Imagine waking up to a world where people think less of you for reading or writing. Or one where it's not likely that you'd learn how to read or write at all, and if you did, you'd have to get rid of the evidence -- erase the data, destroy the letters. Imagine not having much control over the affairs of your life, from what you are allowed to say, to where you are able to go, or how you are able to live, to who you'd be allowed to marry. Imagine trying to rebel against this reality... and having your tongue cut out for it.
Now imagine all of this happening during a time when we've perfected space travel and cryogenic stasis.
Is that possible? Can we waltz into the future without carrying ‘progress' there with us? Won't technology pave the way for a better tomorrow; isn't this the promise found at the nucleus of science?
Christine Love, developer behind Analogue: A Hate Story and current Indiecade finalist, isn't so sure. Analogue, which takes the previous surreal-sounding premise and was released earlier this year to much praise, is a game that takes the idea of an advanced civilisation gone awry. This allows it to create a harrowing tale of a woman pushed too far. A woman who cannot deal with being treated as less than human and goes insane, killing everybody aboard her spaceship.
The story is fictional, but it's based on an actual time period; the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. This was a point in Korea's life when its society became strangely backwards thanks to internal strife and crisis -- much like 9/11 set up conditions that allowed the war on terror to become a perpetual state of being in the United States.
Now that Christine Love is working on the follow-up, DLC for Analogue titled ‘Hate Plus,' she hopes to tackle one of the failings of Analogue. Some players might've not realised that the point is that we are always just a step away from the type of society depicted in Analogue. "It's sort of easy to dismiss as just 'oh, that's just how it was in the past, it's all cool now!' Christine told me via instant messenger. Neo-Confucianism -- the central ideology behind the Joseon Dynasty -- making a comeback? Not likely.
Of course, it would be naive to think such a thing is completely impossible, especially with the burgeoning science of cliodynamics -- or, the study of historical dynamics which has uncovered that "history repeats itself" is more than a tired cliche. It's a thing whose existence is more and more proven real by mathematics. And with the constant media reminders of politicians who seem keen on mandating the ways a woman can be in charge of her own body, fearing a future where similar basic human rights are stripped from women is not wholly outlandish.
"It WAS a huge regression… in a way that North America right now kinda scarily reminds me of! You know, troubled times leading to nostalgia for the good old days (that didn't really exist), presenting modern inventions as being tradition," Christine mused.
"A lot of the tenets of neo-Confucianism were not actually things that were ever tradition; it makes me think of, say, the notion that being anti-abortion is a fundamental part of being Christian in the United States right now when really it's just something that dates to like the '70s. Only instead of selectively quoting Confucius, it's selectively quoting the bible."
Plus, it's curious to note that modern times have no shortage of what Naomi Klein calls "shock doctrines," or man-made crises engineered specifically to create the opportunity to push problematic reforms -- like the destruction of women's rights. Hypothetically, of course. But shock doctrine is why we have an utter erosion of rights in the in the United States right now -- the Patriot Act is an example -- all in the name of democracy.
Anna Anthropy puts it best when she states "a woman's apocalypse is not the terror of technological regression, but of social regression: not a strange and unknown future but the imposition of an all-too-familiar past....doesn't describe a far future nightmare, but a near one: the protagonist is a woman like me or you, living in her own house, dressing how she wants, fucking partners of her own choosing, whose world is changed overnight into one in which she is property, a walking, breathing womb, existing only so that she may carry a man's child."
For Christine, creating the story is no easy thing. During development she would often remark on the necessity of being drunk -- which is not uncommon for a writer, to be sure. But you don't often hear about authors who have difficulty writing because the subject is just that reprehensible and disgusting...but it takes playing Analogue to have a good idea of what this means, exactly. Suffice it to say that as I personally played, it wasn't uncommon for me to feel uneasy if not nauseated by the tale.
"Oh god, it's going to be terrible and scary to live in [the villains'] head for months...they're an evolutionary psychologist!" Christine exclaimed.
Still, it's an important exercise for her to undergo. "I'm kinda interested in how those ideas take root, both in people, and also in society. Nobody ever just wakes up one day and says "yeah, I hate women, I wish we'd stop letting them read."
The curiosity, to me -- as a personal friend of Christine -- seems to extend beyond needing to get into the appropriate headspace to write. As someone who struggles with mild Autism, Christine can sometimes have difficulty with social interactions, if not understanding feelings and emotions . It also seems like no mistake that most of her games feature AIs -- her early game, Digital: A Love Story, can be said to be a story where you teach an AI how to love. In this way, writing to me can sometimes seem as something Christine does to come to terms with her issues, if not overcome them.
But there's a more tangible benefit of figuring out how to write from the point of view of a misogynistic society, too. It can help us consider how to better deal with the reality it proposes. "I think it's a cop-out to dismiss philosophies as unimaginable and unempathisable, just because they're also reprehensible. For one thing, you can't fight what you don't understand," Christine explained. "And secondly… when presented with things that are unimaginably bad like that, people often like to think 'oh, I wouldn't be like that, I'd be different' and I think it's pretty important that people realise that no, they wouldn't. At least, not if they didn't understand the causes of it."
Hate Plus takes place right after A Hate Story, with your character returning to Earth after having discovered the tragedy that occurred on the spaceship. The plan is to shed some light on what, exactly, were the circumstances that led to the society breaking down and reverting to a less progressive philosophy.
Prior to Love Plus, these circumstances were a piquant mystery: the player had no idea what happened to make things the way they were. This makes the prospect of Hate Plus an exciting one, as it will finally answer big questions that Analogue left unanswered. It's particularly enticing when you consider that it, too, will take many inspirations from actual history. Christine wants to "draft a plausible political program for women's rights being completely eroded." She expects to undergo heavy research in hefty tomes of Korean history, much like her first game.
She teases that if players thought Analogue was sad, they're in for something else on Hate Plus. "I'm sure you can imagine that, if nothing else, what happened to *Mute [a central character in Analogue] in the transition from being in modern society to neo-Joseon was not heartwarming."
Hate Plus is hoping to go for the jugular on January of the coming year.
Top image: Ryan Jorgensen/Shutterstock