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Digital: A Love Story

by Christine Love


Web Site

(based on 24 ratings)
2 reviews

About the Story

A computer mystery/romance set five minutes into the future of 1988.

Game Details

Editorial Reviews

50 Years of Text Games, by Aaron A. Reed
Connecting to a BBS—a bulletin board system, the primary way to find online communities before the mid-1990s—meant punching in a phone number and waiting for your modem to negotiate with a distant computer. [...]
It’s an experience very different from browsing the modern web, one which few people too young to have lived it can easily appreciate. Digital: A Love Story recreates it in loving detail, capturing the texture and flavor of BBS life remarkably well. But its author never experienced that life firsthand. In the year the game is set—1988—she hadn’t even been born.
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Game Developer
Analysis: Examining Digital: A Love Story
The story, set in an alternate version of the late 80s, begins with the protagonist receiving a modem and a dialer from his or her uncle. All game play consists of manipulating the virtual desktop, discovering the world of bulletin boards, sending messages and downloading applications and dialing more and more new numbers. Almost at once, we find ourselves exchanging messages with Emilia, a would-be poet who reads as an emo teenager, self-dramatizing yet maddeningly vague about her feelings and problems. An awkward semi-romance springs up, with Emilia hinting with annoying coyness at her feelings for the protagonist. Now, what is brilliant about this is that the game never shows us the protagonist's emails to Emilia, only her responses -- which makes the whole business both more relatable and less saccharine.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Love and drama on a BBS, June 27, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This is both the highest-rated and most-rated game on IFDB that currently doesn't have any reviews. I played it in preparation for the IF playoffs.

This game is a downloadable executable. It simulates the look of old windowed (not windows!) computers, like Amiga style. It gives you a couple of programs, at first just messages and a way to connect to BBS (bulletin board systems, and old style of forum), and then more over time.

A major facet of the game is typing in numbers to connect to Bulletin Boards, some of which are very convoluted. A common experience in the game is typing in the local number for long distance lines, typing in a long distance card number, finding your card number is expired, typing in a different local line, getting more card numbers, typing in the long distance line number, typing in the new card number, finding its also invalid, typing in the long distance line number, typing in a second new card number, then typing in the long distance number you want to enter.

This is repeated several times in the game and is mind-numbing, a major drawback for me.

Outside of that, it's a great game. You encounter the wild word of the early web, before the public knew much about it, before there was really any government oversight, and even before it was actually a 'web'.

You meet tons of people arguing about things they care about, like Star Trek TNG vs TOS, or hacking Sprint phone lines. But you also meet a woman named Emilia, who writes poems and wants to learn more about you.

Eventually drama ensues, and the game expands in scope and genre.

Like Emily Short in her Game Developer review, I found it very effective that we never see 'our' messages, only the replies to them. The power of imagination helps us build up a relationship.

There was a point early on where I felt genuine panic and an urge to try and move quickly as possible. Right after that is when the game's pacing plummeted. But the content was good enough that I wanted to keep going.

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A very unusual kind of interactive fiction, July 7, 2024

This work feels much more like a "hacking game" than what would typically be called interactive fiction. The game has a graphical user interface, and the only text entry to be done by the player takes the form of multi-digit numbers. A sort of limited choice-like player input is also accepted via button-clicking to initiate or respond to messages from NPCs. The fact that all significant narrative events are depicted via text arguably places it somewhere at the outskirts of the form. It doesn't feel quite out-of-bounds to qualify as IF to me; your mileage may vary.

The world of the game is a strange one, a kind of alternate 1980s much like our own but in which (Spoiler - click to show)early breakthroughs in computer science had developed truly self-aware AIs. The most far-fetched component of the plot is the idea that such a program could run on a 16-bit home computer.

As other reviewers have noted, the author goes to great lengths to capture the feel of the BBS era despite having no firsthand familiarity with it, even accurately portraying the sounds of the dialup sequence for 1200/2400 baud modems. This work may have some value just as a kind of "living history" display, making it easier for those who grew up with the internet to appreciate its technological roots.

The overall plot is relatively constrained. The early parts of gameplay have a richness to the NPC userbase that rapidly falls off as the main plot gets going. Gameplay options are expanded over time as new programs become available, but their implementation is limited to the need to run them at certain times; fundamental gameplay is not altered. The pacing is rather too quick for my taste after the first act, robbing a significant twist of much of its intended impact. Based on the order in which some messages were received, I may have gone through key events in an unanticipated sequence, so again your mileage may vary.

Despite these significant flaws, I admire the work done on the interface and did find it to be an enjoyable short play experience.

Note that although this game is tagged as "queer" on IFDB, that seems to have no relation to gameplay. Although an interpersonal relationship is an important part of the plot, it is handled in an entirely abstract and non-sexual way.

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Digital: A Love Story on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Digital: A Love Story appears in the following Recommended Lists:

2020 Alternative Top 100 by Denk
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The following polls include votes for Digital: A Love Story:

Visual Novels for IF fans by autumnc
Visual novels are a form of interactive fiction whose community is almost entirely distinct from the interactive fiction community based around IFDB/IFComp. There are plenty of visual novels that can easily be recast as CYOA text-based...

Programming/command-line games? by autumnc
What are some games that either include computer programming as a game mechanic, elements that simulate computer programming, or include some sort of command-line or terminal interface? This could include parser games, choice-based...

Games which take place in chat messenger systems or on a digital interface by grimperfect
Specifically, works where the main mechanic is either exploring a in-game digital interface(ala Secret Little Haven) or communicating using a type of chat/text messenger system(think Emily is Away).

See all polls with votes for this game

This is version 4 of this page, edited by MathBrush on 27 June 2024 at 8:24pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page