A Closed World : Enclosed Sorrow

For this week’s game journal I decided to play through A Closed World, a game that depicts the life of an LGBT youth as they must face the demons of societal expectations for who they are allowed to love. A tragic aspect of the game is that the demon’s that the player faces aren’t just random bullies, but in fact their own loved ones: their mother, sister, and even their own lovers are the ones criticizing them. The violence that we see in the game isn’t physical but emotional, the player character is attacked for their identity and the damage they take is represented by composure, someone can only take so much verbal or emotional assault before they break down. The tragic deal is the ending as the players lover will always leave them for to marry someone that their parents a approved of them, the gender of their former lover’s spouse is always the opposite of the player so the player will always be shunned for their sexuality even if it is considered heteronormative. That bit is particularly important because it goes to show how cruel it is to look down on someone for their sexuality and whatever way you write the script — a man loving a man, a woman loving a woman, a man loving a woman- there is simply no reason for it to happen. The relationship between the player and their lover never changes because gender is not an issue with who you love.

The beauty of this game is how it can translate life into game mechanics in a very convincing way. As the article states “Values might emerge in specification of game mechanics. Even when values are not embedded in a game’s definition, they may crop up at many other design junctures.” (Flanagan and Nissenbaum). The way this translates into the game mechanics is that the player is not expected to do physical battle with their demons, but rather appeal to them with either logic, passion, or ethics; logic can be used to challenge ethics (just because this is the way things are done, does that necessarily make it correct?), ethics can be used to sway passion (you may feel a certain way about something but does that make it moral?), and passion defies logic (yes this may be prohibited by law or society, but does that make it wrong?). After the player defeats the demon they are treated to a scene from their past of how they have shunned them: their sister is unnecessarily hostile to them, their mother tells them to just act like everyone else, their lover’s parents no accepting them, and their lover is stressed having to lie to her parents about her relationship with the player. The final boss is also important because instead of facing another person, the final boss is the player themselves; they have to come to terms with who they are and all this angst stems from the players character’s own perception that they themselves may be wrong. The ending music got me emotional and I’m glad that Team Fabulous decided to tell this story of acceptance, the bittersweetness of the ending was great as well to show that even if someone can accept themselves there is still a lot of work to get everyone to accept them as well but it is a fight worth fighting for.

Citations:

Flanagan, Mary, and Helen Nissenbaum. “A Game Design Methodology to Incorporate Social Activist Themes.” Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems — CHI ’07, 2007, doi:10.1145/1240624.1240654.