Get Meta: Can a Game Give Consent?

Creatures Such as We by Lynnea Glasser is a narrative driven work of interactive fiction. Published on October of 2014, the game placed second in the 20th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition of the same year, and it’s easy to see the appeal within Glasser’s engaging narrative which has won such acclaim.

Creatures Such as We Cover art

Creatures presents itself as a meta-narrative, you as the player take on the persona of a moon-based tour director, who passes time between guide responsibilities by playing the new popular video game ‘Creatures Such as We’ (this is no accident, the title of Glasser’s work is the same, a micro game within the macro game). As luck may have it your tour guide persona is surprised to find that the game developers of ‘Creatures Such as We’ are the newest guests on the moon base. It’s from the group’s arrival that your tour guide gets a chance to not only discuss the video game, but also theorize about video games and the meaning of their art.

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Structurally the interactive narrative of Creatures is a dating simulator, allowing you as the player to control which of the game developers to pursue. However, romance isn’t the end all be all of this game. Rather, it’s the conversations and interactions with your romantic interest that bring forward a multitude of hard questions with regards to video games.

The most thought provoking question Glasser presented in my play through was ‘Can non-playable characters give consent?’, which resulted in an almost gut wrenching feeling for me playing through the game. Was it wrong of me to want to engage with an NPC in a game that is designed to run like a dating simulator? Should a game, that is all about coming to the right response to get to the right ending be allowed to say ‘no’ to my wishes? Games of course are not people, but it’s interesting to consider, am I as the player entitled to getting the ending of my dreams, or is the game and in turn the game designer allowed some agency of choice as well?

Glasser gives no clear answers to the philosophical question she raises in gameplay, however I began to see the choices she allows you as the player becoming a sort of answer for players. As the game and narrative progresses, you can choose to continue engaging with the non-playable character you have established some romantic feelings for. Alternatively, you can choose draw back into your tour guide responsibilities and become cold to the romantic interest and the group around you. It’s as if you turning away from the romantic interest allows the non-playable character to say no, despite that response never being given to them.

The idea of consent calls back to the micro game of Creatures within the overall game. Despite your efforts to play through this micro game and find a new ending (one where your ghost companion Elegy is saved) is a fruitless endeavor. The micro ‘Creatures Such as We’ says no again and again to the idea of a new ending, and refuses to change despite what changes you make to your own player. The micro game perhaps is able to assert some agency, or is simply suck to become what the designers crafted it to be.

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Do you choose to say NO? Will it alter the micro game experience?

Overall, the character driven and thought provoking narrative of Creatures Such as We makes it an interactive work of fiction that is worth revisiting again and again- even if you know where the story will take you.


You can find more from Lynnea Glasser at her website Made Real Stories

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