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About the Story
A young woman in the entertainment industry struggles with harmonizing her public pop star persona and her private polyamorous life. Warning for mildly graphic content.
Nominee, Best NPCs - 2015 XYZZY Awards
14th Place - 21st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2015)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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This game takes a while to complete, about an hour and a half, which I think makes it the longest Twine game I've ever played. I must admit I wasn't too invested in the storyline; the game deals with being a female pop star and being in a polyamorous relationship, which aren't topics that I'm too familiar with: the former is pretty broad, saying that you are in a stable of other female pop stars (which felt like inspired by J-Pop or K-Pop) and have to keep working to achieve #1, and the latter takes most of the space, with mostly linear segments about the relationships in the 4-way you're a part of.
Because of the playing time I won't be replaying this, and so I can't really tell how much changes from one playthrough to another; some choices felt like they mattered, but I don't know up to what point. (Spoiler - click to show)(I'm assuming you can end up with either girl as your primary relationship? Does everything break down at the end?) I wished the game had let me know, or was more clear about this; I can't even imagine how big or linear the game is, because I have no idea what choices mattered and what their repercussions were (I feel like other choice games I've played did that better). There were other, cosmetic choices that weren't referenced at all the moment after they were made, which I'm not a fan of; I prefer it when those choices act as personalization/customizing your experience to you.
Again, I don't know if that's specific to my playthrough, but I (Spoiler - click to show)didn't spend a whole lot of time working and I spent more time dealing with the relationships, only for my career to explode, and then later the relationship. I liked the personalities of Nayeli and Taya, two of the love interests, but I felt like there wasn't a lot to choose except having sex with them or not (there's about half a dozen implied sex scenes); other choices that surface in a relationship (routine, fighting, compromising, balancing career and life, etc.) didn't really appear. And it felt at a couple points like the characters were kind of avoiding problems by just being with someone else instead; I have no experience with polyamorous relationships, but that's not what I like to do, and I didn't feel too happy about what was happening. Also, you have no control on the protagonist's personality; she has her own personality, and you have limited choices over whether she'll start fights or get involved in drama, which again doesn't correspond to me so it was hard to empathize. For those reasons I'd say that the game is supposed to be pretty linear, although maybe with a few different "routes". The writing was very good, although I felt like some scenes were a bit too long for their relevance in the story.
The character of Sarai made me uncomfortable. Basically what happens is that (Spoiler - click to show)she picks up this girl (you) at a bar, who is homeless at the time, and invites her to stay at her place in a polyamorous relationship, expecting her to 'bond'/'girlfriend' her other girlfriends, while paying for the whole thing. This kind of arrangement spelled more "cult leader" or "harem" than healthy relationship: the amount of control she has is very big, (Spoiler - click to show)all of this kinda feels like it's for her/her pleasure only, and she "doesn't realize it" and gets mad when, inevitably, two people feel the need to try to have semi-coerced sex, or one of them resorts to whatever she can because she hates feeling like a freeloader. But in the end, at least in my playthrough, (Spoiler - click to show)the whole thing implodes and almost everyone leaves her; I don't know if it's meant as commentary on power dynamics in relationships or just something that happens. But feeling uncomfortable almost from the get-go made the ending unsurprising, and I felt like I was dragged through something I didn't like only for the game to show me that what I thought was justified.
Anyway, it's hard for me to review this game because I don't know how typical my playthrough was, and I don't really know anything about polyamourous relationships. I would have liked choices with more explicit consequences, and maybe more choices with regards to the relationship (I guess because I wasn't satisfied with the way things were going); and I thought the "pop singer" aspect was not bringing much to the game, since it wasn't a big part and everything was fairly generic: I wish it were either more developed and more precise, with more choices about your career, or less developed (treating it as a day job in the background) to make the relationship the focus of the game.
Coming at this from 18 years of being polyamorous and year 15 of a committed polyamorous relationship.
Okay. I'm not giving this game one star because it's badly coded, or because it doesn't work. I'm giving it one star because it is portraying a relationship type that many people, including myself, find to be a functional, stable, enriching environment -- and it's portraying it in an incredibly destructive way.
NUMBER ONE! Polyamory is not something everyone can do! It is not a "better" or "more enlightened" kind of relationship, it's just a different one. For Sarai to drag a person unsure about polyamory and hurl them into the middle of a complicated, adversarial relationship is absolutely unconscionable; these are things that need to be decided carefully and experimented with, and everyone has to be on board. And it's very clear that not everyone was, not that Sarai particularly seemed to care.
NUMBER TWO! Polyamory is not transitive! If I'm dating Alice, and I'm dating Bob, that does NOT mean that either Alice or Bob is in any way obligated to date each other! (I mean, for one thing sexual orientations are going to interfere; I could be a bi man dating a straight woman and a gay man.) This expectation is one of the biggest RED FLAGS in polyamorous relationships.
The fact that Sarai just DECLARED a change in the composition of the relationship without sitting everyone down in open communication and discussing the addition of a partner isn't polyamory, it's tyranny.
NUMBER THREE! Polyamory is all about communication! One of the very first things that happens is that Sarai tosses you together with one of her partners without saying the slightest thing about what you're expected to do. You and the other partner have to figure it out on your own. That is not something that should ever, ever happen.
In my playthrough, the relationship exploded (just as it inevitably would in real life). But it didn't feel like this was being portrayed as inevitable ... it felt like this was a losing condition in a game I was expected to win.
Sarai isn't the center of a polycule. She's an arrogant egomaniac who takes advantage of a friend's homelessness to drag her into her personal harem. It was absolutely transactional -- Jerri gets to stay with Sarai only if she accepts a sexual relationship not only with Sarai but also with several complete strangers. There are words for that.
Now, if this were just a story that happened to be about a destructive pseudo-polyamorous relationship, that would be one thing. But I really don't get that feeling; this is represented as an example.
Polyamorous people are a small minority that most people only have false, negative ideas about ... if you're going to write a work about a small minority that confirms everything false and negative that's said about that minority ... you bally well need a DISCLAIMER at the front that you're not trying to represent that community accurately! Again ... if you don't ... there's a word for that, too.
Urgh. This story made me feel so strongly I resorted to capital letters.
I avoided this game for a while because I thought it was just a polyamorous sex simulator. But, trying it, I found that sexuality played a very small role in it, and even less if you chose not to.
Instead, it depicts what life would be like in a polyamorous lesbian relationship. I can honestly say that it made me feel like that kind of relationship would be a ton of work and not worth the intense cross-connections.
Secondly, it was very satisfying dealing with the work-related portion of the game. I spent the first half as a workaholic obsessed with my career, and eventually realized that fame as a singer was crushing my life, so I purposely torpedoed my job to find freedom from the old ball and chain.
Polished overall. A lot of pages in linear order, but mixed in with enough choices that it didn't feel overwhelming. I don't plan on playing again, as I'm satisfied with my choices.
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For Your Consideration - XYZZY-eligible writing of 2015 by Brendan Patrick Hennessy
This is for suggesting games released in 2015 which you think might be worth considering for Best Writing in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination. The category will still be text-entry, and games not mentioned here...
For Your Consideration - XYZZY-eligible NPCs of 2015 by verityvirtue
This is for suggesting non-player characters from games released 2015 who you think might be worth considering for Best NPCs/Best Individual NPC in the XYZZY awards. Leave the name (or namelessness) of the NPC (or NPCs) in the comment on...
For Your Consideration - XYZZY-eligible stories of 2015 by Brendan Patrick Hennessy
This is for suggesting games released in 2015 which you think might be worth considering for Best Story in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination. The category will still be text-entry, and games not mentioned here will...