A love story with “Analogue: A Hate Story”
Analogue: A Hate Story is a thoughtful and unique visual novel style game. It tells the story of an extinct empire, including murder, love, transhumanism, LGBTQ issues, feudal politics, loneliness and a girl surviving in a strongly enforced misogynistic society. Created by Christine Love, this Joseon Dynasty-inspired story is in my top list of beautiful games you must experience.
You investigate the ship from the safety of your own space pod, empty save for the remnants of two AIs, and are immediately intrigued. Your experiences are exactly the same as the investigator – everything is done through a computer console, including accessing the ship’s support systems. The computer console set-up is amazingly immersive – you are a space investigator, this is exactly what the investigator is experiencing. There is a tense moment when you must use race the clock to manage the ship’s systems, all done abstractly.
The narrative unfolds through a series of documents with a plucky AI as your guide. Documents include diary entries, historical accounts and letters issued by members of this lost civilization. The world the AIs used to inhabit is fascinating, and information is released anachronistically which draws you in. You will feel the weight of this regimented society, the frustration of everyone involved, and the horror of revelations. The game mechanics lend themselves to the narrative perfectly.
The game allows you to identify as either male or female, though this does not affect your ability to woo the lovely AI. The misogynistic AI will treat you differently based on your gender, and will be horrified if you (as a female player) identify with an account of love between two women.
The characters are multi-faceted, well realized, and fun to interact with. One thing that is done brilliantly is how institutionalised misogyny is internalised by the society’s female characters. One AI has contrasting views to the player, is a highly misogynistic woman, and will appear cruel, but the deeper you delve into the story the more you understand about her. Neither of the AIs has access to all the available information, and their actions and opinions are formed on this. The story uses the device of unreliable narrators to set a compelling scene and further develop the characters
Even the player doesn’t have all the information until they complete the “perfect” ending, at which point everything slots together. Analogue: A Hate Story is reminiscent of books like Handmaid’s Tale and To Kill a Mocking Bird in displaying characters which you may not understand until you are able to “climb inside of his skin and walk around in it”. Christine Love described her changing feelings towards the misogynist AI as she knew it was her way of surviving in the world she lived.
Christine Love has used a small number of pictured characters to brilliant effect. There are only two characters to interact with directly throughout the game, as well as the written accounts of long-dead souls, however this reinforces the central theme of loneliness. This is a story about lonely people, set on an empty ship in the depths of space. Yes, you might cry.
The subject matter is dealt with respectfully, the story is emotionally strong and it tackles a range of difficult themes. Overall it is a fantastic game, and a free demo is available for PC, Linux and Mac, so I would highly recommend everyone to give it a try. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea and it’s very text heavy. Whether or not it ends up being your story, it’s unique enough and I think worth experiencing.