Aaaaand here we go, another quasi-poetic title leading you to expect something I ripped from one of those positive thinking seminars. But nah. The Love in the title refers to Christine Love, one of the many indie developers making a name for themselves talking about issues of gender, sexuality, class, social status or whatever the FotM Tumblr buzzwords for those are at the moment. I know I sound hella bitter, and I’m sorry; I’ve just had a tad too much ACVoice in my life lately. Anyway, what separates Miss Love from a sea of others is that the selling point of her games isn’t “Look at me, I’m making a game with a special snowflake protag because I’m so progressive”. Instead, her characters are human beings first and foremost (even when they’re not exactly human), with masterfully portrayed emotions, virtues and flaws. And no matter what labels you can stick onto any character, you feel like you’re interacting with a human.
The purpose of this post is to introduce some of Love’s opus to my audience, especially because it happens to complement the class material incredibly well. Without further ado, let’s learn a little bit about love from Love.
Digital: A Love Story
Released a full three years before the cinematic abomination known as Her became a thing, the game portrays a teenager who gets their first computer in the earliest days of the Internet. If you get nostalgic when you hear a modem dial tone, know what a BBS is, or just feel like hacking the Gibson or falling in love with an AI, this is a game for you. The game will have you solving puzzles, partaking in social engineering to find out passwords, cracking software and pretty much saving the world, but at the end of the day, it’s a bittersweet, heartwarming game about, well, love. Get it free at http://scoutshonour.com/digital/.
Don’t Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story
This one would actually make for some nice course material, since it meshes well with the whole surveillance and censorship theme of Papers, Please and Blackbar, without the gnarly pseudo-Soviet setting. This one takes place in a bright, shiny school in the near future, where you, as a teacher, are given the opportunity to access the students’ social network profiles and private communication, “for their own good”. As the title reveals, the game turns out to be not at all about you. You as a protagonist are there to be a spectator (some would say a voyeur) and feel the emotional impact of other people’s private lives even when they don’t include you. Get it free at http://scoutshonour.com/donttakeitpersonallybabeitjustaintyourstory/.
Analogue: A Hate Story
Obviously a spiritual successor to Digital, this is the first game I’ve ever paid for (yarrrr). Unlike Digital, it is set in the distant future, and you take the role of a private investigator on a mission to discover the destiny of the Mugunghwa, a Korean ship sent to establish a deep space colony. As the story progresses, you come to realize that something happened on the ship that caused the society to regress to medieval standards of education, values and gender roles, with a lone girl placed in stasis before the event happened and waking up long after the event struggling to come to terms with a world that she never knew could exist. This is a story first and game second, and there is a lot of reading involved. You will not regret it. Get it at http://store.steampowered.com/app/209370/.
A sequel to Analogue, the game follows the Investigator after a job well done, on his way back to Earth. You have three days to learn about the fate of the Mugunghwa, deepen your friendship with your companion, and explore issues of class, polyamory, mental health, and many more. The game forces you to actually spend three days playing it – once you play through an in-game day, the game shuts off and you cannot play it for the next 12 hours, adding to the realism. Depending on your choices, the game might even force you to bake a cake in real life. And once you’ve played through the game (not before, MAJOR spoilers), read up on the shitstorm that was Level Four Revive Materia and the incredible fan response that it generated. Get Hate Plus at: http://store.steampowered.com/app/239700/.
I hope these games will make your days the way they did mine (I’m not responsible for any tears shed!). 🙂