Have You Played… Sacrilege

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Sacrilege is a free interactive fiction game about trying to pull guys in a nightclub. It’s by Cara Ellison.

Sacrilege is difficult for me to play. By which I mean ‘painful.’ It’s so very different from how I live, and how I lived even before I closed the doors on true youth. I have never experienced any of what happens on Sacrilege’s dancefloor, from either ‘side’, and to say my feelings about that are mixed would be a very deliberate understatement in order to avoid bringing drama to my door.

And yet.
And yet it resonates.

It resonates because it talks of longing and rejection, of self-belief alternating wildly with self-doubt, and sometimes all the way to self-loathing. That it resonates with me, white straight middle class male with a kid me, is important, because it’s offering a viewpoint that is neither my own or anything like the one that games usually give me to see through. Not a thing like it. That shouldn’t be so rare. It’s important. It’s human.

As well as my own hurt, about what I’ve never experienced, Sacrilege showed me someone else’s hurt. And someone else’s horror about how others might see them, or hurt them. And someone else’s needs. And someone else’s power.

Disclaimer – Cara Ellison is a freelance contributor to RPS. Please seek alternative opinions on Sacrilege if this concerns you.


  1. RaveTurned says:

    IMPORTANT: As per the author’s original note: “Turn your volume up, there is music at a certain point.”

    I somehow missed that note I first played it, and due to not expecting a text adventure to have audio, I had my speakers off the entire time.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      The music didn’t play for me, but through the words and the lyrics and the rhythm of the writing I felt it anyway.

  2. Stijn says:

    It didn’t really resonate with me. Sometimes I wonder whether I’ve played too many games for text adventures to click with me, because in the end I’m just wondering “oooh, what would be behind this link?” instead of engaging with the story.

    I also was kind of put off by the no-capitals one-sentence-per-line writing. That’s taste, of course. Maybe it hit too close to home and reminded me too much of when I thought it was cool to write like that.

  3. Melody says:

    The tone and honesty of many of your articles (like this one) also resonates with me. It’s the main reason why you’re my favourite RPS writer, Alec, and certainly the one I can relate to the most. I share a lot of your reactions. ^_^

  4. karthink says:

    I’ve played this before, when it was part of the Live Free, Play Hard column. I didn’t get it then. I played it again earlier this year, and clicked on the link again now having read Alec’s thoughts.

    I still don’t get it. I’m going to chalk this one up to not being part of the intended audience.

    (SPOILERS: Why are “these” the only two choices? What is the author’s frame of mind that does not let them walk away from the whole thing?)

    • Stijn says:

      I guess the option of walking away is represented by the ability to close the browser tab.

      • karthink says:

        That’s the option I’ve been choosing each time I play it, then.

    • The_B says:

      Not to intentionally put words in Cara’s mouth, but as Alec says, the entire “objective” of the whole game is to, essentially – “get your end away” with one of the guys offered up. The first page explains why you can’t go home with anyone but the four choices, going through the other options essentially runs you through why the other options are not suitable – “walking away” isn’t an option, purely in the same way that any other game where you have to “save the world” or “escape the threat” or similar “one overarching objective” games work.

      The frame of mind is almost literally the character’s libido acting as a sort of mission agent/inner voice.

      • tormeh says:

        I wish it had been my libido that drove me on the dancefloor and not raging loneliness and self-loathing. I’ve found out that a lot of the things masquerading as my libido were anything but. It’s all wasted youth.

  5. Fomorian1988 says:

    “Sacrilege is a free interactive fiction game about trying to pull guys in a nightclub. It’s by Cara Ellison.”

    Don’t know why there’s more text after that paragraph, that’s all I the encouragement I needed.

    • Melody says:

      “Sacrilege is […] by Cara Ellison”

      Now, that’s all the encouragement you need

      • WiggumEsquilax says:

        He had you at Cara.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        “Sacrilege… Cara Ellison” They fit so nicely together that there is no need for anything else to be said.

