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What's with the name?

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Review

The Day The Laughter Stopped: A Powerful Game in a Tiny Package


The Day The Laughter Stopped comes with a trigger warning. This article does, too. The catch is, this game is much more effective if you don’t know what it’s about. Let me put it this way: If the presence of a trigger warning gives you pause, I’ll provide specifics just after the jump. If a trigger warning doesn’t concern you, go play now. It’ll only take ten minutes. But be aware, this game is deeply uncomfortable. It crawled into my chest and gnawed for hours, thanks to some very simple, very clever design. I’m not kidding, it’s one of the smartest uses of player agency I’ve ever seen. The subject matter is upsetting, but the message is entirely relevant in our current social climate.

If you need to know more than that, read on.

The Day The Laughter Stopped is a game about rape. If that subject hits close to home, I strongly recommend against playing. You may want to avoid this article as well.

For those who still intend on playing, now’s the time. I’m about to spoil everything.

I’m picky about interactive fiction games. I appreciate the effort and creativity that goes into them, but with a handful of exceptions, they’re not my cup of tea. I did not expect much from this game. I certainly did not expect to become physically upset. I hugged myself for a few seconds. I shut my laptop, and paced. I coaxed myself to think about something else for a while. I put on my favorite cozy sweater. I pawed around my kitchen, looking for comfort food. You’d be right in wanting to avoid a reaction like that, and yet, I am suggesting that you give this game a look all the same. The Day The Laughter Stopped is a brilliant argument against victim blaming.

You play as a fourteen year old girl. You’ve gained the attention of one of the older boys at school. A lot of your friends have crushes on him. You’re not sure why he thinks you’re so cool, but it’s pretty exciting. He befriends you. He gains your trust. He becomes a valued person in your life.

I should mention that The Day The Laughter Stopped is based on the experience of one of the developer’s friends. Used with permission, of course.

I knew the subject matter going in, so I was cautious. Knowing what the boy was capable of, I did everything I could to avoid prompting that outcome. I declined the alcoholic beverage he gave me at a party. I did not respond to his flirtatious Christmas card. I pulled back when he tried to kiss me. He kissed me anyway.

Regardless of what choices you make, the story leads you to a lakeside barbecue. The boy pressures you into going for a walk with him in the woods. It doesn’t matter if you say no. You can’t get away.

I was given two options: fight back, or freeze up. Obviously, I chose the former. Except the game wouldn’t let me. The option was visible, but I couldn’t use it. I clicked, and nothing happened. I clicked again, and again, and again. Fight back! I couldn’t. I wanted to, but I couldn’t.

When it was over (and yes, it is described), I started thinking in game-mode, analyzing my choices. What could I have done to change the ending? Was there a way to unlock the option to fight back? If I had found a way around that first kiss, would he have left me alone? What if I hadn’t gone to the party? Or if I hadn’t —

I stopped, feeling sick. I knew this line of thought. I’ve had four friends over the years — three women, one man — who have suffered sexual assault (that is, I know of four; I’m sure there are more I’m unaware of). In every instance, the perpetrator was someone they knew. Someone they cared about. All four of them expressed similar feelings when recounting what happened. “If I hadn’t” featured prominently.

The Day The Laughter Stopped gives you a “Continue” option at the end. I clicked it, reluctant to play through again but hoping for a better conclusion. I was taken back to the end of the game, all my choices right where I’d left them. “There is no starting over,” it says. “This happened.”

Because no matter how much you want to go back and change things, no matter how many times you reconsider your actions, no matter how much you want the option to fight back, none of it makes a damn bit of difference. The boy in the game targeted you. Drink or don’t drink, kiss or don’t kiss. The ending is always the same. Your actions change nothing.

It is not your fault.

There are few things that make me as angry as victim blaming. It’s vile, insidious behavior, and it manifests in truly ugly ways. Combating it is no easy task, but efforts are being made. I have read heartbreaking accounts written by survivors and their loved ones. I have seen videos by incomprehensibly brave men and women telling their own stories. A game, though — it may not be the likely choice for a story such as this, but I think it’s ideal (if done with care). The thing I love best about this medium is its ability to transform the player into someone else. When I play a game, I am not considering the actions of someone who lives behind the fourth wall. I am that person. I am there. I do imagine myself in the worlds of books and movies, and take the lessons therein to heart. But I do this after the fact, as an additional step. I can’t think about my own life while I am reading someone else’s. If I start to think about myself, I have to set down the book, or look away from the page. A game — a good game, at least — lets you do both at the same time. I can take that imaginative leap the moment I arrive. If you want to make someone walk a mile in another person’s shoes, a game’s the way to go. It’s the perfect instrument for inspiring empathy. That certainly was the case here. The Day The Laughter Stopped was not a story I wanted to engage with. But until things change, it’s a story we need to keep telling.

Becky Chambers writes essays, science fiction, and stuff about video games. Like most internet people, she has a website. She can also be found on Twitter.

