New Year's Eve, 2019

by Autumn Chen profile

Part of Pageantverse
Slice of life
2022

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Number of Reviews: 5
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Between the kids’ table and the adults’ table, June 23, 2022

In New Year’s Eve, 2019, you play Karen Zhao, a college senior trying to endure a new year’s eve party–a harrowing confluence of family, friends, former friends, and potential romantic interests. The stakes are defined early in the game: “Everyone you grew up with between the ages of 10 and 18 are here. Your old friends and acquaintances, and their parents and siblings and everyone else. People you thought you had left behind, or had left you behind. Itʻs as if every loose plot thread of your life has come together in this moment.”

Indeed, one of the most stressful aspects of this game is navigating your continuously shifting identities–and the corresponding expectations–in relation to the people you talk to. You are by turns daughter, sister, niece, friend, ex-rival, possible love interest, symbol of achievement and future success. Even within those identities, there is plenty of anxiety-provoking ambiguity to confront: would you still consider Aubrey a “friend”? How about Miri? Are you just friends with Emily, or is there something more there? Is it all just in your head?!

Though the game tracks stats for hunger, thirst, anxiety, and the status of your relationships with the other characters, I didnʻt discover these stats until I read other reviews–I think because the writing provided enough clues about each of these variables, particularly anxiety. In fact, the only “stat” that I found myself altering my behavior in response to was time: I became hyper-aware of how slowly time was advancing in these excruciating social situations, and it sent me constantly fleeing from room to room in order to avoid awkward interactions.

NYE, 2019 is a great portrait of this age, for these particular characters, with powerful secondary themes underlying the main conceit of social interaction as an optimization problem: For instance, the way the status-focused conversation between the adults is mirrored in the conversation between the young adults, the way that friendships fade, and, the most poignant one for me: the growing distance between you and your mom.

(A final note to say that I have not had haw flakes since I was a kid, so I will definitely be looking for them next time I’m at Costco!)