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A horror game inspired by experiences in Utah culture, November 7, 2021
I was interested to see a game described as 'Mormon horror' on the IFDB feed. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's rare to see interactive fiction that's connected to my church.
This game is a take on Bluebeard, a topic I enjoy (one of my favorite opera's is Duke Bluebeard's Castle, which has a lot in common with this game).
However, it differs from traditional Bluebeard narratives by putting a religious spin on things. The religion in this game isn't the same as my church; instead, it's an amalgamation of the culture in Utah, especially Provo, some esoteric doctrinal references, and some new innovations I've never really seen before.
The Utah culture shows up in things like 'dirty coke' (which is soda with mix-ins like coconut or flavored syrups) and 'Sunstone' (the name of a magazine that does academic/critical studies of the religion), or people using 'Brigham Young was my ancestor'. The main NPC is an area authority, which I think is an in-joke as they are in real life distant, benign administrators that are rarely seen (most real-life church figures that people take issue with are local like bishops or global like apostles). The new innovations are things like having an estate with a chapel on it (?) that is also an official temple for marriage purposes (?) or talking about early settlers being called skillet-lickers.
The main horror components are centered around common concerns that women (especially in Utah) experience in marriage: feeling pressured into early pregnancy, feeling socially inadequate due to infertility, feeling a loss of ownership over the body, and feeling pressured and grossed out due to a new husbands request for (metaphorical) frequent sexual relations, or being worried that you'll be forced into a polygamous marriage in heaven against your will. These are things I saw a lot in my town growing up and which I've seen almost not at all in every other state I've lived in. Utah can be pretty weird some times.
You have a health meter which results in your death when depleted, as well as faithfulness (which (Spoiler - click to show)takes you to a depressing heaven) and unfaithfulness (which (Spoiler - click to show)gets you kicked out but safe).
The game was polished in general, with custom styling but a couple of issues with paragraph breaks. I found the writing to be evocative. The various stats made for good interactivity in a fairly brief game. And the horror was true to real emotions and experiences I've seen before (in particular, part of it reminded me of a (Spoiler - click to show)traumatic miscarriage my former spouse had which I helped/supported during).
I felt like the game had very little to do with the Church of Jesus Christ itself; the vast majority of messaging in the actual church is 'God loves you' and 'if you've messed up Christ will help you if you let him'. But I do think it represents the experience of many women, especially in BYU/Provo/Utah, and that many people could see themselves in this game.