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  • Sherrie Ricketts

    I played this last week and had a similar reaction. The part that hit me the hardest was the “There is no starting over. This happened.” bit. The whole game really made me uncomfortable, but in a way that I know means I’m growing as a person. I recommend it to everybody who isn’t put off by the trigger warning.

  • Giu

    That’s a great game. I wish we didn’t live in a world where it’s needed, but unfortunately that’s not true.

  • Clint Gilbert

    I clicked the “Fight Back” button a hundred times… I finally get it.

  • Sarah Bronson

    After playing this game blind, I find my own reaction rather interesting. On the one hand, of course it disturbs me, especially after discovering that there is no way to go back and avoid the inevitable outcome. My heart’s been racing and I can’t quite get my mind off it. But on the other hand, I’m not as upset as I would have expected, which I think is due to the fact that I have had twenty-three years to come to terms with being sexually molested as a young child. In all that time, I have made my peace with what happened and its long-term effects on my psychological well-being, and I no longer think about it on a daily basis.
    What would it be like if someone created an immensely detailed version of a game such as this, one that really made you feel like you were the victim… and then had convicted sexual predators play it as a type of therapy? I think that anyone who is not a complete sociopath would be truly disturbed.

  • Vetinari

    My initial reactions were mixed. On a basic gut level, I don’t think I was as disturbed by this as others have been, but I’m a guy who hasn’t really ever dealt with 90% of the situations described here, so there was a definite feeling of disconnect throughout. On the other hand, this was still a great tool for empathy and highlighting how the “You only got attacked because you did X or didn’t do Y” is just wrong on so many levels. Regardless of whether you suspect what’s coming or not, or whether you resolve to take steps to avoid it, circumstances and social pressures out of your control push you back and trap you, until, in the final scenes, there is no choice at all. The more I go over it, I admit, the more it digs at me.

    Mechanics are often overlooked when conveying messages in games, and that is a terrible shame, because game mechanics are the means by which we interact with the game itself, and there is so much potential for subtle, meaningful storytelling through mechanics. This was a great example of how even an incredibly minimal system can be adjusted to reinforce a central message, and an incredibly important one in this case.

  • locuas

    while the game is really good, i am not sure how i feel about not being able to chose “tell what happens”, i feel that would have been better…then again, i have been lucky enough to not suffer such horrible thing myself, so what do i know?

  • Anonymous

    I guess I should have listened to the trigger warnings because I don’t see how it’s a game or there is any real message. You’re going to lose before you even play. This is a very dark way to look at life. I don’t see the benefit of role playing being sexually assaulted “better” to learn about how bad it is. Take people’s word for it. Finally for something about this subject the target audience of the “game” will never play it. I would not sit my 15 year old kid down and say here play this to learn about this super serious thing”. It was well done but I would never want to play a game like this again nor feel the need to.

  • Paulo

    I wish we could get every male on the planet to play this. Not that it would even sink in for all of them but at least some would get it.

  • Dessa Brewington

    I’m with you. The second I saw that guy across the schoolyard, I knew he was going to rape me despite my choices. The rest of the game wasn’t a game. It was a short fiction, and a predictable one at that.

    I don’t need to “experience” rape virtually to know that it’s wrong, to not blame the victim, or to know it takes a psychological toll on its victims.

    The “fight back” button being ineffective was a good touch, and the mechanic of the button doing nothing was a genuine surprise because I expected it to describe fighting back and me being raped anyway.

    I never tried to click the start over button because I already knew all the choices were meaningless. That’s the whole point, right? That guy was gonna rape you no matter what you did.

    If the choices /seemed/ meaningful, I think the game might have been more effective. If, for instance, I could genuinely refuse to go to the party (instead of being dragged along with my friend), and the story branched off and the rape happened somewhere else, then it might have hit with more impact.

    Another frustrating thing was that no matter what I did, I liked this guy. Like, he was my best friend? Even though I have made a point to reject this guy at every opportunity? It would describe my thoughts like “he really understood me,” and I’d look forward to seeing him. Except I didn’t want to have anything to do with the guy.

    Ironically, I think it undermines the game’s message. I left this game feeling like “oh, if only it would actually let me behave as I would really behave in real life, I might not have been raped,” which is kinda the opposite of the point, right? I feel like I came away with the opposite of the message the game was trying to convey.

  • Melodia E. McIntyre

    The game also didn’t offer the choice to want to be with him. I thought my character liked him that way so I kept agreeing to the kisses, but then the narrative would talk about how I hated it.

  • Melodia E. McIntyre

    It should have been included because then the game could explore what happens when people don’t believe the victim.

  • Dessa Brewington

    I had stepped through an interactive fiction that was much more impactful about this subject when I was a teen. Or more appropriately, it was an RP on a MUX, back when MUXes were a thing.

