Christine Love Comments on 'Dont Take It Personally, Babe..' Reception

First off, if you haven’t played the game I highly suggest you do so: it’s free, it’ll only take a couple of hours, and it’s well worth your time. You can download it here, for both Mac and PC alike.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to Christine’s responses. You can read her full write-up here, but we’ve selected a couple of snippets which might be of particular interest to you, dear reader.

On John Rook, the character we occasionally control:

“I didn’t think I was being particularly subtle with him, but it seems like a lot of people didn’t get the most important thing about his character: that he is an absolutely awful teacher.”

While the thought crossed my mind a couple of times, the thing about protagonists is that there is often an element in complicity (especially in video games, considering we’re the ones taking the actions) and empathy involved. Just take a look at the show Dexter: the guy kills people. But what happens when we see the story from his viewpoint, have a look into his innermost thoughts, insecurities and fears? We end up liking the guy, rooting for him, sometimes justifying and romanticizing his mistakes and terrible judgement calls. In this sense Rook reminds me a bit of Hank Moody from Californication (well, the way I played him anyway: and that was making a lot of…questionable decisions). In any case, I don’t find it surprising that most people might’ve missed how awful of a teacher John is. They’re playing as him, and players are used to being God Reincarnate, not Awful Sleazebag McGee.

On “romancing” Arianna (one of your high school students):

“I don’t know how I should have made it clearer that you should feel bad about the Arianna path, but again, better figure it out before trying that again.”

Hrm. Did I question the aforementioned path like a madman? Yes, yes I did. It was just about the most nerve-wracking decision I’ve had to make in a game…ever. I ended up taking it, and was nothing short of shocked the entire way through that it was actually happening. This was a choice I was actually allowed to take. What in the WORLD!?

I questioned the morality of it all, to be sure, but never once did I feel bad about it. I would make a “I play games where I shoot people’s heads off and choose who lives and dies and how by mere whim” argument, but that would make it seem like I’ve become desensitized to the type of actions one can take in a game. I don’t think that’s the case: I agonized over the decision here, and that wouldn’t happen if I was desensitized to the implications.

Still, curiosity got the better of me.

Honestly, I didn’t think the game would let me choose the option, but it did. Once that was clear, I couldn’t stop myself from choosing the “bad” choices: I wanted to know just how far it would let me go. Perhaps I simply have a low moral fiber–I don’t really believe in “right” and “wrong” inasmuch as I believe that we have a desire (and perhaps right) to make our own choices and be safe. The labels on top of that, to me, seem meaningless.

So I took advantage of a digital representation of a teenage girl. I don’t feel bad about it, but I do think my eyes have widened a bit in terms of where games can go and what they can make us think about. That, in my mind, is more valuable than finger wagging.

Plus, there’s that whole complicity and empathy thing I was talking about earlier. I don’t think it’s surprising that people may not feel bad about taking the path. If such was the intent, then perhaps more repercussion should have been experienced. Instead, you end up getting a more or less “Happily Ever After” ending if you involved yourself with the student. And honestly, that may be exactly why “evil” moral choices tend to have such low impact on players: I feel like developers are scared to slap player’s wrists for making bad judgement calls (then again, should they be imposing their outlook on the morality of the choices in the first place?). Hell, until fairly recently I don’t think I’ve played a game where I felt like I’ve made a bad judgement call. Morally dubious choices always seem like just another way to get the job done.


  1. Two words: Taxi Driver.

    I think Taxi Driver’s ending is only effective exactly because of that Travis’ reprehensible actions are met with the best possible outcome possible. It is exactly that notion that evil (though kind of debatable when considering the context behind Travis’ victims) doesn’t necessarily meet any kind of punishment (and could even be rewarded) that makes that movie so chilling.

    That why I strongly feel developers shouldn’t slap the player’s wrists, but rather assume they share the same sense of morality.

    Now, the biggest obstacle videogames have in order to achieve that ‘chilling’ response is the fact players don’t abstract the polygons amassed on the screen as actual characters. In videogames, everybody is an extra. IMO that’s the biggest frontier for games right now: achieve an overall decent and stable level characterization, instead of ignoring it.

    (typed this in a worry at work – please forgive spelling and grammar mistakes)

    • Tom

      I agree with this point completely and was in the middle of writing about it.

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