Would You Go the Distance?

Long-distance relationships; a romantic relationship between two people with the obstacle of distance standing between them. The question can be asked does distance really make the heart grow fonder or is that something we have convinced ourselves to be true? With this kind of relationship, communication is crucial in keeping the spark and/or feelings alive. In the Flash game “Distance” by Austin Breed, the player is controlling how the relationship between this man and woman will turn out based on their choices for the conversations the couple shares once each night. 

“Distance” is described to be an interactive Flash game or a visual novel that can be played on the Newgrounds website. A Flash game is one that uses web-based technologies and with “Distance,” the graphics appear to be in pixels. This could allow for the player to identify with either character as they are not completely representative of anyone in particular. A visual novel is defined as “is an interactive fiction game, featuring mostly static graphics, most often using anime-style art or occasionally live-action stills (and sometimes video footage). As the name might suggest, they resemble mixed-media novels.” With this definition in mind, “Distance” can be seen as a visual novel since the game is mostly static and unchanging; no action really occurs throughout the slides or scene changes and it tells the story of the everyday lives of a couple in a long-distance relationship. Unfortunately I was unable to find much information on Austin Breed, the creator of this game. On his Tumblr page, he describes himself to be an illustrator and a game maker. He is known for his games “Coveteous,” “A Mother in Festerwood,” and “Distance.” (http://austinbreed.com/).

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As the player clicks through this game, they are shown the same types of scenes in the same pattern to show a daily life routine. For example, each person wakes up, showers, has breakfast, walks, sit at a desk, eat dinner, sit with their pets, use a computer and one with weights (unsure of this one since it is very pixelated), then lastly the night phone call. By showing the same type of routine everyday, it can allude to the notion that because the couple can’t physically be together, there is not much change in what occurs throughout their day and it could even reflect that this kind of relationship can stay static or quite possibly become boring since it is unchanging. Also the music is constant background noise as it resembles the beeping kind of tune; there is never a point where the music changes and this can build upon the notion of this kind of relationship suffering being mundane or boring. The night phone call is where the player can affect the outcome of the relationship. They can choose to discuss a deeper subject, such as their feelings, or they can have them discuss if they want to get a haircut or how the pets are doing. This here could reflect how those in this kind of relationship somehow miss out on the other’s life and therefore, there is less to talk about. Even if they talk about their feelings for each other each day, it may not necessarily be enough to sustain the relationship. In both times that I have played this game, the couple begins to show their frustration with the distance as the woman begins to drink and the man starts smoking. Tension is placed on the relationship here and it gives a more realistic feeling to the characters since it shows how attached they are and just how the distance is affecting them. Just last month I played this game and was successful in keeping the couple’s relationship intact. The one change I did make this time around was choosing to have the couple “Flirt” with other people and this brought my game to an end much sooner than the last time I chose to “Ignore.” I think this option is presented to the couple to take them out of their boredom and this also applies to the players of the game. I know I was getting bored of the same everyday routine and this option served as a temptation to make the game more exciting or interesting. Depending on the choices made by the player for the nightly conversations and the “flirt” option, the couple’s relationship can succeed or fall to pieces. 

“Distance” is a flash game that can speak honestly about the reality of long-distance relationships: the spark can be lost quickly. By having the player choose what the couple will discuss, this allows them to be put in the spot of a person who is in this kind of relationship and they can identify with the man or woman and soon make choices to either sustain or end the relationship. This gives players an experience of this type of relationship and make them question what they would do to make the relationship more exciting. But then one must wonder if the goal of making the relationship more exciting can be lost through the time devoted to the relationship; it can be draining and seemingly hopeless since human contact is essential in any kind of relationship (just being in the physical presence of another is much more intimate than merely talking on the phone). This game made me think about how everyone says communication is the key in all relationships, but what if communication isn’t enough? “Distance” will surely make you think about human relationships and how they can survive or be destroyed by distance.

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