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Queerness and universal love, August 26, 2020
We Know the Devil is a relatively short visual novel, which takes perhaps one hour to play through once and two hours to play through exhaustively. It follows three teenagers -- Venus, Neptune and Jupiter -- who have been sent to a strange Christian summer camp for 'bad children' where it seems quite possible that they have to literally fight the devil. All three suffer from the fact that they do not fit the societal criteria for being a good person, and they have developed some rather unsuccessful coping mechanisms for dealing with this.
The piece is great at building atmosphere, coming with excellent writing, minimal but very appropriate art, and an unsettling sound track, all of which strengthen each other. Choice points are relatively rare, and always of the same type: you have to choose two of the three teenagers to do something together, leaving the third one out. This is also the main thing that the piece is exploring: the dynamics of a group of three people, and the results of being the one who is left out.
In order to truly experience and understand the piece, one has to seek out all four possible endings. This is no doubt the weakness of the game, since doing so requires one to revisit again and again text one has already experienced, and making rather mechanical choices in between. While there is a useful ad irresistible fast-forward button, using this is very detrimental to the reading experience.
That said, pursuing all endings pays off. The game wrestles with serious questions about relationships, acceptance & self-acceptance, queerness, and the universality of love. (I say much more about this in my spoilery video analysis.) It's a piece that I kept thinking about long after I had finished it.