    My character was the sweet, friendly type — not at all a combatant. Anyhow I remember making friends with some dude in the game and going up to his apartment, where his character more or less raped mine, and given the steep disadvantage I was at, fighting back was completely pointless (all my rolls failed). This was a guy I /acutally/ liked and trusted in game, instead of one that the game simply forced me to like. And I had no real way of seeing this coming. In retrospect it felt inevitable.

    Now, this being an online moderated game, and with scenes like that being rather unfitting for the setting, I got it retconned, mainly because I had no idea how to RP it from there, and I didn’t want to RP someone so shattered by such an event. An option, I realized, that’s not available IRL. Nonetheless, it was a better peek at the experience of being a rape victim than I had come across, and lent me more perspective in this story specifically BECAUSE I made choices.

    See, the article’s story made me feel like rape was just going to happen, and afterward, it was easy to blame the guy because there wasn’t anything I could do. From what I’ve read though, many rape victims blame themselves, or feel guilty. My RP, on the other hand, actually left me with that taste in my mouth that I could have done something. That I made poor choices and I played a part in my character’s being raped. I felt like I could have done something, or read a sign, or brought a friend with before going to some strange guy’s apartment alone. I actually felt bad about requesting a retcon from the moderators because I felt sorry for the dude. There’s a mindscrew.

  • Blah

    I think the point is that this is the girl’s story. She is a predetermined character, with her own backstory and experiences and personality that predisposes her to like this character as a friend, the same way that she couldn’t fight back despite some players wanting her to, the same way that she hated the kiss despite some players thinking that she would like it. This is not YOUR story, this is hers, it’s already happened and nothing anybody can do can change it. The interactivity is just to drive home the point that it is not her fault that this happened to her, because no matter what choices that she made, choices that were available to her by virtue of the internal and external circumstances specific to her. (perhaps this game should’ve been subtitled “don’t take it personally baby, it just ain’t your story”. only when it is. or when it’s the story of your friends or family or an acquaintance.)

    But yes, you completely missed the point, I do agree. What you (the girl) choose to do is irrelevant. The rapist will corner you and rape you even if you choose all resist all the time because that is his intention, his goal, his responsibility.

    I personally think the fact that you get that reaction is rather brilliant though. Because savescumming is what gamers do. We want to go back through the story and find the optimal ending, see all the unseen content. But nope. This is real life. There are no do-overs, no take-backsies. And you find yourself wondering, is there anything I could’ve done to stop this from happening? Should I have resisted more? Which leads to victim blaming blah blah blah disgusting shit whooooo let’s stop that train right there and it’s pretty brilliant to find out that nope, it’s not your fault, this outcome came about precisely because it was the outcome that the rapist wanted to achieve.

  • Dessa Brewington

    I kinda wish I did click the start over button just to see that message that “this actually happened” and I couldn’t start over. That’s pretty clever.

    But I didn’t bother trying to find an optimal ending because I knew the choices were meaningless anyhow.

    In game world, it was going to happen, but had I been able to make real /meaningful/ choices, I felt like I never would have been raped by this dude.

  • Blah

    I think that precisely drives home how on-point and realistic this narrative was? The character in the game actually liked her eventual rapist, just like how you liked your RP partner.

    With all due respect to your experiences, from your description of the event, it sounds to me like it was less “a game that’s more emotionally impactful”, and closer to actual sexual harassment? Because I assume this wasn’t something that was planned beforehand.

  • Crabman

    Hey there, thanks for playing!

    Regarding the “tell them what happened”, this is something that can’t be effectively expressed in a game (or at least I don’t know how.) I can’t make you feel the incredible shame victims live with, and even if you got to a point where you were genuinely afraid of what would happen next, you can still “cheat” and click the button to see what’s next because there’s no real consequence for you. You can just close the game and forget about it, while for her, it changes everything. First of all, it would mean acknowledging what happened, making it real, and then letting people know and having them look at her differently, these are things you don’t have to deal with, but she does. Incidentally, I had players tell me that they did exactly that, that they were afraid but clicked anyway, and then felt like the game knew that they would never have done this in real life.

    And since you mention it, I am actually working on a follow-up that will deal with the dismissal and the harassment of victims.

    Anyway, hope this clears it up a bit why I chose to do it this way. :)

  • Crabman

    This is something that a number of people have noted, and I’ve written about why I chose to do it this way here, if you’re curious:

    http://hypnoticowl.com/the-moment-the-choices-stopped/

  • Anonymous

    (Did not play the game.)

    “Because no matter how much you want to go back and change things, no matter how many times you reconsider your actions, no matter how much you want the option to fight back, none of it makes a damn bit of difference. The boy in the game targeted you. Drink or don’t drink, kiss or don’t kiss. The ending is always the same. Your actions change nothing.”

    Doesn’t the inability to start the game over *weaken* the idea that it’s not your fault?

    Disallowing you from starting over, leaving your choices right where you left them, sends a message that’s more like “You must live with the consequences of your choices”. Which in turn sends a message that yes, this outcome *is* a product of your choices. It looks a whole lot like victim-blaming.

