Indie Games and Love: The Dating Game


Posted April 26, 2011 - By Rob Manuel

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  • News
  • Previews
  • Review
  • Videos
  • Screenshots
  • Cheats and Walkthroughs

Indie Games and Love: The Dating Game

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but relationships are tough. There’s that whole matter of the approach, trying to find the right things to say and hopefully muttering them as loud as you can before they run away. At least, that’s my approach. I’m looking into getting a walkthrough or some cheat codes. But video game developers continue to fall back on romantic connections for one simple reason – they work. Maybe I should hit them up for tips and tricks.

Designers trying to create a compelling story depend on universal motifs to bring in their audience. Create a story or game completely foreign to your audience or something very different than their expectations and you run the risk of losing them. Growing up, loss, acceptance, love; we experience these scenarios in everyday life even if we approach them in our own different ways. While love is never simple, we all know the story or at least, how it should go. You fight. You get the girl or boy.

If you look at games like Mario or Zelda, you'll see that we went through 8-bit hell for some girl we never met. You could also argue that going against expectations also brings its own unique style of storytelling (I’m looking at you, Braid) while resting on motifs creates a predictable story. Yes, well, that’s for another time and another article. Let me just get through these indie games about love first.

Christine Love (her name just happens to be coincidental) just released the second of her interactive stories that deals with that age old conundrum of boy meets girl. Unlike other forms of media like books and movies, you have to fall for the girl. A connection like this happens in moments and a false step could shatter the illusion. Both of her games take very different approaches, but are in their own way very successful in drawing the player into the world of love. Let’s take a look at these great titles as well as how they approach the idea of love. Even better, you can download them both for free. Try them out. You might pick up a few dating tips.

Indies and Dating: The Dating Game

Digital: A Love Story

Let me take you back to a simpler time where the Internet was just waking up to Prodigy, Windows 3.1, and 56k modems. The sound of technology was described as the devil’s air raid. Christine’s first downloadable story puts you back into the days of the late 80’s when those giant tubes carrying all the information weren’t yet filled with porn. Digital utilizes the big blocky text and MIDI music of the time to really put you in that bygone era. Even the main screen of the layout resembles that of the old Apple II screen. But we’re not here to just reminisce. There’s a girl out there who’s stolen our heart and she’s missing.

All of the game’s interactions take place through bulletin board posts or email. Dial in, hook up, and download all of your messages. You start off with one number, but quickly work your way around the internet picking up new BBSes to dial into and passwords to hack. Along the way, you meet a cavalcade of characters that you might find lurking on modern forums - from the know-it-all to the guy willing to argue anything, to the compassionate person willing to listen. And then there’s the girl.

As I mentioned before, this electronic voice from across the void goes missing and you must find out what happened to her by gathering information. It’s this lack of information that really drives you forward. You visit new boards, talk to new people, and wait for those messages to come pouring in with new codes and numbers. I often found myself revisiting older messages and sending out emails just to get that one email to move forward off the page. Information here is a rare commodity, but it is Christine’s remarkable talent to turn a phrase and give life to a character with so few words that makes this game so compelling. 

What's interesting is that you really fall for this girl in a very short span of time. Digital’s emotional sleight of hand is downright devious. We meet Emilia on the first message board as she tries out some poetry to a less than receptive audience. With a little bit of encouragement from you, she gets back to work on it. The next couple of emails from this budding romance come quickly. Emilia shares more of her life to you, her unhappy living situation and her dreams of escape. A couple more emails and you’ve almost given her enough courage to leave, but not before she drops a bomb on you – she just wants to be friends.

It’s a quick and sudden turn of the character. Even if you weren’t thinking about romance, she’s put the idea square in your head and shut it down in one step. Emilia takes her leave shortly then after, but not before dropping a line that there might be something more to the relationship. It’s time to get to work. Our princess is on another message board.

Indies and Dating: The Dating Game

Don’t Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story

Christine’s second game is both very similar and different than Digital. Don’t Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story puts you into the shoes of a teacher in a modern school who has the power to read the messages sent by students to each other (texts, posts, ect.) without them knowing it. We now have the complete opposite problem as before where information was at a premium.

Now we're inundated with texts between students, posts and messages to various groups and so on. As you are talking to students, there’s a icon at the top right that rings up with any new messages. Even between thoughts, four or five messages can appear from various students. Luckily, you can take your time to read through each one before continuing your class. Babe presents a student drama through all of its many layers while utilizing very modern modes of communication, brilliantly retelling a story through snippets of conversation and texts. 

While you are a teacher in your thirties, one of your students in their teens falls for you and you are given the chance to start a relationship with them. Age difference aside, you have to make the moral call on student/teacher relationships. Unlike Digital, the teacher in the story has a definite voice that really does present a strong case for either side. There’s an admiration for the student and what she’s trying to do. I didn’t go for the relationship, but having read through the teacher’s shaky feelings about the situation definitely made the choice a little harder in the end. Of course, there will be other chances throughout the story for a little romance.

Babe runs the gauntlet of students and makes some very unusual choices. There’s a boy getting verbally abused by his girlfriend, issues about sexuality, and enough in-fighting to keep the drama rocketing past eleven at any given moment. Babe tests your ability to weed through information to find the parts the matter versus the parts that are just written by a bunch of hormone-crazed teenagers. Very few people could have pulled off this story like Christine Love did, let alone do it twice. Do yourself a favor and download both stories. They’re both free and you might just learn something about relationships and crafting an amazing story.

Indie Games and Love: The Dating Game


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