In the early to mid 2000’s, the popular way to hold convocations over the internet was through an instant messaging client. There were two that I remember using called AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and then Microsoft released one as well called Windows Live Messenger. This is a series about instant messaging, friendships and often failing to get girlfriends.
The year is 2002, you’re on your beige desktop computer running the latest version of Windows XP with the Instant messenger of choice up and running. You log in with a screen name and change your text colour to show you’re an anxty teen, and send a message to your best mate to say hi. Emily Is Away was developed and published by a guy called Kyle Seeley for Windows, Mac and SteamOS. As I mentioned in the intro, the game is a replica of the era of time where you would talk to your friends on AIM about pointless shit like music and films, hating doing homework and talking about who’s going out with who.
The whole experience of this game is to hold a conversation with one of your best friends. The way you talk in this game is interesting, you have a choice of 3 different options of what message to send. For example, the first convocation is started by saying, Hey, Hello or Howdy. After your selected message is sent you need to write the message. What’s clever is that the way to get your message of choice on screen is to actually type on your keyboard to get the characters to appear. There are also shortcuts to speed up your selection of text by using the number keys on the keyboard instead of clicking on your option. While this is an interesting way to get involved and immersed into the nostalgia. Having to go through the effort of tapping your keyboard to get pre written text that you can’t really control is really just a bit of a pain in the arse. Hear lies my first issue with the game.
The second issue is that the game is advertised as a game that has a “branching narrative”. This means to me that there are options that I can make through the game that will deliver me to a different ending. While technically this isn’t a lie, the game does feature ways to get different convocations if you played through the game more than once. But each branch comes ends up back in a single line to form what is really a linear story.
I found that while the story was strong, all it really did was cause me to feel depressed. In the first short chapter you can feel that there is a strong connection between the two main characters but after the third or fourth chapter things start falling apart, there are two different routes that can be taken here but in the end it gets you to the same point. While the overall feeling that was received by the game may not be interpreted as a good thing, it still does well to mimic the way that sometime people just grow apart.
Stepping away from the mechanics of the game and into the way the game looks, and more importantly to a nerd such as myself, the way the game sounds. The whole game is based around what looks to be an interpretation of the operating system that everyone was using during 2002. Windows XP. And with that comes all the amazing sounds that the hardware made during that time, the whirring of the fans in the background, the clicking of the floppy drive and the buzzing of an old slow hard drive spinning up so some data could be written or read. These sounds didn’t need to be recorded for the game but seriously help the game make you feel like you’re sitting in front of a beige powerhouse computer.
The other way that the game makes you feel like you’re in 2002 is by having a design that looks a lot like AIM, the ability to change your avatar each year is also a nice touch referencing various things that were in pop culture at the time of each year. For example, you can select a blurry but obvious picture of film logos or album covers. One of the things that I like is that there are a few hidden Easter Eggs in the game, I’ve recorded one of them in the video below.
So to sum it all up, the game is brilliant at taking you back to a time that may make you feel nostalgic or make you realise how much technology has really moved along. The story can be a bit hit or miss and may cause you to end up feeling the feels but it’s still great to go through. The one thing that pushes me to really recommend this game. It’s completely free to play on steam.
Overall I’m going to give this game an 7.5/10