This is the eighteenth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the
1704 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,175,279.81 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
A short visual novel about a first date where the player must come face to fa…
Hmm, I wonder what the player must come face to face with? The suspense is making me a little anxious…
Conversations With My Anxiety is a visual novel, a genre that has exploded in popularity — or at least in media coverage — in recent years. Visual novels are a type of interactive fiction, usually conversation-heavy stories with minimal player interaction. The conversations themselves resemble those in adventure or role-playing games, with text boxes accompanying the scene which players click through to proceed, and the occasional choice which can guide where the story goes. One reason for their popularity is that they can deal with subjects not often covered in other game genres, such as romance. I’ve actually never played a traditional visual novel, although I did play Digital: A Love Story which might be considered one. I’m certainly not well versed in the genre though, and really should check out more of what’s on offer.
Conversations With My Anxiety is a short visual novel, taking only 5-10 minutes to complete once, although players may wish (as I did) to go through again and try some different story paths. Players play as Player, who is going on a first date with Gina. When things inevitably get a little awkward, Player ends up in conversations with their own anxiety as they try to find ways to smooth things over, and players can choose how to proceed. Unlike some games which deal with the issue of anxiety, it’s not a dark and serious affair, but rather strikes a lighthearted tone as Player and Gina navigate their date. It’s a romantic comedy, not a thriller. While it’s possible to make some poor choices that make things more awkward, the date never goes completely off the rails, and always has a pleasant ending.
It’s also funny. Not only are the situations endearingly awkward, but the characters are well written and relatable, even those who appear to be annoying or one-note at first. I thoroughly enjoyed the banter that ensues on the different story paths, and loved how Player and Gina earnestly try to help each other out over the course of the date. Even Player’s internal dialogue with their anxiety is funny. Sure, Anxiety is constantly talking down to Player, but is amusing while doing so. I appreciated that it’s not all about Player’s problems either. Player is plenty awkward, but the most awkward moment of the date actually comes from Gina… which immediately triggers Player’s anxiety about how to handle it.
And the presentation is fantastic. Scenes use a colorful papercut style that looks beautiful, accompanied by jaunty music and ambient sounds. Many visual novels have static scenes, but Conversations With My Anxiety is wonderfully animated. This is never more clear than in the first scene, set in the Dryver ride share car as Player and Gina head to their date. Amidst the awkward conversations between the two and their Dryver driver Jordy (who is a highlight), the scenery smoothly rolls past outside the windows, complete with the sounds of traffic. Whenever Player gets too anxious, the camera zooms in on their forehead as a window opens up (with the sound of tearing paper) to reveal Player’s inner conversation with their anxiety as they try to figure out what to say. Other scenes aren’t as dynamic, but still look great. The “visual” part of this visual novel is top notch.
I was pleasantly surprised by how good this is. It’s funny and sweet, short enough that it’s hardly a hassle to go back through and try some different options, and kept a smile on my face throughout. Definitely recommended. If you missed it in the bundle, Conversations With My Anxiety is available for any price you wish to pay, and it includes versions for Mac, Linux and Windows, and even a version playable in a browser. Check it out!
That’s 18 down, and
1686 1723 to go. That means that, even for sticklers, we’re definitely past 1% of the bundle entries now. Unfortunately, it’s less clear if we’ve made 1% progress towards racial justice. Despite Digital Daydream’s pleasant offering here, I’m afraid I have to head into some unpleasant territory now.
America is reeling from another police shooting of an unarmed Black man: police in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while his children watched from inside the car. Blake is still alive, but allegedly paralyzed. Meanwhile, another video circulated showing Kenosha police approaching a group of white men openly carrying guns, thanking them, and offering them bottles of water. It is unclear if this was before or after a 17-year old white man wielding a combat rifle shot and killed two people who were protesting Jacob Blake’s shooting (I will not link to a story on this because I do not want to give any more publicity to this killer, google it if you must). That shooter, still armed, walked towards police with his hands up and was allowed to leave the scene (he was arrested later).
Even with evidence like this, many Americans do not believe that systemic racism exists in our country. Well, if you or someone you know still needs convincing, Digital Daydream have made a game that uses real data to illustrate the systemic disadvantages that Black people face in America as compared to white people. Entitled Systemic Lives, it’s available for free on itch.io (but is not included in the bundle, presumably because it was released after the bundle was done). I haven’t played it yet, but maybe I’ll do so for an honorary Scratching That Itch post.
You know, maybe we have made 1% progress towards racial justice. Systemic Racism is still in full effect, but the conversations about it are happening, and that may lead to some real change. Here’s hoping there will be better news when we get to 2% of the bundle.