    Only if the game let you start over, take multiple passes at it, make different choices – and then still always led you back to this same outcome – would it send a message that “your actions change nothing”.

  • Dessa Brewington

    No, it wasn’t him harassing me, it was his character raping my character. I can speak about it with an intellectual calm precisely because it wasn’t really me it was happening to.

    This wasn’t a planned RP, but then, many RPs aren’t. Not knowing what’s going to happen next is a lot of the fun. I never felt like he was doing this to me, or that I was being violated by this RP. I also knew I could get it retconned, and did. In OOC chat, the guy wasn’t putting moves on or anything, and IIRC, he might have even offered the retcon. It was a while ago, so the details are fuzzy.

    The narrative of this article’s game was on point. That it’s inaccurate isn’t an argument I’m trying to make. I just feel like it did a poor job of immersing me in the experience, which is what it seems like it was trying to do. I could have read a short story as accurate. But this wasn’t a short story, it was a game, and it tried to use the fact that it was a game to send the message. In the end, the story carried the message, but the gameplay elements did not. In that sense, I consider it a failure.

  • Anonymous

    If you haven’t been on the receiving end of 90% of the situations, maybe you’ve been on the other side. Ever press for a kiss? Maneuvered a hand-hold? Overcome objections one way or another? I’m not saying you have… but these can seem like pretty innocuous things on one side of the interaction, while from the other they may be prelude to a rape. You’re standing on the side that mostly gets to see these as innocuous. This game gives you a chance to see the other perspective. It may help you understand why deciding to be impulsive and manly gets you snubbed from that point forward…because, from the perspective of the likely victim in the scenario, the earlier we spot the signs and cut all contact, the more likely we are to avoid a rape.

  • Crabman

    I understand what you mean. You, in that situation, probably would’ve avoided it. The important part is that this doesn’t mean that she’s to blame because she acts differently than you would, but I don’t think that’s what you’re saying.

    I actually considered having different paths lead to the same conclusion, but in the end I wanted to have full control over how the story progresses. If I gave you the option to avoid the party, I would’ve needed to add another encounter that leads to a different, but also potentially dangerous situation in order to keep them all equally balanced and not have any given path be less dangerous than the other, as that would introduce the question of right choices again. But adding such an encounter might have been frustrating as well, as I at some point do have to force you down the path I want this story to progress, and it could also have ruined the pacing, as I’d basically add an ultimately meaningless detour and break the flow.

    So yeah, I absolutely understand how that can turn some players off to the game, because it so obviously ignores what you want to do, but in the end my main focus was the narrative. I of course knew this would be at the cost of gameplay, but I thought in this case it was better to get the story right than to make a “good” game, you know?

  • Anonymous

    I’d think, given that there are trigger warnings and warnings not to let kids/ teens play, that the inclination of most is to play somewhat conservatively, because clearly something bad is going to happen. Playing conservatively still results in the negative ending..because it is the only ending. This is made pretty clear by the site and its explanation. While it may reinforce learned helplessness (which I’m increasingly thinking should sometimes be termed “taught helplessness”), and while it could make the character’s experience of self-blaming real if the player doesn’t know that all the endings are the same, I’d say it’s pretty clear that multiple passes won’t fix it. And really, after the first rape, who wants to get right back out there and see if they can’t game it better?

    Interestingly, it leaves the player with two choices: play and take your chances, knowing your odds aren’t great, or don’t play. This would seem to boil down to a socialize/don’t ever socialize dichotomy in the real world.

  • Crabman

    It would make it unmistakably clear, I agree, but not knowing for sure is sort of an important part of it, I think. As in, even when the victim knows it wasn’t her fault, she’ll never know for sure that there was nothing she could’ve done. There’s always doubt, but in life you can’t go back and check all outcomes, you can only look at what has happened and wonder.

    Oh wait, you haven’t played it… I was just going to explain why I disagree with the victim blaming part, but that’d only make sense if you knew what I was referring to. :) But I can assure that there’s nothing there in the end that suggests anything about choice, other than leaving you to wonder and, hopefully, realize that going back and chosing differently isn’t the answer, because it’s the guy who needs to change, not you.

  • Melodia E. McIntyre

    Then perhaps if we are seeing her experiences, not ours as you say, then we could see that she’s not interested before the kiss instead of just after, because if I’m in her head then I should know that she doesn’t want to do it and that she’s worried about what he and others will think.
    Both the first kiss and the handholding give no indication she doesn’t want to until after she does it. It might be even more effective if she were into the first kiss and then
    later decided to just be his friend and it got out of hand after that.
    Even the second kiss that comes after her talk of feeling so much more than love for him doesn’t indicate she doesn’t want him to kiss her until afterwards.

    It’s a bold choice for a game, that’s for sure.

