Emily is Away <3 Brought Me Back to My Terrible High School Social Life
AIM is dead as Emily is Away <3 brings you to the world of Facenook to tell another tale that will probably make me feel awful in the best way possible.
When I was in high school 10 to 14 years ago (Jesus, I’m getting real old), I was a fairly awkward but social person who had a good amount of friends, men and women alike. I was part of a few cliques: the skaters, the wannabe rock stars, and nerdy academics. Despite what my mother would say, I never had the looks or personality to ever have a relationship in high school, although it wasn’t due to lack of trying. Honestly, now that I think about it more, high school freaking sucked.
Yet, I sat in a hotel lobby with Kyle Seeley to relive this terrible experience with his next game Emily is Away <3.
For those unfamiliar, this is the third entry in Seeley’s nostalgia fueled series whose story is told entirely in online messengers. Each game has branching paths that could either end happily, or like my high school experience, like absolute trash. Emily is Away <3 is no different and I love it.
Emily is Away and Emily is Away Too used an AIM-inspired messenger to tell its tale. Well, it’s 2008 and AIM is dead. Instead, the Facebook-inspired social media platform Facenook has taken over. The jump to modern social media feels like a natural progression for the series. Not only is it chronologically further in time, it opens up the game in ways the first two never could giving you more options outside of just dialogue choices.
The demo began with the creation of my Facenook profile. This included inputting my name, picking my favorite TV shows, books, music, and movies, and a profile picture. It’s not unlike actually creating a Facebook profile. The first person to talk to you is Mat Gurney, your best friend where you discuss important matters such as the upcoming senior year and how terrible your social media presence is.
The previous Emily Is Away entries are known for their branching story paths which are determined by how you respond to certain events. When Mat, or anyone else, sends you a message, you can respond with one of three dialogue options; these responses can range from truthful and sincere to downright sarcastic. I personally like to role-play, so I choose the sarcastic or snarky reply almost every time. In the case of your discussion with Mat, it is all pretty innocent and didn’t really seem to have any real weight to the story until the end where you have to choose to go to either Emily or Evelyn’s party.
While it might seem like Emily and Evelyn are back from Emily Is Away 2 to ruin your life considering some of the outcomes of that game, this is, fortunately, its own standalone story. Emily is Away <3 features a different Emily and Evelyn, but they do have similar personalities. Emily is the preppy, indie band loving girl next door while Evelyn is the loose cannon punk rock party animal that doesn’t play by the rules. Before you pick a party, you get to know the hosts and talk about future plans that may or may not affect the story. Since it was just the first chapter of the game, I really do not know.
However, the mystery is part of why the Emily Is Away series is so great. One moment you think you’re responding honestly, the next everyone hates you and you’re the worst human in existence. Paired with sincere writing, you truly feel awful; it’s great. It makes it feel like every dialogue choice influences the entire story. There are little hints of that being in Emily is Away <3 with the first big choice of choosing whose party you are going to, but whether it actually sticks that landing will only be known once the game comes out.
While talking to Emily and Evelyn, you’ll discuss all of your favorite things you picked in the beginning of the game. For me, I remember choosing Tool and Vampire Weekend. Emily and Evelyn respond to this and also give you suggestions of other bands to listen to. In fact, they’ll send you links to YouToob, Emily is Away’s version of YouTube, to watch the music video to then give your opinion on the music. Obviously, you can totally lie about your response so you get the outcome you want but in my experience, lying never led to anything positive.
By the end, after analyzing both Emily and Evelyn, you have to pick whose party you want to go to. This is done by going to an events page and RSVPing to the party. Once you RSVP to one, you automatically deny the other. I thought it would have been neat to be able to say you were going to both but pick which one you were actually going to. It could lead to some interesting scenarios that would probably end terribly but would be great to experience nonetheless.
Although it was only the first chapter, I can tell Emily is Away <3 is going to be something special. The use of Facenook is brilliantly nostalgic, bringing me back to a simpler albeit terrible time in my life filled with indecision and discomfort. Both terms are indicative of how I felt playing the previous two thanks to a great narrative and fantastic writing. I don’t see Emily Is Away <3 being any different. It is expected to be out later this year and I absolutely cannot wait to be both enthralled and miserable if the previous two are any indication.