Loved

I am now to the point where I cringe when I see a dialog box pop up in a game. Usually the writing is mediocre at best, your choices are meaningless and there's just mountains and mountains of text to wade through before you can move on. However, my major exception to this rule is a monologue. Characters that are talking and don't expect you to talk back usually have something more interesting to say, especially when you have no choice but to listen. Some of my favorite video game characters were nothing but voices in my head, SHODAN, Cortana and Andrew Ryan, just to name a few. There's something freeing about being forced to listen.

Loved is a platformer described as a "short story" by the author. You start off by being asked a simple question, "Are you a boy or a girl?" Whatever your answer, the voice in the game continues to give you commands and ask you questions throughout the game. The questions may not have any good answers, and the commands can be obeyed or disobeyed. Obedience makes the world around you clearer, less obfuscated. Disobedience creates distortion all around you as you try to move through the game.

The tension comes from the fact that the voice in the game is frequently ordering you to do things that are not in your best interest. Do you go the harder route, just because the voice told you to? If you don't, it gets harder to see. If you do, it's just difficult in a different way.

The platformer mechanics themselves are fairly straightforward, while the stark black and white graphics (with distortions appearing in color) are as sanitized as they are oppressive. The game does a good job of conveying the aggressively controlling personality of the voice, which makes your choice to obey or not even more difficult.

Why You Should Check This Out: Loved is a platformer with a disturbing theme of obedience to an abusive, omniscient voice. The graphics, gameplay and sound all serve this theme of an oppressive, smothering relationship. The choice is obedience or disappointment, dealing with the abuse or dealing with the consequences of disobeying the ominous voice. It may not be a happy choice, but at least it feels like a meaningful one.

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Comments

I played a little of this last night, but without any sound, and I didn't have time to get very far. I look forward to a chance to play more.

I got a bit into it and the platforming got too frustrating. I ended up just quitting.

I think I beat it? I mean, I got to a screen that said "The End."

This one was fun too. It's worth playing twice just to get each side of things.

Spoiler:

It seems very parental, in the most traditional sense, in that it guides you right or wrong and rewards you with clarity. You can follow the obedient path, and understand the environment better, or you can disobey and lose touch of reality. I actually enjoyed disobeying much more. It brought color and randomness to a sullen world.

If this game's platforming frustrates you, don't ever play this: http://www.geocities.jp/z_gundam_tan...

wordsmythe wrote:

I think I beat it? I mean, I got to a screen that said "The End."

Me too!

"Congratulations! You just won the "A Man Chooses; a Slave Obeys" Badge and 15 points!

End reached"

I don't know if there are multiple endings. I agree with Shazam, the platforming is difficult mostly because of poor controls. I do want to play around with it some more and try it again while following the instructions.

I didn't find the game's tone to be very parental, but I did find it to be extremely sexual. (Then again, I'm a 26-year-old man, so I would.) I don't really feel like either ending follows through with the potential of the premise, although I think the additional choices offered to the disobedient player showed some promise.

I like that some of the choices are meaningful while others lead to the same result by different means, and the subversion of the player's gender choice is a neat trick that immediately establishes the tone of the game. I'd love to see some of the ideas in this game fleshed out into a more complete experience.

Second playthrough I was completely obedient and picked the answers I thought it most wanted to hear.

The platforming was much easier when you were obedient. I love how it played with your vision of the world. Every time you obey the world becomes slightly more clear.

I played this when I saw it on RPS last week, and like the God interpretation best. Obey the voice, and you have to sacrifice Isaac (no ram, just spikes), disobey God for freedom and chaos. I think the abusive relationship interpretation is weaker and not as satisfying. God loved Abraham.

SGP wrote:

This one was fun too. It's worth playing twice just to get each side of things.

Spoiler:

It seems very parental, in the most traditional sense, in that it guides you right or wrong and rewards you with clarity. You can follow the obedient path, and understand the environment better, or you can disobey and lose touch of reality. I actually enjoyed disobeying much more. It brought color and randomness to a sullen world.

I wouldn't say you lose touch with reality, you just lose the clarity that you get from obeying. But that clarity comes at the expense of casting everything in black and white (metaphor!). I would say disobeying actually lets you see the world the way it really is: confusing, shifting, disorderly and incomprehensible, but not totally unnavigable without paternal dogma leading you by the nose (an unfair characterization of religion, but I'd argue that's the game's, not necessarily mine).

