Do you wanna play a game?
Game designer, animator and writer Hannes Flor has created a “game” reminiscent of the classic ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books, except Flor’s game is the worst choose-your-own-adventure ever. This “game” is nothing more than a narrative in which the “player” is given options in how to proceed – or should I say that the “player” is given the illusion of options in how to proceed. But we’ll get to that.
The narrative unfolds from the perspective of a 14-year-old girl in high school who has just come to the realization that an older boy in school – handsome and popular – has not only noticed her, but has taken an interest in her. The “game” aspect is introduced when we are given options of how the protagonist may proceed at different junctures of her interaction with this boy. At every juncture, the player is given two choices which essentially boil down to ‘proceed’ or ‘decline.’ However, it quickly becomes clear that the narrative attached to the choice made by the player does not truly represent that choice. When the player makes the conscious decision to ‘proceed,’ they are met with a reluctant narrative; when the player makes the conscious decision to ‘decline,’ the narrative essentially proceeds regardless.
In this sense, the agenda is very clear that the author believes all roads lead to rape. Regardless of whether the protagonist consciously consents or actively removes themselves from the situation, they will still get raped. Agency? What is that? Women are clearly objects that are only capable of being acted upon. Despite their disdain for the objectification of women, feminist rhetoric continues to boil down to women being incapable of making rational, healthy, intelligent decisions for themselves, instead only being capable of reacting to actions performed upon them.
My first attempt at this “game” involved my making every attempt ‘proceed’ with this boy’s advances and return his affection. I have always been comfortable in my sexuality, even at the age of the presented protagonist, so I felt no reason to fear or spurn his advances. After all, the protagonist describes him in such a manner that suggests that she, too, is attracted to him:
“My heart skipped a beat. He was tall, handsome, and all of my friends had a crush on him. I always thought he was way too cool for me.”
When I was 14-years-old and felt this way about a boy, you better believe that I would return his affections – with gusto – and consent to his advances. Of course, I appreciate that not every female feels the same way as I do, but I would at least appreciate a “choose-your-own-adventure” game that does not shame me for my sexuality. After all, isn’t feminism supposed to liberate women from centuries of sexual repression?
So when playing this “game,” I attempted to proceed with the boy’s advances. When the protagonist noticed that the boy had his eyes fixated on her, I chose to wave rather than keep walking. When the boy invited the protagonist and her friend to a party, I chose to accept rather than decline.
When the protagonist was at the party with the boy and he handed her a drink, I chose to drink it rather than not. When the boy kissed the protagonist, I chose to let him rather than pull back (no option to kiss back, just “let him”).
When the boy sent the protagonist a Christmas card, I chose to send a card back rather than not. When the boy tried to hold the hand of the protagonist when they were alone, I chose to let him rather than pull away (again, no option to hold back, just “let him”).
When the boy asked the protagonist to meet him behind the school after her last class, I chose to meet him rather than go home. When the boy kissed the protagonist again, I chose to let him rather than pull back (again, no option to kiss back, just “let him”).
When the boy asked the protagonist to take a walk during a party at the lake, I chose to go with him rather than refuse. When the boy kissed the protagonist again, I chose to let him rather than pull away (again, no option to kiss back, just “let him”).
Then, when the boy continues his advances, pushing the protagonist to the ground while continuing to kiss her, reaching under her sweater, and finally penetrating her, there is no option to consent or engage in any sort of mutual sexual activity. The only option is to lay still and freeze up.
The positive narrative is extremely telling, as it suggests that women do not have the option to consent or even mutually engage in any sort of sexual activity. Women are merely objects to be acted upon by men. What I also found interesting is that when making the choices to proceed with the boy, including waving, accepting party invitations, having a drink, sending a Christmas card, meeting the boy behind the school, and going for a walk with the boy, the protagonist does so awkwardly, without a shred of confidence, and even reluctantly, as if to suggest that the conscious decision to accept this boy’s advances is the wrong choice.
When the protagonist waves to the boy, she does so “shyly and briefly … attempt[ing] an ultimately awkward smile.” When she accepts the party invitation, she does so “hesitantly” with her friend’s coercion. When she takes a drink, she is “nervous.” She claims that “[t]he first sip tasted strange,” and that she “tried to suppress a shudder.” When she “lets him” kiss her, the narrative does not actually follow that she “lets him,” but rather that she has no idea what is going on and that she makes no conscious decisions in response to the kiss:
“Before I knew what was happening, his lips were pressed against mine. I didn’t know what to do. I was shocked and embarrassed and confused all at once. The force of the kiss made me lose my balance, and I stumbled back.”
When she sends a Christmas card to the boy, she feels “stupid and childish.” When she “lets him” hold her hand, the narrative again suggests that she does not make a conscious decision to let him, but rather doesn’t know how to respond, feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed:
“I didn’t know what to do. It felt strange at first, and again I felt uncomfortable and a little embarrassed.”
When she meets him behind the school, she does no “nervously,” rather than eagerly or anxiously. When she “lets him” kiss her again, the narrative repeats that she does not understand what is happening, so she does not in fact make the conscious decision to let him kiss her. The narrative also suggests that, despite the player making these conscious decisions that are not represented in the narrative, the experience is absolutely awful:
“I was in shock. Before I knew what was happening, he had pushed his tongue into my mouth. It tasted bitter and salty, and saliva was running down his tongue onto mine. My stomach turned and I tried to pull away, but my back was against the wall.”
