Killing Me Softly

by Fobazi M. Ettarh

2016

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Sticks and stones and words may break my bones, March 13, 2021
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: educational, twine

Killing Me Softly is a choice-based game by Fobazi M. Ettarh, published in 2016. It's a type of an educational title; it has a simple story line, but more than anything else, its intention is to illustrate how microaggressions work in practice through simulated examples.

You play as one of two characters: Alex, a white gay male, or Leslie, a black disabled woman. As you attempt to live your everyday life, your co-workers and other random people often say inappropriate things in your vicinity, and you can (typically) choose to either call out this behavior or stay quiet. Some of the choices may become blanked out if you get too stressed from dealing with all the hassle, (Spoiler - click to show)although on my multiple playthroughs I got the impression that this mechanic is mostly an illusion, and that most of these blanked out choices will always be blanked out regardless of your playstyle.

The game has a pretty good presentation. The layout has two parts to it - the left side has options and right side has the story text. The colors and fonts are clean and readable, but there are some things about the technical quality that could be slightly better: some of the writing is a little unpolished, and I found one bug too: (Spoiler - click to show)at one point in Alex's campaign, someone makes a rude comment about you and your Indiana Jones-costume. I then tried to talk to my supervisor, which caused a "Error: bad evaluation" text to appear on the screen.

I can't say the game entirely works as a story-driven experience. The story is short and mostly centered around its educational topic, and so I felt like I didn't really get to understand the two main characters as people - only as identities. But playing the game and reading how the story unfolds does generate some feelings of frustration and bitterness - even if a bit shallow, it does have some type of an impact on the player.

*sigh*

Finally, as you might have guessed from the fact that the topic here is microaggressions, this game is indeed very much rooted in Critical Social Justice, an ideology with a lot of postmodern baggage. If you decide to play it, I recommend keeping an open mind, but do pay attention to the broader implications of what the game is saying. (Spoiler - click to show)In my opinion, the attitude here is rather pessimistic, even infantilising, as it portrays normal adult humans routinely spiralling into depression and sleepless nights by clumsily well-intentioned but rude mannerisms and words.

The game is very linear, with most of the story unfolding the same way regardless of your choices. It takes around 15 minutes to complete the first time around, but it has a bit of extra replay value too if you want to see both Alex's and Leslie's stories. I'm not sure I'd recommend it for either educational purposes or as a fun pastime, but I guess there are worse ways to spend 15 minutes.