Number of Reviews: 9
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“Can a conversation be a reflection?”, July 20, 2022
Iʻm going to echo a strategy from Mike Russo’s review and say that my experience playing Kit Riemer’s Computerfriend was equal parts “You’re the birthday boy or girl” and “Tony Leung whispering into the tree at the end of In the Mood for Love.” That’s pretty ridiculous and also a gross oversimplification, but I’ll try to explain:
Computerfriend takes place in an alternate 1999, in Godfield, Louisiana, URAS (Union of Remaining American States). Godfield is a place where the air is unbreathable, the cars are disposable, the cows lay eggs, and everything tastes like death. You have just been released from a psychiatric hospital and are cleared to recover at home, provided you check in regularly with an ELIZA-like computer psychotherapist, Computerfriend.
Author Kit Riemer says Computerfriend was “fun and weirdly relaxing” to write; it was fun and weirdly relaxing to play, too! Despite its toxic setting (not to mention its premise: state-mandated therapy with a computer program), Computerfriend’s strange details and startling imagery filled the game with energy, humor, and life.
However, Computerfriend is much more than dog milk and slimeworms. At first, the eponymous psychotherapist seemed a bit like someone whoʻs busy texting and saying “uh huh, uh huh” as you try to tell them something important. But as the game progressed, it became more and more direct and disarming. I found myself interacting with Computerfriend in a very candid and honest way, and making a genuine effort to examine my feelings–even across multiple playthroughs (I got 4 of the 6 endings so far). And I was moved by its off-kilter yet matter-of-fact exploration of loss, absence, regret, loneliness, and alienation.
By the end of the game, I felt like a menacing animatronic beaver that had just caught fire, like a person who had just confessed an unbearable secret to a random tree–and like a random tree that is full of everybodyʻs damn secrets. Because of this, Computerfriend was my favorite game of the festival and it is one of my favorite games overall.