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An exploration of trust and betrayal in the context of prejudice, February 6, 2019
Careless Talk is a short, choice-based work in which you play as a member of a magical corps fighting for your country, Albion, during wartime. The dedication to Alan Turing at the beginning of Careless Talk immediately made me think the country was Britain and the war was World War II. And I continued to think of Albion as a magical version of Britain as I played through the game: The navy, the monarchy, and the character and mannerisms of the major all have a British feel - not to mention the fact that Albion is an old name for Great Britain. I didn't pick up much more of a vibe about the war itself by the end, but the exact nature of the war is not really the game's focus.
Instead, as the title indicates, Careless Talk is more interested in exploring questions of trust and betrayal. Despite the military setting and the title's reference to an old World War II slogan, though, the trust and betrayal in Careless Talk don't have to do with inadvertently spilling military secrets. Instead, as the dedication to Alan Turing hints, Albion is a society with a lot of prejudice towards gay and queer people. So much so that, like Turing himself, gay folk must hide that part of themselves from society at large - even gay people who are instrumental to the war effort.
However, Albion's society is also prejudiced towards magical folk, despite their obvious usefulness in wartime situations. In fact, I wondered early on if the game was going to use magical powers as a metaphor for homosexuality. Then it surprised me by portraying homosexual prejudice as a distinct, separate dimension of prejudice in Albion society. Then it surprised me again by explicitly associating the two (sending my thoughts back to what I was thinking originally), with these sentences: "Prejudice and hatred against magical folk and homosexuals have been linked for over a century. They both carry associations with the decadence of the aristocracy, without the protection that class affords."
I think the writing in Careless Talk is strong. I'm not sure what the message is, although here are some thoughts.
(Spoiler - click to show)The game tells you that you have to be careful who you trust - to watch out for, as the title says, "careless talk." Tom's murder is the most obvious example of that. On the other hand, the reverend explicitly chooses to trust you, the PC, with his secret. Isn't he being careless? Surely he shouldn't be so trusting of you.
Although maybe that is the message: That, in a society in which you have to hide part of who you are, you never know whom you can trust. Sometimes trust leads to betrayal, and sometimes it leads to a deep connection. There's a hint that perhaps the PC and the reverend will be lovers in the future.
Overall, I think Careless Talk is a bit too obvious about its central metaphor (for example, with the dedication to Turing and the two sentences I quoted before). Metaphor generally works better as a literary device when the reader picks it up on his or her own.