Have You Played… Digital: A Love Story?

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

There’s a moment in Digital: A Love Story [official site] when your (in-game) computer starts to crackle. Lines of pixels run across your screen and obscure your view. You’re under attack! Your attacker has manipulated a vulnerability in your system. But… didn’t you upgrade? Didn’t you patch this very vulnerability? Why hasn’t the upgrade been applied? That’s when you realise there’s a simple solution to your hacker problem: turning it off and on again.

I like to think of Digital as a compact, personal Uplink. Shorter and sweeter and much less frantic. You spend less time cracking passwords and more time simply catching up with BBS boards. One personal message about a new TV series called ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’, complains that “this bald guy is just terrible”. There’s a warmth to all this petty electronic crime. Behind the usernames, you begin to feel the presence of the people who inhabit these early forums.

Peppered with cyberpunk references, some great chiptune, and that deliciously crunchy 56k modem noise, it astutely replicates both the community and ass-hattery of any anonymous internet space. Observations about stupidity, rabid opinion-forming and the murmurings of mob mentality appear alongside messages of kindness, friendship and understanding. Between the PMs of “FUCK YOU” and “whatever man your stupid” there are plenty of users willing to teach, talk and get to know each other. It is rare that niche cyberpunk games veer into such gentle territory. Thankfully, Digital: A Love Story has the bravery to match conspiracy and mystery with a genuine and innocent romance story. I’m glad it’s out there.

Digital: A Love Story is available for free from the author’s site.

27 Comments

  1. Winged Nazgul says:

    As someone who grew up watching countless reruns of Star Trek (the original series), I can confirm I thought the same thing about the bald guy when TNG made its debut.

    I really should get around to playing Digital some day. :(

  2. skulgun says:

    Christine Love does not want you to play Digital, as she believes it is bad and awful.

    She’s wrong,though.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      She does? Do you have a link to this? That would increase my respect for her many-fold, since it’s, well, it’s not bad and awful, but it’s not very good, IMO, and the praise it gets baffles me. I found it trite, twee, simplistic, utterly predictable, thought it wallowed in nostalgia for no good reason and did little if anything else, and it’s one reason I’ve never played anything else of hers.

        • Eight Rooks says:

          Oh, okay, she means mechanically terrible. No, forget it, then. I don’t remember it being confusing at all – I certainly don’t remember getting stuck on what to do. It was just a John Hughes movie gone SF-lite with a veneer of “Haha, this is exactly like my childhood” – I guessed the twist, I had no connection with the art/sound design (I was a kid back then, but I wasn’t using the internet/BBS/whatever), I didn’t feel the plot ever did anything interesting with the premise, so it bounced off me entirely.

      • anHorse says:

        It’s her only game that isn’t shit

        • wisnoskij says:

          This! The others are, at best, seriously flawed OK games.

          • Harrington says:

            Hear, hear. I’m curious what she sees lacking in Digital, because it’s always been by far my favorite of hers – I’ve found the games she’s done since then to be increasingly alienating, with more fan service than plot or new ideas. I bounced off Hate Plus so fast I could hear a *boing*, and her new game looks like it’s not going to improve things.

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            Gassalasca says:

            +1!

          • jrodman says:

            @Harrington: from her followups, it seems like she thinks this game lets players get stuck, and moves things along awkwardly (I’m reading between the lines). Personally, having foisted this game on around 4 people, I’m skeptical. None of them got stuck, and all of them were captivated. Three had BBS nostalgia going for them, but one was young enough to have never seen a modem, and was still fascinated by that part of things, or maybe especially because of it was fascinated.

        • jrodman says:

          In with this.

    • Kitsunin says:

      Hm. I think as a (free) introduction to Christine Love’s stories, Don’t Take it Personally… is much better. More in line with her style, still excellent, and definitely not going to confuse people to a point of buggering off.

      But Digital is great, and it’s something people who maybe can’t stand her other games can and likely will absolutely enjoy. But again, I can understand wanting to distance herself from it, because people who like it won’t necessarily like anything else she’s made, and people who might like her other works could be discouraged by Digital.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        I didn’t like Don’t Take It[…] much as it was just too… something for me.

        I absolutely love Digital however and Analogue is sooooo good as well. I still need to play Hate Plus but I keep putting it off because I’m afraid it cannot live up to Analogue.

