Have you ever felt stuck in a relationship? Have you ever felt trapped, not because you were forced to stay, but because you couldn't bring yourself to say no, this is not good for me, this is not what I want? Have you ever had to contend with a narcissistic tech bro?
We have. And we decided to make a game about it.
... It's You: A Breakup Story is a video game where it is them, not you. The game is both an examination and critique of patterns of emotional abuse and those who use them. That, and a permission slip that says you are allowed to say no. It's a story-driven sandbox that ends whenever you want it to end. Whether you spend your energy arguing or you hit the block button on ring one, you decide what feels fair and justified to you.
And in this game, no matter how it was for you in real life, your friends are gonna support you. And for every asshole who'll @ you to defend your boyfriend, there'll be ten people who'll message you to say they care.
But to make all this happen, we'll need you to support us in paying our voice actor.
We need $900 to hire Jacob Burgess to play our antagonist: The Boyfriend. Jacob Burgess has been featured in story-rich games ranging from RPGs to interactive fiction. His recent titles include Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, Masquerada: Songs of Shadows, and Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear. He's been described as "talented", "versatile", and "passionate". When we sent him the brief on this character, he not only understood immediately the sort of insecurity that underpins his actions, he was excited to get into his mind and bring it to life. We have already painted all the backgrounds, prototyped all the features, and drafted all the dialogue. As I write this, our second round of playtesters are running through the game and giving us the much-needed feedback to make it true to life, bug-free, and safe for our players. All we're missing is the voice. We have the man if we can get the money. With $900, we'll have everything we need to finish this game.
What's The Game?
After a long shift at the hospital, Carlee arrives home and is content to spend the night idly scrolling through Tweeter until eventually succumbing to sleep. Instead, she gets a call from her boyfriend and has to decide if this relationship is really worth staying in.
... It's You is a real-time visual novel where ignoring your boyfriend is also a choice. Don't think your character would respond, or could? Let the timer run down and have silence do the talking. Fed up with what's going on? Hang-up at any time, even when he is mid-sentence. Like every other choice, this one changes the story. Blocking him is also an option. Perhaps it's the only way out.
While the conversation drags on, scroll through social media as a comforting respite. He may grow upset with you for not listening, but maybe you're tired of everything he has to say. Maybe it'd be different if he ever asked about you.
Ultimately, in our game, you set the pace. There is no critical path through this game, nor is there even an expected one. The topic of conversation is dynamic, changing course as you try to drive it but pressing forward if you don't. You might decide to block him from the get-go, ending the game even before it starts, or you might try to argue with him or mend it. Will that fix it? Is there a way to "win"? To break-up amicably? Does that possibility bind you ethically to bearing the burden of seeking it out? You don't play to find out; you play to decide for yourself.
An average playthrough is about thirty minutes.
What People are Saying
One player said the game made her realize she wasn't the bad guy for feeling her last partner was taking advantage of her. Another said he came out of it realizing he had been kind of selfish when his partner wanted to end things. Others have described it as uncomfortable and real.
The ending has made people smile.
Here is an art sample of the portraits we will be painting of you if you choose the "Smile!" reward. Art for these is by Sarah Fisher.
The game is currently being developed by four passionate people who have dedicated their precious evenings and weekends to make this game. Some of us have had experience with emotionally abusive relationships, whether it be a parent or romantic partner. We know what it's like to be manipulated, confused, and dragged through a quagmire of excuses, "facts", and guilt trips until we don't know which direction is out anymore.
That being said, our experiences don't represent all experiences. Many people have had it much worse than we have, and barriers physical and economic closed doors we always had open. This game represents one bad relationship, not them all. We want players to explore the ways we handled these things, but also the ways we didn't, and maybe should have.
Brook Jensen - Lead Writer, Developer, Creative Director
Traci Dow - Writer, Cat Owner, Social Media Personality
David Deschamps - Developer, Face Palmer, Likes to use the word "Verisimilitude"
Vivay Li - Artist, Moral Supporter, Says our game is "Weird"
Raegan Millhollin - Writer, Tweeter, Video Game Enthusiast
Jacob Burgess - Voice Actor, Said "Oh God" after hearing the character he'd be playing.
Liam Gallagher - Musician, Sound Designer
20% of the games proceeds (after taxes, etc.) will be donated to the Atira Women's Resource Society which provides trans-inclusive transitional housing to women in British Columbia.
Assuming our project is funded, we can begin recording in January and finish the project around mid-2018.
You can follow the updates for the project on Twitter @ItsYouBreakup.
We're keeping our stretch goals pretty slim because our game is small and we don't want it to transform into something it's not. That being said, there are a couple bells and whistles we can add.
At $1300, the bells and whistles are boring fees. Boring fees include paying the audio engineer to properly edit and master the recordings so they don't sound like garbage in the game. Boring fees include paying to be on steam. Boring fees include lots of boring stuff that we need to pay for that don't sound glamorous on a Kickstarter page. At $1300, we can pay all our boring fees.
At $1600, you get Toon-ify. No, not Spotify. Toon-ify. At $1600 we will have our composer, Liam Gallagher, create three original works that will be featured in an in-game music player on the protagonist's desktop. You'll be able to change songs, change volume, and maybe, if you set it high enough, even piss off the person you're supposed to be listening too...
Anything above and beyond will be used for additional polish or set aside for future projects.
Risks and challenges
Although we have brought a number of pieces of interactive fiction and visual novels to market (see our past work @ http://studio.brwarner.net), we have never worked with a voice actor before. We've given him a detailed view of the script, and budgeted 4 hours of recording time for the 1 hour of final audio (usually you want 3-4 minutes per recorded minute so you can get multiple takes and give proper vocal directions), but there's a possibility we may go over time. If so, we are prepared to pay out of pocket for the difference. If we get our budget for four hours, we will get this done no matter how long it actually takes (unless I go bankrupt).Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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