uncontrollably. Playing as Ashley, the player can choose to tell Andy that the two would “never” have sex, or that Andy should “never say never.”
“Why is this such a massive issue to you?? We’ve done way worse things together,” Ashley says, if the player chooses the latter option. “I honestly figured it would happen eventually …”
It’s this specific scene that has caused Andy and Leyley to go viral. The whole segment is uncomfortable, unnerving, but strangely erotic. It’s easy to relate to how Ashley and Andy feel in that moment, simultaneously disgusted with their incestuous vision, yet curiously enticed by the dark pull of their corrupted relationship. Many players quickly fell in love with the game and saw it as a work of art invested in exploring the psychosexual dynamic behind obsessive siblings, and how family can build or break us.
And yes, for internet users who like incest tropes in art, they love the fact that Andy and Leyley has a narrative route where the siblings (might) hook up. The series has an enormous following among adult artists for that reason, and fan edits around the game are common. One changes Andy into a girl for implied lesbian incest, while another adds Ashley and Andy’s mother into the vision. Admittedly, the line is a bit blurry at times between aesthetic appreciation for the taboo, and incest fetishism in the fandom.
How did The Coffin of Andy and Leyley controversy play out?
Obviously, The Coffin of Andy and Leyley discusses incest for an artistic reason. As the puzzle segment before the vision reveals, Ashley could eventually have sex with Andy because their relationship is so unhealthily codependent. The game explores the childhood circumstances that led to Andy and Ashley trauma bonding and why both siblings keep returning to their messed up connection.
Andy and Leyley is not saying incest is cool, good, or sexy. Rather, it shows that incest is a possible end result when a sibling dynamic is a load-bearing relationship for every single thing in life. Andy and Ashley veer toward sexual partnership because they only have each other, and they choose to support one another through all sorts of moral and ethical violations. The two literally ate their parents together; why wouldn’t they commit incest?
Unfortunately, a lot of social media users did not agree with the thematic importance of this scene, and they condemned Andy and Leyley for simply depicting sex between siblings. One user claimed the game “glorifies incest.” Meanwhile, a viral Twitter thread with over 1,700 thousand retweets and 15,000 likes recommended games to play “instead of the shitty incest game.” (The Mary Sue has refrained from linking to these posts to prevent harassment of the users in question.)
Unfortunately, Nemlei decided to “permanently and completely terminate their activities online” in late November, according to a post by Kit9. It remains unclear why Nemlei decided to step away from the internet, although some speculate the change came after negative attention around Andy and Leyley led to their attempted doxing. Kit9 said “they wish to be left alone.”
“The best way to show your support is by focusing your discussions towards the game, and not the developer,” Kit9 wrote. “There will be no communications or information forwarded to the developer from this point onward. They are choosing to remain completely in the dark, and to continue their work happily offline.”
Nemlei will continue creating the game’s art and story, but programming, community management, and various other administrative aspects will be led by Kit9 instead.
How did Nemlei respond to the controversy?
Despite the controversy, Nemlei has no plans to change the game’s taboo subject matter. According to a devlog from Dec. 10, 2023, Nemlei said they would not tone down the story’s themes, implying incest content would continue to appear in the game. The post even opened with an image of Ashley playing with two Andy-and-Ashley-colored bunnies, much to Andy’s dismay.
“And no, again, I’m not changing the story,” Nemlei said in their blog post. “The fear over this is pretty intense, lol.”
Granted, there are many people who feel like Andy and Leyley didn’t quite stick the landing with its depiction of sibling incest. That’s a perfectly respectable opinion to have. Good criticism creates good art. But it’s one thing to disagree with, criticize, or reject the game, and it’s another to harass its creator for the game’s themes. Nemlei seems to have suffered because of the latter. Whether you’re a critic or a fan of Andy and Leyley, everyone loses when an artist is driven off the internet.
As disturbing and awful as it is, sibling incest is a real part of life. Nemlei’s game has a right to show and discuss incest in a mature way, especially if it has an important commentary to share about abuse, trauma, and dysfunctional family dynamics.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]