  • frankenmouse

    I had a similar problem with the resist options not even giving a token response. It’s one thing to create a dialogue that says “You try struggling, but he’s so much stronger than you that you’re afraid he’ll hurt you” and another entirely to completely remove the player’s agency.

  • Crabman

    I see what you mean. Hmhmhm, I’d say the problem lies in the way it’s told. It’s kind of a moment to moment description of what happens and how she feels, she doesn’t know beforehand, because she doesn’t see it coming/hasn’t thought about it to that degree. Also, as I mention in the post, that she likes him and has these strong feelings for him might not indicate that she doesn’t want to kiss him, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate that she does either. Because she *does* like him and she might even fancy the idea of a relationship, but when it gets real, she’s just not ready, which she couldn’t have predicted.

  • Anonymous

    I felt the same way. From the description, I felt like there was an option to liking him. I figured, based on the narrative, that I was growing to really like him: being embarrassed and sending him a card, spending hours with him talking and walking and dealing with these feelings of longing. I originally rejected him when I felt he was too forward too soon, but when he “tried to hold my hand”, I let him because I felt I liked him and our relationship was becoming more intimate. When the “he tried to kiss me” option came up, I let him because I imagined that after so long and with these feelings, I would want to kiss him, but then the narrative describes how awful it was, so I guess it’s ultimately going to be about a girl who actually wasn’t interested in this guy and how he forcefully kissed her, which is where I separated as “me” the player and “her” the person telling the story.

    That takes the role playing game aspect out of it and turned it into a personal testimony from someone outside the player. Without the option to like him, want to kiss him, be in a relationship, and even have the urge to want to have consensual sex with him, I felt like rape was an inevitable outcome for any girl who meets any guy. That’s obviously not the point of the “game”, and it’s still a good message as a testimony, but it’s where the disconnect as a gaming experience happened for me.

  • Melodia E. McIntyre

    Me too, it brought me out of the narrative and removed some of the impact of the story for me. I didn’t read the trigger warning so I wasn’t sure if the eventual outcome would be rape, or depression, or suicide, or something else. I thought she liked him and it wasn’t until after the second kiss that it became clear where the story was going and I thought “Oh, this is a rape story, well let’s get this over with” because I knew then it was inevitable, which is not what I should have been thinking. I guess it just didn’t work for me.

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    As a multiple violent rape survivor, I am fairly certain I do not have the strength to play this game. But I
    think somehow it NEEDS to exist. Maybe it can teach something to an
    audience that otherwise wouldn’t listen.

  • Travis

    I’m conflicted about the game design choice.

    I dislike that the entire premise of the game’s message depends on the fact that the game is rigged from the start.

    It’s disingenuous for a game to play the “realism” card and after forcing you into a pre-determined outcome. In reality, our choices do matter. The tragedy of life is that we never know which ones matter, or in what way they matter, until after the fact.

    I think it’s important to recognize that just because you made a choice that lead to a bad outcome doesn’t mean you made a bad choice (and thus, are responsible for the bad outcome). I don’t think game quite gets that across because that concept is undermined by the game’s assertion that none of your choices matter.

    On the other hand, if “stay safe at home and watch Doctor Who in your locked house” is presented as an option, then there’s no message at all and it’s just a really dark Choose Your Own Adventure.

    So, it’s not a good way to get across a message in a game, but I can’t think of a better one.

  • Lapin

    Oh man, this game reminded me of an experience I had in high school last year.

    I go to a small town school. Last year, my class read the book “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson. The plot of the book deals with the depression the main character, a young girl, faces after she is convinced to go to a party, where she is raped. As I read it, I really empathized with the main character, because her bouts of depression felt really similar to my own bouts of depression. I didn’t think much of the rape aspect of the story, until I heard my classmates’ responses to it. “She was drunk.” “She didn’t say no.” “She shouldn’t have been at the party.” “If she didn’t want it, she should have said something.” Most of my classmates, especially the males, said it wasn’t “real” rape.

    I couldn’t believe it– I didn’t think victim blaming would happen like that, that strongly, in real life. The message of the book was “rape is wrong and devastating, always”, but what my classmates took away seemed to be “if you get drunk at parties, you’ll get raped”. They were all looking for ways that the main character did something “wrong”, that led to the rape. Not one other person in my class, besides my brother and I, would say definitely that it’s never a rape victim’s fault. It was depressing.

    And I knew they were only talking about a fictional character, but I started to cry in class. I felt afraid. I thought, ‘What if I get raped one day, and everyone blames me for it?’ And I couldn’t really look at the most vocal of the boys the same way, after that. If they think a girl being drunk and not saying no means they can go ahead with sex… what’s to say one of them won’t do just that, someday? I hope the message of the book actually did get through to them, in some way.

    Though rather a small thing, in hindsight, that experience has really stuck with me. And I wish some of my classmates could have played this game after we read the book. An interactive version of the same lesson might have produced more empathy in them. I think the game would be a pretty good tool for teaching in high school, especially if it gets the boys to put themselves in other people’s shoes, or to help them recognize when to stop if they’re making someone uncomfortable.

