It’s hard to believe, but we are already well into 2012. For those who don’t believe in calendars, it’s already February, and for a few of you perpetually single, socially inept nerds, that automatically means one thing: Valentine’s Day is coming.
Ah yes, Valentine’s, the most hallowed of all days for Hallmark executives and high schoolers thinking that whatever happens when they’re 17 will be the most important events of their lives. Myself, it’s just another day wherein copious amounts of red and pink candies will be consumed in the company of good beer and good friends.
There was a time not too long ago though, where the lonely forever alone kid in me despised the thought of a day dedicated to people who were better at socializing, romancing, and sexual-relations’ing than me. Some of you are likely saying “OMG THAT’S TOTALLY ME”, and you’re completely in shock that someone as well-spoken, charismatic, and Asian as myself could have ever been in your shoes. Well, I absolutely was, and as one of you, I’m here to give you a solution: video games.
Well, maybe “solution” isn’t the right word; depending on who you talk to, certain games might exacerbate your loneliness and make you feel a bit more pathetic. But hey, if I were a sad bastard, I’d probably revel in the warmth of them, if only for a couple nights, and then think nothing of it. Mind you, this isn’t a long term solution to your forever alone problems; it’s hopefully merely a distraction for what could possibly be an excruciatingly depressing night.
The loneliness deterrent I’m talking about specifically is a product that’s been getting a good amount of press lately: Katawa Shoujo. The recently-released-as-freeware interactive novel is a bit like a dating sim, in the vein of classics like the Tokimeki Memorial series; there’s barely any action beyond mouse-clicks, and a helluva lot of reading is involved. However, in certain cases, the payoff can be worth it, and when it comes to Katawa Shoujo, it most certainly is.
Much of the press seems to be fixated on the fact that Katawa Shoujo is a visual novel that centers on girls with disabilities (the literal translation of the title is “Cripple Girls”), and while that definitely seems to add to the appeal of checking it out, the narrative in itself is equally gripping. You’ll still have some of your standard anime archetypes present, but as a whole, Katawa Shoujo is a surprisingly human look at falling in love with someone more for their amazing personality and outlook on life than for their physical appearances.
I’m not ashamed to say I’ve played this in my free time, and I was definitely impressed with how delicate and genuine a good amount of the women were portrayed. At certain points I even felt sympathy for a few of the girls, and may have actually become drawn into the story enough to grow attached to them. As someone who generally finds it difficult to become endeared to any characters, male or female, in games (or hell, even in real life), that’s quite an impressive feat.
For some of you, Katawa Shoujo might give you the mentality that you’re not even good enough for perfectly healthy fake 2D girls, but for those that actually have some sort of potential in life, you may learn something from the experience, and perhaps even apply that knowledge and (hopefully) altered outlook on life to the real world. Heck, even my own philosophies on life were reaffirmed by playing through Katawa Shoujo and getting through many of the girls’ endings.
And hey, if you didn’t learn anything and still spent Valentine’s a miserable wreck, look on the bright side: February 15th is Post-Valentine’s Clearance Candy Day! What better way to cope with your sorrows than to indulge in a huge sack of terrible, chalky conversation hearts?