Notice that, even though the player chose NOT to pull back, the narrative presents the protagonist as attempting to pull away anyways.
It is clear that any conscious and consensual decision made on the part of the player does NOT fit the narrative (read agenda) of this author. Later when she goes for a walk with the boy, she is “immediately scared” and her “heart in [her] throat.” And again, when she “lets him” kiss her an additional time, the narrative does not actually portray her as “letting him,” but rather of her simply freezing and feeling sick:
“I froze. Before I knew what was happening, his tongue was in my mouth, bitter and salty, and I felt sick.”
It is clear that this “game” is made to culminate in a certain way, regardless of the consensual sexuality of the player. Any attempt the player makes to engage in consensual sexual activity is quashed by a narrative the implies that this is the wrong choice, following consensual choices with awkwardness, reluctance, hesitance, nervousness, embarrassment, confusion, discomfort, shock, and feeling ill.
Just for fun, lets see what happens when we make opposite decisions and decide not to return the boy’s affection – keep in mind that you would have to clear your browser’s cookies or play this “game” in an incognito or private browser that does not store cookies, as the game refuses to allow the player to “start over,” claiming “There is no starting over. This happened.” Very dramatic.
When the player chooses to keep walking rather than wave to the boy, he still smiles and nods at her. Fine, no big deal. When the player chooses to decline the party invitation rather than accept, the protagonist’s friend coerces her into going anyway.
There we go; the author continues to deny the player a narrative that follows the conscious decisions that they made. It also implies that girls are incapable of making their own decisions without being swayed by pressure from their peers.
I always see feminists treating women as far more feeble and simple-minded than any non-feminist. When the player chooses not to drink, the protagonist still takes the drink, even holds it up to her mouth before the smell makes her “stomach turn.” At least with this choice, she does not actually ingest the drink. She only sits and holds it awkwardly. When the player chooses to pull back rather than “let him” kiss her, instead of the narrative allowing the protagonist to assert herself and make a conscious decision not to be kissed, she merely reacts. Again.
“In a knee-jerk reaction, I stumbled back and stared at him, shocked. I didn’t understand what had just happened; all I knew was that I suddenly felt very self-conscious and ashamed.”
When the player chooses not to send a Christmas card to the boy, the protagonist still attempts to write a note, trying “over at least a hundred times” and failing before finally following the decision not to reciprocate.
When the player chooses to pull away rather than “let him” hold her hand, the narrative continues to portray the protagonist as clueless, rejecting the player’s choice by having the protagonist derive her value by the boy’s opinion of her, holding his hand for a while anyway before pretending to look for something in her pocket so that he doesn’t think that she “was a scared little child.”
When the player chooses to go home rather than meet him behind the school, the boy still catches her in the parking lot and takes her behind the school to talk. When the player chooses to pull back rather than “let him” kiss her, the narrative that follows is identical to the narrative following the choice to “let him” kiss her – she doesn’t understand what is happening and is unable to pull away.
When the player chooses to refuse rather than go with him for a walk at the lake, the protagonist is portrayed as just as scared as she was when the player chose to go with him.
When the protagonist attempts to follow the decision made by the player, she is coerced into the walk anyway by the boy simply saying that “it wouldn’t take long” and that he “just wanted to talk.” It really seems that the author doesn’t think much of women or girls if such a weak attempt at coercion is enough to sway them from their original convictions.
When the player chooses to pull away rather than “let him” kiss her again, she is again entirely unaware of what is happening and apparently unable to follow through on the decision to pull away.
This is where it gets really interesting. As the boy continues his advances, pushing the protagonist to the ground while continuing to kiss her, reaching under her sweater, and finally penetrating her, the other options that counter those of laying still and freezing up that were previously mentioned cannot be selected.
The player is presented with an option to stop him, push him away, and fight him off over the course of the encounter, but when selected, nothing happens as a result for that choice. It is almost as if the author believes that these aren’t valid options; that if the protagonist makes any attempt to stop the boy, he will obviously just continue to force himself upon the girl due to his inherent masculine rapey nature.
Another major problem in the narrative is the complete lack of communication. The author depicts a close relationship between the protagonist and the boy; one where they take walks and talk for hours; one where she was able to have extremely personal conversations and confide in him about things that even her best friend didn’t understand; one that was “more special than love” – yet throughout all of that, the protagonist is still entirely unable to communicate her feelings to the boy in regards to being clearly opposed to establishing a physical relationship with him.
Whenever he kisses her, the narrative portrays her as utterly revolted and aghast at what is happening, yet she never actually tells him that she does not want him to kiss her. In the end, when the narrative portrays her as being raped via a lack of enthusiastic consent, she never actually says “no” or “stop” or any other verbal variant that suggests to him that she is not engaging willingly. She was able to communicate so many other things to him, but not her seeming unwillingness to engage in sexual activity with him? This is extremely problematic.
Via an examination of the two possible decision trees in this “game” – one being a collection of the most consensual decisions possible given the choices made available, the other being a collection of decisions designed to remove oneself from the situation and reject the advances made upon them – it is clear that the agenda being promoted suggests that no matter how consensual her behavior, and no matter what she does to remove herself from a situation or reject advances made upon her, she will be raped.
Because all roads lead to rape.