Computerfriend

by Kit Riemer profile

2022

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Number of Reviews: 5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not quite how I remember 1999, May 15, 2022

Much could be said about the zonked-out alt-history setting of Computerfriend, with its dystopian vision of environmental devastation, and its concerning foray into tasty meat.

But mostly, I'd like to say that it succeeds at setting an uncanny, uncomfortable backdrop for the interaction that is at the heart of the story: the player's therapy sessions with that lovable AI doofus, Computerfriend, who is doing its darnedest to cure your psychological problems by throwing stuff at them until they go away. Problem is, you're here under duress and not necessarily highly motivated, and also, Computerfriend is a piece of software who doesn't really understand... much. If that's not a wacky setup, I don't know what is!

If my description of this game comes off as perhaps more comedic than the bleak writing and serious subject matter should countenance, it is only because I genuinely found the game very amusing - in a sick kind of way, of course.

The thing is, Computerfriend is everything you probably don't want a therapist to be: a terrible listener; constitutionally incapable of empathy; unable to tell science from pseudoscience; pushing products you don't need; and invested with the authority to mess up your life real bad if you don't satisfy it. The sheer wrongness of the situation is so absurd that you just have to laugh (or cry, I guess).

But despite all of that, I can't help but like the plucky AI. I just love a good underdog story, and that is one way to read this: as the story of an AI who was designed in a way that makes it suck at its job, but who desperately wants to succeed so that it can accomplish its ultimate goal of (Spoiler - click to show)winning the player's assistance in helping it to propagate its code through the internet. And it is that big reveal which really sells Computerfriend as a character. It's not just a cold, unfeeling piece of software. It's also a selfish, animal-like creature who wants to reproduce.

Or, in other words, Computerfriend is more human than you might think.

That's just a riff on one of the many themes that can be read into this work, which is immensely open to interpretation and dense with details that may or may not speak to a given player.