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About the Story
The world is ending, and you are still paying rent.
Content warning: optional sexual content (non-explicit), illness, death, transphobia, homophobia
|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 5
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I loved the concept of this game, where you decode archival information from bacteria and decide whether or not to keep the information. It has a simulation element where you need to find food, medicine, and rent money. I wanted the game to focus more on ethical archiving practices, but it seemed more practical from a simulation standpoint to ask my friends for help. The game did address (Spoiler - click to show)the negative mental health effects of persecution on trans people very effectively. There were some similarities to pandemic stresses as well.
I liked that the game gave me many choices in interacting with my friends--I could ignore them, I could interact with them, and I could choose to have romantic interactions with them. At the same time, I felt a disconnect between the player character's (PC's) interactions and my own feelings. My interactions with were reduced to this bare-bones of asking them for money or helping them out, without me really growing to like the characters like the PC had at some point. In a short game like this, there isn't a lot of time for relationship-building, so maybe the caregiving tasks the PC can do can stand in for that.
One of my favorite things about this game is its ability to capture that feeling one gets upon discovering historical connections and commonalities with gay and trans people of the past (not that they would have used the same terms we use, something the game itself notes).
As the protagonist searches through old records encoded in bacterial DNA, she uncovers diary entries from more hopeful times, scientific articles, and more recent entries from the revolution. Decoding the DNA is her job, and, fascinating as some of her discoveries are, the work drains her of energy. Sometimes she can complete many tasks, and sometimes she can only decode one sample before exhaustion takes her.
The archivist, Em, struggles with chronic illness and survivor's guilt. She is a sick woman in a dying world. She was not radical enough for the revolutionaries, and not conformist enough (or rather, not cis enough) for those in power who would do her harm. Even as the world around her falls apart, she needs to find ways to pay rent, or face eviction. She numbs herself with news bulletins demonizing her and those she cares about. Her struggles are all too familiar and at times heartbreakingly relatable.
And yet, there is hope. More hope than I was expecting from a game like this. Moments of connection with (Spoiler - click to show) her son, S-, and with her friends and former lovers K- and A-, demonstrate someone trying to find connection through undercurrents of hopelessness and despair.
This is a game that manages to pack a lot of emotional weight into a structure that is in large part randomly generated or player-determined. (The DNA fragments are randomly occurring; Em's energy levels fluctuate based on fixed probabilities; the player decides how Em spends her limited time and energy.)
In whatever ways Em spends her time, she is ultimately trapped in a lichen-encrusted, underground city, trying to cling to what life she can make for herself. In several paths, she finds (Spoiler - click to show) a home and a family, however imperfect.
Many of this author's games have made me cry while playing, but not this one. The tears didn't come until the day(s) after. This story seeps into your bones and lives there. A remembered future, a future we can only hope to avoid, even if much of what is depicted only mildly exaggerates what too many people are already facing.
One thing to take away from this game, though, is that in either today's world or in an imagined dystopia, our salvation will surely lie in each other.
In this choice-base game, you play as Em, an archivist in post-apocalyptic world, who just got laid-off. History is a bit unclear, but several hundred years ago there was a war between transhumanists and those that rejected the "enhancements". The war left the earth scarred and base-model humanity seeking the shelter of huge arcologies to survive. But then within your lifetime there has been a breach of the arcology wall with devastating effects, and also an uprising against the Ruling Party that was quickly put down. And to top it all off, your rent is due. How will you navigate this dismal world and find a way to keep a roof over your head? The choice is yours.
I'm of two minds about this piece. On the one hand, the world is interesting and the writing is good. On the other hand, I think there is a war going on inside the piece between the Setting and the Main Idea. The game takes the form of a "simulator" rather than a story. You are presented with stats (money in the bank, days until the rent is due, food in the fridge) and ostensibly tasked with the problem of figuring out how to make rent and stay alive. But then the Main Idea happens, using the futuristic backdrop as a commentary on the issues of today. For awhile I was able to leave the Setting behind and focus on the Main Idea, the interpersonal relationships of the PC, the philosophical and introspective musings on the meaning of identity and belonging. But then the end of the story kind of threw me for a loop again, mixing the Setting/backstory in with the Main Idea in a hurried way that left me unsatisfied with the final outcome. There are 9 endings that you can achieve, and if after one playthrough you aren't interested in playing again, as I was, then the author provides some notes as to the origins of the piece and what all the possible outcomes are.
Interesting piece that was good, but just didn't quite work for me in the end.
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