I’m a sucker for robot literature. I don’t care how many times I read a story about AIs dealing with love or hate, or how many times I read a story using robots as a metaphor for class issues, or how many times a robot that can pass as human changes everything forever, or how many times a scientist builds a robot child that somehow also becomes a super hero, I never get tired of them. This includes every “proto-robot” story as well, be it Frankenstein’s monster or the original Rossum’s Universal Robots that coined the term but referred to biologically grown organisms. There is something unpretentious about a good literary robot. They are the perfect vehicle for playing with ideas of identity, existence, and awareness. Imagining how a mind becomes aware, or how an aware mind deals with limitations or barriers.
You Were Made For Loneliness handles this well. The dichotomy between how the robotic maid views the world and herself and how others, unable to truly communicate with her, project their own identities onto her is fascinating. While isolated and alone in the physical world of her employment, there is evidence that she is not as alone as she appears within her own mind. The ever-present assault of different memories and narratives, and the questions their existence raises, provides a narrative space for the reader to play with themes and ideas, as well as piece together the story of this world. It reminds me a lot of the work of Alain Robbe-Grillet, an author who famously played with games and play within his novels. Like Robbe-Grillet, Tsukareta uses their narrative to define a metaphysical space and the rules that exist within that space.
Something I like about Twine games is how it easily lets clever designers play with how we think about choices. The fact that your robot has several options seem viable until you try to choose them, only to find them suddenly striked out, seems simple, but it effectively communicates the mindset of someone that is capable of thinking beyond the boundaries they are trapped within. The fact that the game shows you options you can’t choose lets us know what our robot protagonist is thinking about. Even if we never wanted to choose those options ourselves, we are aware that it was on their mind, and that in turn influences how we play and how we think about the narrative.
As the game progresses, we as players become used to our lack of autonomy, and our ability to change things only within the context of that metaphysical space. Without giving anything away, when we finally do get to exert control outside of that space and within the formerly linear narrative, it is a powerful moment. How we choose to act is then influenced by how we chose to play within that metaphysical space.
You Were Made For Loneliness is a lovely, interesting, sad, disturbing and hopeful game. It is free to play or download, but the creators accept donations.