Creatures Such As We

by Lynnea Glasser profile

Science Fiction
2014

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Number of Reviews: 8
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Better in retrospect, January 30, 2021

I first played Creatures Such As We a few years ago, and I remember that I didn't think much of it back then. But, after playing it more recently, I've come to appreciate it a lot more.

Creatures Such As We is a metafictional (am I using that term correctly?) story about video games that functions as one of the video games it discusses. On one level, you play as a tour guide on the moon, guiding a group of visiting game developers through various touristy activities. On the other level, your character is playing a game-within-a-game, which happens to be developed by the same group of aforementioned game developers. This game-within-a-game had a highly controversial "bad" ending, almost akin to the original ending of Mass Effect 3 (the author denies it as an influence). The player character suddenly has the opportunity to ask the game developers about the ending. Of course, being a Choice of Game, there is romance here: you can pursue a romantic relationship or friendship with one of the game developers, and you might stay in contact even after they leave. There is a bit of stage magic here; the dramatic life-and-death moments always happen to your chosen romance option. The characters themselves are all well-realized and unique, but they feel sort of like tokens, both demographically and for their particular viewpoints.

All of this is all used as a backdrop for a series of philosophical conversations. The author leads us through "meta" discussions like the role of the author vs the viewer, representation in media, and escapism, and more general philosophical discussions on death and life and stuff. I think this worked better for me now than when I first played this because I have more experience with both making and playing interactive fiction, and I can relate to the issues being discussed more. It felt interesting and engaging in a way that "philosophical discussions in video games" usually don't for me.

Then there's the theme of corporate malfeasance. Your employer cares more about good appearances than the well-being of its employees or the safety of its customers. The visitors to the moon base are regularly put into life-threatening situations with little backup or real information. You are overworked without much free time, and it's clear that there are people even worse off. Then there is a subplot where one of the tourists has a flu-like illness that is covered up; it's obvious that this was made in pre-covid times. At the same time, an EA-like giant gaming corporation is seeking to acquire the game developers, who are somewhat ambivalent about the deal (I don't know if you-as-the-tour-guide can change the outcome here).

Overall, I feel like the setting, characters, game-within-a-game, and philosophical discussions all meshed together really well. I appreciated the meta moments where it felt like the game was critiquing itself.