        • Kitsunin says:

          I don’t think Hate Plus does live up to Analogue. Still, it’s very good, and the background makes Analogue even better in retrospect. Oddly you’d probably enjoy it more if you went through it with Mute the first time, though I can’t say for sure since I continued with Hyun-ae first, as with Analogue, but that’s really the feeling I got.

      • Yglorba says:

        Don’t Take it Personally was the only one of her games I outright disliked. The problem with it was that (to me, at least) the main character came across as outright detestable, and worse, the author didn’t seem to realize that she had gone way too far in making him detestable. I don’t mind utterly awful protagonists sometimes, but when it feels like the author doesn’t intend it that way, it makes the whole story feel off.

        (Without going into too much detail to avoid spoilers, I feel the problem is that the ending doesn’t actually change the context of what the main character knew and what he did and didn’t do, which means it doesn’t do anything to redeem him.)

        • Kitsunin says:

          I really don’t think he came off as detestable. Rather, he was a pretty real character, filled with flaws but probably more well-meaning than most. Taking the worse choices, he’s clueless on what to do even with so much information taken from violated privacy. Taking the better ones, his violations of privacy are used to generally help his students as much as he can, which doesn’t make that okay…but how bad is it? He certainly thought it was bad, but couldn’t resist the temptation. Which is probably pretty realistic, if we’re honest.

          And that’s pretty much the theme of the story, if the person being “spied on” doesn’t consider their “private” conversations private in the first place (given there are other methods to have a properly private communication) maybe it really isn’t bad? Maybe taking the time to get to know people through their semi-private communications is even a form of caring for them? I dunno, but that’s what I got from it, and I didn’t really see any actions along the way I would describe as more than “questionable”, which doesn’t exactly require karmic retribution.

          • Yglorba says:

            To be a bit more specific, the thing I found detestable about him was that (based on the options you’re given and the options you’re not given), he flat-out cares more about keeping his job and avoiding prosecution than he cares about the lives of his students.

          • Kitsunin says:

            It seems like his caution was pretty realistic. Considering he thinks he’s spying on them, and a fair amount of the stuff he ends/might end up doing for them would already put him in extremely hot water if found out, going out of his way because it might help someone out with a problem he has no business knowing about in the first place, seems pretty risky.

            Though overall, I really can’t remember too well (odd, because I replayed it just a few months ago). It seems like sometimes he acted sort of apathetic, but having a bit of personal experience with teaching, that made sense to me.

        • jrodman says:

          I hated it because the game tried to put me in the shoes of the teacher, and then the game forced me to choose from several choices, all of which I hated.

          Maybe that is sort of the point of the game, but that didn’t make me enjoy it want to keep playing. So I stopped.

          With this in mind, is Analogue worth giving a try? Don’t Take it Personally offended me enough that I didn’t bother with the later works.

  3. Risingson says:

    I enjoyed it. It is a beautiful short love tale that tells alienation stories in different layers. And it lacks the overexposition in the other Christine Love games. I also find it prettier.

    • RabbitIslandHermit says:

      Yeah, I agree with this. I like Love’s newer stuff, too (even Hate Plus which I wasn’t a fan of overall forced me to bake a cake IRL, which was awesome), but I found Digital to be more cohesive and a lot prettier.

  4. stele says:

    +1 Amiga

  5. somnolentsurfer says:

    Yes! I played it the day I read Gillen’s original post (disappointed to discover I didn’t comment on it as proof of my hipster cred). Christine Love’s later work may be better in a whole load of ways, but there’s something about the first of someone’s work you encounter that means it will always be special. And this has it’s own charm that’s different from either of her Analogue titles.

  6. Laurentius says:

    It is excellent and the only Christine Love’s game that I like b/c of Amiga and nostalgia and Uplink vibe.

  7. Beefenstein says:

    If you call it “power cycling” it sounds much more impressively technical. And if it worked for Apollo 14 it will work for an aging desktop at the dowdy premises of a call-center supply business in Utoxeter.

  8. Fenix says:

    I really liked it, as someone that has spent tons of time on IRC it was kind of a nostalgia trip… and I found the whole thing cute. Story was ehhh, didnt love the ending.