  6. daphne says:

    Sacrilege: I Really Liked Slave of God

  7. Kempston Wiggler says:

    I lived in Aberdeen for 12 years and never met Cara Ellison. I feel life has thoroughly cheated me, because based solely on this incredible little game we may have got on like a house on fire (which is a weird expression, isn’t it? We would have enjoyed a relationship like the burning of a home and anything living inside at the time…er, ok)

    I hated clubs. Always felt like I didn’t belong in them, didn’t understand the rules or wasn’t as well prepared for them as other people clearly were. They gave me terrible angst, much of it like the character in the game.

  8. TeraTelnet says:

    I have to agree with pretty much everything in this article, with the caveat that I have experienced some of the viewpoints in the game and was very deeply affected as a result.

  9. Beefeater1980 says:

    Just played it, really cool. Very resonant; I have at various times in my life been various of the people who are speaking (or being spoken to) in the story. A clever and interesting game and one that more people should try.

  10. rabbit says:

    i thought it was really fucking good.
    perfect song choice.

    that’s one 22 year old straight white guy’s opinion anyway

    really great

  11. toshiro says:

    Excellent, excellent stuff. I am amazed to have found a gaming community so free from the normal macho bullshit that is gamersgate and the likes. Thank you for existing. As you were.

    • rabbit says:

      100% agree
      I don’t really identify as anything but I guess ‘punk’ might be close enough… a lot of what I listen to is punk, anyway. and a lot of the people who have inspired me most have been in some way either connected to the punk community or just a step or so removed.

      and anyway, I… It’s been real nice to come from my corner of that community to this one and find the two so similar.
      and I don’t really think it’s specifically ‘punk’. and i hesitate to call it forward thinking or left leaning or progressive or anything. I just think it’s kind of … trying not to be a shitty human being. it’s just trying to treat people like human beings and trying not to tread on people’s toes. and I wish more people would do it and i’m glad that for the most part, people both here and there (within the punk community I associate with) do try to do it.

      I like this place.

  12. Baring says:

    Huh. Went through the game 10 minutes ago. I still have flushed cheeks and this “sparkling”(?) feeling under my skin. I’m very impressed, especially with the second half of the game.

  13. Truck_Rockpec says:

    AHHHHH Cara! Excellent work! I went with Luke, initially, and felt like at one point in my life, with one woman, I *was* Luke. I knew what was happening, knew what would happen, pretended like it didn’t matter, until it did, and I couldn’t change it. Interesting to experience what may/may not have been the other side of the story.

    Also, I’m really enjoying this “Have You Played?” series. I tried Masq the other day and loved it.

  14. draglikepull says:

    “It’s so very different from how I live, and how I lived even before I closed the doors on true youth. I have never experienced any of what happens on Sacrilege’s dancefloor, from either ‘side’ ”

    This is exactly why the game didn’t work for me. The basic idea of the game (go to a nightclub, get drunk, try to have sex with a stranger) just fails to resonate with me on any level, so regardless of whatever else it has going for it, I just don’t find the experience especially interesting.

  15. webs1 says:

    It didn’t really resonate with me until the scrapbook part, which altered my opinion of the game quite a bit in hindsight.
    I could then also relate with the thing about not wanting to wait until you are 40.
    As a young male in my 20s, I wasn’t really experienced enough/confident enough to really say what I wanted and ask what she wanted. In some cases, that wasn’t really necessary, and we just clicked. But even this instances would probably have been even more rewarding if we talked more about our desires.
    Youth is wasted on the young really is more than a cliché. Too bad you usually only realize that when you are too old.

    Hm, where is the music part? I didn’t hear any, and I think I went through the whole game.

  16. amateurviking says:

    I hadn’t. I have now.

    Feel like I wasted my twenties a little.

    Hugs please.

    Edit: wasted them a lot.

    Edit edit: shouldn’t have played that whilst drunk and working away from home.


  17. mpOzelot says:

    Been playing this while still stinking of club and while listening to Techno. Really pleasing experience.