SPOILERS AHOY! It’s recommended to experience the game on your own first. It’s only 5 hours long, or shorter if you’re a quick reader, so finish it please before reading on. Besides, it’s rather brilliant too, and well-written – the author, Christine Love, did an awesome work there. Play-reading Analogue is, certainly, not a waste of time.
Most of the reviewers are quick to point out the title’s connection to the previous Christine Love’s game – Digital: Love Story – but do not mention that it’s actually perfectly fitting. The game presents two analogous hate stories. The story of a patriarchal society that can be perceived as hating women, and the story of a time-displaced teenager Hyun-ae who absolutely hates that society back. And in this text I will explain how I hated them all equally, but learned to love the game.
I completed Analogue only once, and the ending I got was less than satisfactory. The game didn’t unfold in the way I wanted it to. Instead, it annoyed me – I was seriously riled up. Still, the final decisions were made by me and I fully stand by them. In the crucial moment, I could say no, and I did say no, so only I’m to blame for what I received. That ending was called “Forever Alone.”
Through the first part of the game I was absolutely sympathetic to Hyun-ae. My mission was to find out what happened to the society that lived on this ship, and get out. But her story was more interesting, and seemed more important. It was also tragic – she was lost in a different time, in a different culture, and they expected that she will give up her personality and rights. She wanted empathy and understanding which she was denied. But now there was I! Ready to help!
Nothing is so simple, of course, so, then came the revelation. After all the pain and lack of hope, she decided to end it all. And end them all too. In a moment of depressed low, she turned off the oxygen on the entire ship and suffocated a rather large group of people. That’s the story.
This is feminism-fueled science fiction, which I don’t mind. Actually, I really love the fact. Hyun-ae is not a cardboard cut-out but feels like a real person – flawed, hurting, angry and sad. And still I think she is a cold-blooded sociopath. All the time she explains her actions, her reasons, she wants me to hear them, and I agree that I want to, and I trust her. But that doesn’t change anything. I don’t think she ever had a moment of remorse. They did, after all, drove her mad.
So, when she asks you that final question, “Do you understand?” Who are you giving the answer to? A sociopath mass-murderer? Or a lost hurt teenager? Do I understand what she felt? Yes, I try. Do I understand what she thought? Yes, I try. Do I understand her ‘good reasons’ for killing hundreds of people? No, I don’t and I won’t. I would love to assure that teenager that everything is going to be all right now, but I fear that the sociopath would take it as an acknowledgment of her actions, a silent consent, a free pass at despicable crime. This is not a binary discussion. And I knew that a ‘yes,’ would cheapen everything.
Hence, I said no, and she exploded with anger, calling me insensitive, actually putting those words into my mouth, by providing with me with either this dialog option, or agreeing with her. She thought that after all this time when I listened to her, agreed with her, and assured her, NOW I say no? What is wrong with me, right? And that was the end, she refused to talk to me anymore. I was angry too. This is not how it was supposed to happen. We were supposed to live happily ever after. But what now? I looked blankly at my monitor, and there it was, something I have completely forgotten about. The mission objective. There was nothing left for me here, at the ship. I downloaded the logs with my findings and left, leaving it all behind, to rot away. And the game judged my intentions in the same way as I judged Hyun-ae – “Forever Alone.”
Let’s get something straight, though, it’s not about me. Analogue: Hate Story is similar to SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas. It’s the same ‘hear me roar’ – ‘you made me, I shall unmade you,’ type of story. As a metaphor, I really enjoy it. This is the aspect I loved. If you don’t listen to me speak, I shall scream. If you don’t listen to my screams, I will kill you all. On the surface, these are both stories of extreme anger and revenge. But this is just shock tactic to make you look and listen. See the issue of culturally mistreated women, hear their words.
I’ve seen some discussions on the internet, and most people were reacting to the ending reveal with ‘that society deserved it.’ And I can’t disagree with this enough. Call me naive or a five-year old, but no-one deserves to die. This is deeply immoral. I believe Christine Love wanted that reaction, though – she wanted the support to come for Hyun-ae, and by extension for the hurt and mistreated.
But I don’t believe you should unconditionally support Hyun-ae’s actions. I think Love made too much effort to build this society and to give them life, for us to treat them just as a bunch of villains. Besides, the only love story I found in Analogue is the one between two women somewhere in the middle of the story. Hyun-ae refuses to see anything in that love, because she wants to distance herself from anything good in that society. This, I thought was meant to give the player a little sign that Hyun-ae is not a mouthpiece; she is a fully-formed character. And I believe the player is lead down the path of empathy. To try to understand these people, not uncritically, but to see them as –human-, not to coldly discard them as under-people.
Like every dystopia the ending of Analogue is ambiguous. There is no black and white, good or bad. In the beginning, I thought Hyun-ae will represent feminism and will be likable, while Mute will be a misogynistic puppet and easy to loathe. They aren’t. They aren’t. They aren’t. The game plays with players expectations. It’s more than a metaphor and more than a story. Yes, it is nicely multi-layered like that. The play-reading may have taken me 5 hours, but then I’ve been digesting a Hate Story for many days. That’s why I think it’s brilliant and unique in gaming – a little gem that I hated but Love.