A Powerful Game About An Abusive Relationship

A Powerful Game About An Abusive Relationship

Often times, the play loop in point-and-click adventures involves uninspired treasure hunts for trinkets, without taking the time to fully appreciate the history of these items. The new Last Call game directly addresses this shortcoming, making the story of seemingly ordinary objects a central part of its gameplay and ensuring that players take an active role in exploring the past.

Last call, billed as “an exploration game of autobiographical poems”, was written, designed and coded by Nina Freeman, in collaboration with Jake Jefferies who worked on the art of the game. The game is based on the lived experiences of the designers of love and violence in past relationships. Last Call was released for free on Itch.io on September 29.

When the game begins, the narrator and her abusive boyfriend have ended their relationship. You explore the apartment the two share, closing moving boxes full of personal belongings. In doing so, you find poems telling the tumultuous story of the couple.

Right off the bat, the game displays content warnings for textual descriptions of domestic violence, emotional and physical abuse, violence against women, suicide ideas and attempts, and sexual content. While none of these acts are actually depicted, the intensity of the writing makes content warnings appreciated.

The text is layered and floats around handwriting and a photograph of a woman with a blanket tightly rolled up under her nose.

Screenshot: Kotaku / starmaidgames

The first thing that struck me about Last Call was how interactive and exceptionally immersive it is. When you start out, you are asked what color you see when you close your eyes. Your response becomes the backdrop to the poems you find. These poems lead to the most powerful aspect of the game. As you read poems from different stages of the relationship, you absorb the information they convey (along with their emotional impact) and choose from a variety. of sentences floating around the poem, pronouncing your answer aloud.

These responses include phrases such as “I am”, “Tell me more”, “I identify”, “I know” and “I am listening”. This will stay with me because of how original this mechanic is and how it fosters a personal connection between you and the game. (There is also an option to play the game without using its voice recognition mechanism.)

There were times when I felt a deep sympathy for the narrator because her experiences echoed those of my past. Your vocal responses aren’t just like “thoughts and prayers,” the kind of responses that could almost invalidate the narrator’s trauma. Rather, they are thoughtful and meaningful responses to what she’s been through. It makes the seriousness of his experiences and your understanding of them a viscerally emotional experience.

A cardboard box is filled to the brim with video games and pop culture memorabilia.

I didn’t expect to see Remember Me in this box. Screenshot: Kotaku / starmaidgames

Having to vocalize how you relate to the narrator’s experience or wish to console it is powerful. Often I saw myself in the narrator’s poems and in the doubt she carried. When her traumatic experiences replaced everything I had experienced in my life, sympathy gave way to empathy, and there was nothing I could do but say “I hear you” or ” I understand “.

Strangely, one game that was reminded of me while playing Last Call is Silent Hill 2. The boxes you find have a gouache, pixelated fire coming out of them, which reminded me of the mind-blowing scene in Silent Hill 2 where Angela Orosco stands on a staircase ravaged by flames. Orosco tells James sunderland that for her, it’s always like that. It reflected to me how the boxes scattered around Last Call’s apartment had the potential to harbor the narrator’s personal hell, one that I was helping him through processing.

I recommend wearing a headset when playing Last Call because it uses sound so effectively. It is mostly a silent experience, apart from the ambient music, but sometimes there are clubs calling out to you while you are playing. The narrator’s whispers reciting fragments of poems break the silence and you need to locate which box the whispers are coming from, addressing the trauma of that memory before you do anything else. The effect, without fail, made my skin crawl as I explored the house. The narrator’s poems are sometimes coupled with images of Freeman herself, capturing her emotional state during the honeymoon period of her relationship and what followed. Throughout the poems there are times when the narrator is set on fire and verbally and physically assaulted.

Despite all of this, Last Call never feels like it’s wallowing in trauma. The more you pack your things, the lighter the parts become. The windows begin to open, indicating the healing the narrator finds as she puts the past away. At the end of the game, Freeman includes a link to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which provides resources for survivors of such experiences. Last Call is a gem of a game that draws you in via innovative mechanics and powerful writing, painstakingly telling a person’s journey towards mending an abusive relationship in a way only a game could do.


Article source https://kotaku.com/last-call-is-an-intimate-game-about-healing-from-an-abu-1847785411


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