Saturday, April 30, 2011

Digital: A Love Story

Digital: A Love Story is first and foremost a love story but I do not think that it is as simple as that might imply or as one might deduce from reading a plot synopsis or depending on the person even playing the game. I think that this game is one of the few pieces of art that I actually understand and appreciate in a artistic sense. To me yes it is a love story in the traditional sense of boy meets girl, but it was also a love story in the sense of boy meets computer and the Internet, and that is a love story that I can relate to. Digital has also been accused of being a visual novel and while I admit that the only real thing you do in the entire game is type in phone numbers and click a few buttons occasionally when told to, to me it did not feel at all like a visual novel and actually felt like a very open and realistic world while I was playing it. And while I have to admit there is not very much interaction and visual novel is a accurate description, it is still a description that is devoid of the essence of the game.

This is a huge testament to the power of the writing that such a limited amount of interaction could draw the player into the story far more then in any previous literature or game I have ever played. There is just something to the game that surpasses all sandbox games in existence or any game designed to immerse the player in the role of the protagonist that I have played at their respective selling points. With respect to the open-worldness of Digital, this is partly achieved by imposing absolutely no artificial boundaries; While a normal sandbox game might try to give you the allusion of openness by giving you a huge world, eventually we all at some point come to an invisible wall or door that simple cannot open; But in Digital this simply does not happen, and you can go anywhere and do anything that you can conceive of. For putting you in the role of the protagonist there are two main features. The first feature I am going to talk about is total control such that for the most part the protagonist in the game does not really even exist; You never press a button to have him eat or another one to have him walk forwards, you move your mouse to have the in-game mouse move, or you type in a word/number to have it appear in game; The only thing that the in game you don't do is write messages. And the distancing these massages would have is almost completely mitigated by the second feature I want to talk about, and that is your messages. You never see them; You respond and send messages to people by pressing the reply button and while you can mostly deduce the general content of your messages by the replies, it still helps immensely to immerse you in the game by not seeing them.

I have already mentioned the open realistic world and how much I liked playing in it, so now I try to describe it. It is 1988 and your father has just purchased one of the earlier GUI PCs for you. You start off with simply a dialer, a program to connect to other computers, called BBSes, over the phone lines by dialing their number. These BBSes acted like web-pages of today but were very simple and for the most part were used for users to exchange messages and files. This is the world that you are thrown into and while you start off with a single number to a local BBS, you soon discover more BBSes and programs online. To learn more about BBSes I recommend watching this absolutely amazing documentary (trailer).

Another great aspect of the game is the fantastic and natural characters that inhabit its world. These characters do things and talk just like people you have probably already interacted with on the Internet and simply seem very realistic and believable. There are helpful knowledgeable people in many technical fields who help you improve your knowledge of computers and BBSes and provide patches and programs; As well as the occasional funnily outrageous troll and other general interesting characters.

The gameplay of Digital while always unique is not particularly varied but you will be doing a few interesting things. Other then typing in phone numbers and replying to messages you will be hacking private BBSes, updating software, and installing/building programs.

So if you liked this review and even if you didn’t you should probably go download and play Digital: A Love Story for PC, Mac, or Linux.

My mini-review of Digital: A Love Story.

Windowed Mode:
Supported by use of the options menu, but already windowed by default.

Works but a small portion on the bottom of the game screen does not refresh when this happens.

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