At long long last, the playable alpha version of Chasing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Game About Love, Consent, and Respect is available at itch.io!
This game is inspired by my research into the performance of gender in online culture and how the tropes of online games are starting to make themselves felt in real world scenarios. One of the most explicit places I discovered in which the real world was being “gamified” was in the world of Pick Up Artistry, where dating guides claim to know the “secret code” to unlock a girls’ heart by breaking down her self esteem and her will to resist.
Reading these manuals (which are rife with references to “video game bosses” and “high scores”) put me in mind of one of my favorite films, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. In many ways, the film resembles a video game. Murray’s character must relive the same day over and over until he achieves a perfect run, doing everything exactly right so that he can finally win over his co-worker. Getting the girl becomes the same as “beating the game” and escaping the loop of failure in which he is trapped.
After reading up on Pick Up Artistry, I started to re-think the film and I recognized some of its less savory characteristics. The film posits that Murray’s love interest isn’t really a person with feelings and desires in the same way that he is. Rather, she is an obstacle that must be overcome, an adversary that Murray must defeat to gain access to her prize: sex (and, presumably also love).
If occurred to me that this is a pretty poor vision of love. If attraction is simply the irresistible product of the perfect mix of piano recitals and ice sculptures and town dances and not something that your partner can equally choose, then it doesn’t, to me, seem to be something that a healthy person would want.
I began to wonder: what if we reverse the central premise of Groundhog Day? What if we created a story with a time loop at its center in which the protagonist has to learn that there is no such thing as a perfect run, that a person’s feelings are their feelings and that they cannot be changed with a single social formula or an isolated Big Romantic Gesture. What if Murray’s character in Groundhog Day had to learn acceptance instead of how to conquer?
This game is the result of that thought experiment.
Note that the gender, race, body type, etc of the protagonist, CJ, are all deliberately unspecified. This is for two reasons: first, visual novels typically do not show their protagonists or allow them to speak so that the player can project themselves more readily onto them. Second, I wanted to make the protagonist as accessible to as many different types of players as possible, both to make the game more welcoming to players of all types and also to prevent players from blaming CJ’s girl troubles on something irrelevant to the story. Masumi isn’t rejecting CJ because of their identity or their body or their fashion sense or their money situation. Masumi just doesn’t feel about CJ the way that CJ feels about her. And this game is about CJ learning to come to terms with that fact, to give up feelings of entitlement and shame, and to move forward with life, finding new opportunities to grow and love along the way.
Please feel free to report any issues, from game breaking bugs to spelling errors, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and send along your comments, good or bad!
You can also leave bug reports and notes as a comment on this page or on the game’s page at itch.io.
This game will always be free to play.
Look for the forthcoming Kickstarter for the Ultimate Edition, featuring:
More facial expressions!
More sound effects!
Downloadable versions for Windows and Apple?
Android and iOS versions?
And who knows what else?
The Ultimate Edition will help support the writer and the artist as they make more educational games and interactive pedagogical… things.
Chasing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Game About Love, Consent, and Respect
Written by Megan Condis
Original Character Art by Sylvia Armitstead
Built in TyranoBuilder
Backgrounds based on photographs released under Creative Commons CC0 by Pixabay Users:
422737, donterase, ejilee, fancycrave1
funnytools, lrainero, janeb13, LilacL
Meitzke, newhouse, PublicDomainPictures, tookapic
tpsdave, TryJimmy, Unsplash, Wokandapix
Sound Effects By YouTubers:
HQSFX, Berlin Atmospheres, Sound Effects Central,
Sound Effects by Paul, SFX Planet, RoyalFree Sound
SFX Guy, Sound Effects, SFX World
Music by Newgrounds Users:
“Just Like Home Part 1” by Them Strangers
“Without You” by XaberOptix
“Sirius” by DJ GameOn
“Mechanization” by Spoonukem
“Found Lost” by SP34K3RM4N
“Fruity” by Gujit
“Purple Glass” by jonathanmlang
“The Island (You Are Getting Old)” by AnOrdinaryVision
“Summer Skyes” by Necroionutwiz
“Fallen Leaves” by EdKempeper
Special Thanks To
The English Departments at the University of Illinois and Stephen F. Austin State University
My dissertation committee members
and Spencer Schaffner
and also my Fields Exam Committee member
Thank you to the folks at WisCon and the readers of my blog who followed my progress as I made this game and encouraged me to keep working on it.
Thanks to my family, my friends, and my husband for your encouragement.
And thanks to you, the player, for seeing this game through to its end!
For more games by me as well as discussions of gender, sexuality, and gaming culture, check out my website at www.megancondis.wordpress.com
Or follow me on Twitter @MeganCondis