This is the one hundred sixty-fourth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 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.
Our one hundred sixty-fourth random selection from the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality has sat us down for a difficult conversation. It’s Knowing You, by Summer, and its tagline in the bundle reads:
A Two Player Prompt Based RPG exploring a romantic relationship broken b…
It’s all over now.
Knowing You is a two-player storytelling game, playable either in person or over some form of electronic chat. In fact, the rules are stylized like a smartphone text chat log, with questions enclosed within speech bubbles and battery and wifi icons in the top corner. In the game, the players will take on the roles of romantic partners whose relationship has “broken beyond reconciliation”. Players follow several sets of question prompts, fleshing out some aspect of the relationship before asking each other questions and answering them honestly in turn. These get into some heavy topics and emotions, so be sure everyone is OK with this before playing. In fact, I didn’t even play this myself, as I was too lazy to recruit another like-minded player, but even just reading it brought on some difficult feelings. Fair warning.
It does seem like a game that could help players work through the grief of past relationships. It opens by asking both players several questions about the day their characters met, like what they first noticed about each other, and what they did that made each other smile. But the players do not answer these publicly. Instead, they write their answers down and seal them in an envelope (or some similar contrivance if playing over chat). The game then jumps to the partners’ very last meeting, when they know it’s over. This time the players ask each other the questions directly, learning exactly how things ended. From there, the question prompts move backwards in time, going through the partners’ last fight, secrets that were discovered, the time the partners realized things were getting serious, and even earlier times when the two were still learning about each other. After going through all of these sets of questions, the game ends by — devastatingly — having each player hand the other their sealed responses about when their characters first met, which they then read in silence. A final question prompts players to consider whether or not they regret the relationship.
There’s no way this could not be an emotional rollercoaster. Players are clearly meant to draw on their own past relationships, which means much of the game will feel painfully real. Ideally, each player will bring some of their experiences with them to create a new, fictional relationship to explore, but I could imagine cases where players’ different experiences don’t mesh well. Knowing You obviously requires two players who are very understanding of each other. It uses several safety tools, not just the X-card which has appeared in other games in this series before, but also the N card which indicates that topics are leading towards X-card territory and should taper off before they get there, and the O card which indicates that players are comfortable to continue along the current topic (often used to actively check with the other player for consent before continuing). These tools are welcome, but the most important thing is that the players are considerate towards each other during play.
I honestly do not expect that I would enjoy playing Knowing You, but for the right pair of players it could be cathartic. If you feel like processing the pain of past relationships and you missed it in the bundle, Knowing You is sold for a minimum price of $2. Just be careful with each other.
That’s 164 down, and only 1577 to go!