Thursday, February 25, 2016

Emily is Away

Release Date: November 20, 2015
Played on: Windows

Emily is Away is an interactive story told though an AOL Instant Messanger avatar. It's about growing up and dealing with the awkward relationships that transition from high-school to college through technology. 

The entire play-through only takes about 30 minutes, but it's enticing to play-through a few times just to see where different dialogue options would go.

What I didn't like

Like all dialogue trees, there's an issue when you're presented with potential answers where you don't have the full dialogue. 

So there were times where I would select things like, "I'm going to a house party." And the answer I typed would be, "I'm going with Emma to a house party." Then I would spend the next few chats trying to talk down Emma's relationship with me, hoping that somehow Emily and I would end up together.

But this is an issue with Mass Effect and Fallout 4. It's hard to cram all the dialog into the UI. I don't fully fault the creator for this, but I think the mood could be conveyed better.

What was OK

As far as I can tell, there's only one plot. It will play out no matter what options you pick. It's a good story, one that is true to life. One that most people that grew up with the internet will know, but I wish there was a way to change the story. To at least make me feel like things can end up OK. 

The ability to look at Emily's profile and switch your buddy icon was great, but it really made me wish there were some options for everything that was in AIM.

What I liked

It felt real. The first time I played through, I chose answers that I would have back in high-school and college because I had had almost these exact conversations with various people. 

It was too real to test the waters with women, getting closer and closer to telling your true feelings about someone. And if you got brave in the game and chose the straight forward answer, you would see your character typing the bluntness out about to hit enter, your heart racing, and he starts backspacing and changing the line to something menial like "How are classes going for you?"

When the credits rolled and I ultimately learned that Emily and I had grown up and thus apart, I had this empty feeling. I immediately wanted to boot up Facebook messaging and start sending messages to a variety of my high-school friends just to ask, "Are we ok? Did we do something wrong?"

Final Thoughts

I never thought I'd feel the pain of not having AIM up. I never felt too lonely as a teenager because I knew every night, waiting for me at home, was 80 or so people looking to talk. I miss the days of A/S/L and sending 100 question surveys with a few "who do you crush on? / Would you kiss me?" questions splattered throughout.

You did it Emily is Away. You did it. Congrats Kyle Seeley, you made me feel things I haven't felt in 15 years.

Rating: It's free, short, and it's worth checking out. Even if you weren't alive during the heyday of AIM, it's a weird look into a time of early internet social media. 

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