    I really hope things like this game can help change rape culture, even if slowly.

  • Crabman

    Yeah, please don’t. I’ve seen how much some people were affected by this, and while everyone reacts differently to it, it’s seriously not worth the risk of finding out whether you’d be fine.

  • Anonymous

    (Edit) Someone else stated what you did in the comments below; I got a better understanding of what you mean. I still disagree, but I would have to think on a better response.

  • Saraquill

    Why limit it to one gender?

  • Stewart Zoot Wymer

    A very powerful message augmented by its delivery method. I was told once while studying sales: “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” Horrifyingly, this game does involve you just with the spectre of such a terrible thing and it is harrowing.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad I read the description, though reading the word “rape” often gives me anxiety. I have no desire to play the game, but I’m glad it’s there. What I’m very thankful for is the comments; everyone has different, interesting points. Thanks again to the moderators who make this a safe place. I always get really vulnerable when talking about this shit, so…thank you.

  • Charlotte Van Zee

    Wow… how mundane? Sorry, but as soon as I started playing (dutifully skipping the trigger warning), I knew “I” was gonna get raped and it was all about delaying the inevitable. Maybe that’s because I’m a woman and as a bonus I’ve been conditioned by my very paranoid mother to to watch for “bad guys” since I was 5, even though I’ve known probably for just as long that when it comes to being victimized there is very little to nothing that one can do to stop a determined predator. That all it can take is them seeing you at a stoplight as you drive home from work and the next thing you know you’re getting dragged out of your car in a parking lot, raped, and stabbed to death and nothing you did or said caused it or could have stopped it (Mom’s friend was killed by one of the many “co-ed killers” you see, and it’s a story I’ve heard since I was 5 — add in an extended peripheral family history of domestic violence, incest, and rape).

    All this reminded me of was those monologues they used to perform in middle school school rallies where the girl drives drunk and kills her parents or another girl finally realizes that her best friend wears long sleeves all the time because she’s getting beaten by her father after the girl moves away, and all of us at the assembly were supposed to have learned a Moral Lesson by the end. I found them to be cheap and tacky melodrama at 13 and time hasn’t improved my opinion.

    Other people’s mileage obviously varies.

  • Travis

    After thinking longer about it, the only issue I really have is that this game uses the same anti-logic that victim-blamers use, only backwards.

    Victim-blamers look at things the victim COULD have done differently and conflagulate them into things the victim SHOULD have done differently.

    This game takes that fallacy and turns it around, conflagulating “There’s nothing you should have done differently” into “there’s nothing you could have done differently.”

    Both are using faulty logic by switching “could” and “should.”

    The reality is that “there are things you could have done differently” and “there’s nothing you should have done differently” are two completely different concepts and both can be true at the same time.

  • Paulo

    I never said women shouldn’t watch it, but men are the aggressors in most rapes, and men are the ones mostly likely to not understand what it’s like to be assaulted by a person who is larger and stronger than them.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad I didn’t play. I’m glad I didn’t read most of the article. I’m also glad that someone is talking about “fighting back.” That there’s someone out there highlighting it as I think, even among people who are sensitive to and supportive of victims of sexual assault, it’s a myth. Whenever I finally open up to someone and tell them about my assault, share details, they ask why I didn’t fight back and, for some reason, while I can talk about our dates before he raped me and talk about the bruises he left and years of just wanting to die, I find it very difficult to articulate why I didn’t fight back. I’m grateful for anyone and anything that will be a tool for me in that.

  • Anonymous

    I get anxious, too. Especially on the internet. I’ve seen how badly any discussion or mention of sexual assault on the internet can go and I always tense up when I think about what the comments COULD say when I scroll down.

  • Saraquill

    Not taking into account non-male victimizers and non-female victims bothers me, especially after one blog posting in LJ said that they didn’t count. *facepalm*

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think so, if you look at it from a first person point of view. I can’t change my rape. I can’t go back and change the circumstances that gave my rapist an opportunity to get me alone and vulnerable. None of it was my fault, I didn’t do anything to deserve it, there is nothing I could be blamed for, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m stuck with that nightmare for the rest of my life and it continues, years later, to invade my sleep, affect my relationships, and color how I see the world and myself. I can’t hit replay and choose to ignore him, choose to not invite him over for pizza, choose to not make the online dating account, whatever. From a first person perspective, I think not allowing the player to try again mimics that reality, rather than attempting to victim-blame.

  • Anonymous

    Accept that many rape victims don’t struggle. You go into a state of shock. You’re frozen, you’re terrified, you want to fight back but your body won’t listen. I haven’t played the game and won’t, but that’s why I’m glad you’re not even given the option of struggling: many real victims don’t really have one, either.

  • Anonymous

    Of course they count, but they also don’t make up the majority and most women are much more sympathetic to this sort of thing than most cismen are.

