It's easy to assume that the big business of the games industry stifles creativity. But every now and then something comes along to remind you all is not lost.
Last year's Digital: A Love Story was a remarkable game in many ways. Not only did it manage to tell a captivating story without using graphics, it also managed to capture the feeling of using a modem-equipped computer in the 1980s perfectly. Not only that, it was (and still is) completely free. Now Digital's pseudo-sequel, the curiously named Don't Take It Personally Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story looks set to follow in its predecessor's footsteps, though in a markedly different style.
Don't Take It Personally... casts players in the role of a high school teacher in charge of a small class of literature students. Throughout the course of the game, the issues of privacy erosion, gay drama, young sexuality and the perils of online socialization are explored to tell a branching tale with several endings. Like Digital, there is a technology connection -- whilst talking to the students in the class, it's possible to use your in-game tablet computer to "eavesdrop" on their Facebook-style public social network communications and determine their reactions to the choices you make. They, at the outset, have no idea that you're doing this, immediately raising some interesting ethical questions.
Both Don't Take It Personally... and Digital were produced by the appropriately named Christine Love as part of the NaNoRenO project, also known as (Inter)National Ren'ai Game Writing Month. For the uninitiated, Ren'ai is a broad term to describe games where there is a strong plot element of romantic love. Dating sims obviously fall into this category, but ren'ai games aren't automatically dating sims. Final Fantasy VIII, for example, is regarded as a ren'ai game by those in the know.
While Digital resembles a 1980s version of Introversion Software's Uplink, Don't Take It Personally...'s visual novel gameplay and anime-inspired graphics more closely resemble what we traditionally know as the dating sim genre. Its narrative, however, explores a variety of issues that many games typically shy away from. It's easy to see that Christine Love is a writer first and a game developer second.
While the game's slow pace and text-heavy nature won't be to everyone's taste, the fact that games like this exist is something to take heart in when it feels like no-one makes anything but shooters any more. And it's free, too, so why not check it out? If you don't enjoy it, we won't take it personally. It just ain't your story.
This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Don't take it personally, babe