  • Anonymous

    This is an amazing review. It had to have been extremely difficult to write. I am taking a learning and technology research course with a few teachers and doctoral students and I am bringing up this article in class. It is a common fact that gave video games can be used in military strategic training. The concept of this game can be used in many different settings.

  • Saraquill

    I don’t know, I’ve encountered commentary by women who were decidedly unsympathetic, including lots of victim blaming.

  • Brittany K

    This game reminds me of something from my high school days.

    I knew a girl who was a bit of a liar, she smoked pot, she drank, she slept around. And she dated this guy who seemed pretty nice, and he was kind of cute. After a few months, they broke up. I wasn’t very close with this girl, we’d been friends once upon a time but had drifted apart. One of our mutual friends decided to set me up with the ex, and I thought, why not? He’s cute. That’s when she drops the bomb. The girl had told her that he had sexually assaulted her. But the girl was known to lie and be dramatic, so the mutual friend completely wrote off what she said and then tried to set me up with him. Victim blaming/not believing the victim could’ve gotten me sexually assaulted too, and ever since then I have always believed when someone says they have been sexually assaulted or raped.

  • Vetinari

    Hm. It’s a fair point. I would like to think, of course, that I haven’t been on the other side, since I’m very rarely either impulsive or manly, and tend to be pursued rather than do the pursuing, but then I imagine most men wouldn’t consider their actions to be alarming or intimidating either, and I won’t pretend to have recorded every little seemingly innocuous gesture.

    So yes, perhaps there is another aspect to this game. Though many men will probably not find themselves in the protagonist’s shoes, they can at least gain empathy and a deeper understanding of how such actions can potentially harm others. All in all, this is important for everyone. Thank you, I hadn’t considered this.

  • Anonymous

    IT’s a difficult scenario from both sides, bolstered by socially devised and reinforced roles that claim a woman should demure and a man should press. I like to think things are changing as far as the roles go, and certainly we’re better than in the 50s, but the change is slow. Awareness helps. But there’s resistance to awareness.

    It’s uncomfortable to be made aware of rape, and its prevalence, to start recognizing how often the gray areas are portrayed as acceptable and even humorous by our media and society, even when our laws clearly define them as rape. And it’s uncomfortable to take a look at things you’ve done in the past from the eyes of the person you’ve done them to and wonder how they perceived it.

  • Milja K

    IMO it isn’t really a game (since your choices don’t affect the outcome) but a short story made to resemble a game. The reader thinking that it’s a game makes it more impactful.

  • http://twitter.com/amydieg Beastbrarian

    I guessed at what the game content would be and opted to play before reading the whole post. The effect was intense.

    While I figured early on where things were headed and also that my choices would not, ultimately, change the outcome, when I reached the first unresponsive choice it was like a physical blow. I felt panicked, I gasped. Wonderfully executed game, unfortunately terribly real.

  • frankenmouse

    I don’t disagree with that, but I still feel like that could have been addressed in dialogue (e.g., “You can’t even struggle. Your body just won’t listen to you”) instead of just having the button not work. I honestly thought something was wrong with the game when I was playing.
    If the game is meant to be educational/persuasive (as I assume it is) then that issue should be directly addressed, not hand waved/ignored.

    I also don’t appreciate your tone here. One of the things I research is rape communication (i.e., how do we get people to start talking about it, be aware of it as an issue, get educated about the misconceptions surrounding it). I am intimately familiar with the statistics regarding rape survivors and the misconceptions (e.g., if they weren’t physically harmed, they weren’t raped) that follow along with the experience. So please don’t treat me like I’m an idiot.

  • Bean

    I needed this.

    It was unsettling and awful and it was like watching a car crash-I couldn’t look away, even though I wanted to. But on the other hand, it was a pitch-perfect object lesson in the proper perspective to put this crime in.

    I feel suddenly like I owe apologies to every woman who has ever explained these things to me. It would be arrogant and false to say I suddenly understand, but I don’t think it’s overstating it say I’ve begun to comprehend how little I understand.

  • totz the plaid

    I agree with that. Having the button not work at all really took me out of the experience, while a slightly expanded text describing the internal panic being heightened by your body freezing up would have been more powerful than forcing you to click the other button.

    The way it’s set up implies that it’s a _choice_ to freeze up, rather than a panicked, terrified uncontrollable reaction.

    I realize that the lack of choice there really worked for some people, but it broke the immersion for me and made me see the rape as a disgusted outside observer rather than from the position of the victim in the scenario.

    I’m still definitely passing this along and going to urge everyone I know to play it, but my own experience felt muted there.

    Full disclosure: I’ve never been raped, but I have been the victim of a form of sexual abuse as a child. I was forced to sleep in the same bed with my dad from about kindergarten through 5th grade (age 6 to about the start of puberty), and then I was forced to sleep in the same room for the next couple years.

  • totz the plaid

    In case it’s in any way unclear, I want to clarify that by “disgusted observer,” I meant that I was taken from being the girl in the game to someone reading about a rape and feeling disgusted that I couldn’t stop the guy and help the victim.

  • Crabman

    “The way it’s set up implies that it’s a _choice_ to freeze up”

    Actually, I’d argue that the reason you feel that way is the same as the victim’s for why they feel like it’s their fault. It really isn’t a choice, because I absolutely don’t give you one—there’s only one thing you can do and you have no say about it. But since there’s the illusion of choice and the game doesn’t acknowledge your attempts to fight it and doesn’t confirm that you did everything you could, you feel like you chose to let it happen to you. As in, if you clicked “Fight Him” and the game would’ve said something along the lones of “You struggle and fight, but he’s much stronger than you,” that would’ve given you peace of mind that by acknowledging that you tried, and that it is the game forcing it on you. But this way, and the way reality works, you don’t get that confirmation and are left to wonder, even though it should be very clear that never actually had a choice, you know what I mean?

  • totz the plaid

    I’m just saying that the design choice there broke the immersion for me.

  • totz the plaid

    I understand your point, but please notice that I said the following in my comment:

    “a slightly expanded text describing the internal panic being heightened
    by your body freezing up would have been more powerful than forcing you
    to click the other button.”

    I never said that the game should allow you to fight it, I’m just saying that it broke my immersion by not having that button do anything at all.

    Even if the result of clicking either button was the same, that would have kept me immersed.

  • Crabman

    Yes, but that’s kind of what I mean. Letting you click the option IS, in a broader sense, letting you fight. It of course still wouldn’t do any good, but at least you’d've tried and the game would’ve forced you in another direction. In that case, you’d've done everything you could. But by not even giving you an option, I’m not letting you off the hook that easily, so to speak. I’m making you “give up”.

    Of course that still doesn’t make it a choice, because it’s the only thing you can do, but you see how that changes this situation? It leaves room for doubt, whether there was something you could’ve done, maybe if you had just clicked the “Fight Him” option a few times more it would’ve worked. It wouldn’t have, but I’m not explicitly letting you know that, I’m making you fight (clicking the button, to no avail) and consequently give up.

    This is, I think, what triggers these strong reactions in other players. Quite a few mention that they saw it coming and weren’t all that impressed because the game just forced them through the same story no matter what they chose, but at the point where they are forced to actively do nothing, everything sorta changes, because I’m making them do it themselves. With the rest, I’m just ignoring their attempts to do the “right” thing, but here, I’m forcing them to do the “wrong” thing.

    Anyway, that all doesn’t change that it broke immersion for you. We can’t all react to everything the same I guess. :)

  • Anonymous

    I don’t much appreciate your tone, either, and out of respect for the dialogue and the admins here, I won’t give the sarcastic reply I think your comments about research deserve. As an actual victim of rape, I wasn’t trying to treat anyone like an idiot. I was describing what I experienced and what fellow survivors I have talked about it with report feeling.

    That said, Crabman explain perfectly why I appreciate the way this was done.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t much appreciate your tone, either, and out of respect for the dialogue and the admins here, I won’t give the sarcastic reply I think your comments about research deserve. As an actual victim of rape, I wasn’t trying to treat anyone like an idiot. I was describing what I experienced and what fellow survivors I have talked about it with report feeling.

    That said, Crabman explain perfectly why I appreciate the way this was done.

  • http://adornyourhearts.tumblr.com Xomyx

    I do believe there was a study that came out of Scotland a few years ago that showed women were more judgmental about sexual assault victims then men. The idea was that women feel the need to believe that by refraining from certain activities, they protect themselves from rape. No one wants to believe that it could happen to you, regardless of what you do. Which is why this game sounds so fantastic.

  • Kumiko Akimoto

    Having more evidence definitely is more important.

  • Dessa Brewington

    You make a good point.

  • Rogue

    Considering that just reading the article made me start to cry (at work, no less) I’m agreeing here and saying no, don’t play!
    That said. I hope more people understand that it is not the victim’s fault (I have struggled with the blame for years…after all I did invite my then boyfriend into my room). It’s not easy but hopefully this game will cause some people to stop and pause and view things from another side.

  • Sally Strange

    I don’t know, I’ve encountered commentary by women who were decidedly unsympathetic, including lots of victim blaming.

    That’s because literally every single conversation about rape among women inevitably includes a man barging in to yell “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN???”

    After 20 years of this, I for one, am getting pretty sick of it.

    Sometimes men are not the subject of conversation, and that’s okay.

    Now, thanks to you, yet another conversation about rape has had the obligatory “WHAT ABOUT THE MEN” “yes men get raped too (mostly by other men)” conversation.

    Thanks for nothing.

  • Saraquill

    I was thinking of woman on woman. The example I gave above was a woman on woman one. I don’t appreciate getting yelled at for something I didn’t write.