That said, taking the lower path, for instance, isn't without its own intrinsic reward so I guess there's a payoff there too if you want to tie this to Weber's Protestant work ethic. Which I don't.

But I'm an atheist and humanist, so there you go. The game jibes well with my worldview.

Wow, I honestly think that interpretation reads a ton into it, which is obviously invited by the game so I'm not criticizing here.

I immediately read the abusive relationship angle with the subversion of the gender choice at the beginning. I can also see that being abusive parental. I do have a hard time with the whole "God" interpretation with the first thing you see being the subversion of the gender choice. Then again, without that, it fits pretty well so maybe I'm letting that throw me off.

I also think that the incoherent multi-color distortion being "the way the world really is" is completely interpretation. As far as the game is concerned it's distortion and obfuscation, I feel. I don't see any indication it's revealing a deeper truth of the world that's behind a fake black/white facade.

PyromanFO wrote:

I do have a hard time with the whole "God" interpretation with the first thing you see being the subversion of the gender choice. Then again, without that, it fits pretty well so maybe I'm letting that throw me off.

Well, you didn't get to pick your sex at birth, did you?

PyromanFO also wrote:

I also think that the incoherent multi-color distortion being "the way the world really is" is completely interpretation. As far as the game is concerned it's distortion and obfuscation, I feel. I don't see any indication it's revealing a deeper truth of the world that's behind a fake black/white facade.

I disagree that it's obfuscating: the game is still navigable, and harmful areas are always red. You can still finish the game when disobeying. I would say that the only truth it reveals is that without a black-and-white view of the world, it makes things more chaotic and uncontrollable but maybe also more beautiful. So not necessarily that the gameworld is a blinking multicoloured pixel mess, but that it's at least something more than what you'd see if you only choose to obey. For instance, compare the Great Chain of Being with cladistics. Okay, maybe I am stretching the interpretation with that, but the game is ambiguous enough that I don't think I have to force that interpretation on it.

I disagree that it's obfuscating: the game is still navigable, and harmful areas are always red. You can still finish the game when disobeying.

I'm not saying you can't see anything, but that you see more without the obfuscation of disobeying. I don't think you're seeing something else when you disobey, is all I'm saying.

Interesting find, thanks for sharing. I'm not sure how I feel about it though, I'll need to think it through some more (by that I mean it was a great experience, but it awoke some weird feelings). I did like the ending badge though:

Spoiler:

A Man Chooses; a Slave Obeys...does it show up for each set of choices? It would be applicable either way and I had some fun guessing which one I was since I played a mix of obedience/disobedience.

Deep thoughts for a Friday night!

I played it through all the way, both endings, and definitely saw it skew abusive-parental. But you know what? That's what makes this game great - different, equally valid interpretations based on your own life experience and values. That, to me, is the very definition of art. This game is art. Booya!

Dysplastic wrote:

This game is art. Booya!

Oh no you di'n't!

I got a very distinct S&M vibe off of it. It reminded me a lot of the stuff that Anna Anthropy has talked about on the subject of game design as sadism.

I really liked the hints later on that the voice isn't as abusive as it seems. There's a part where it tells you not to touch the checkpoint statue after a really difficult section, and it is a hard choice to jump down the blind hole without touching it, but it gives you a statue to hit right at the bottom. I loved that.

Switchbreak wrote:

I got a very distinct S&M vibe off of it. It reminded me a lot of the stuff that Anna Anthropy has talked about on the subject of game design as sadism.

That's what I was referring to above with the strong sexual sense I got from the game. I'm glad that I wasn't entirely alone.

Switchbreak wrote:

I really liked the hints later on that the voice isn't as abusive as it seems. There's a part where it tells you not to touch the checkpoint statue after a really difficult section, and it is a hard choice to jump down the blind hole without touching it, but it gives you a statue to hit right at the bottom. I loved that.

The most interesting command in the game, to me, is the final injunction to not fail. It's at this point that this game, like Bioshock before it, goes off the rails in its attempt to subvert or more closely examine the relationship between obedient player and dictatorial game designer. When you're told to not fail, it's impossible to disobey. You can throw yourself against the spikes all you want, but you'll always respawn and will have to finish that section perfectly in order to see the game's ending. Like Bioshock giving you no choices after Jack is supposedly free, this game gives you no choices when it still has something to say or show you.

PyromanFO wrote:

Wow, I honestly think that interpretation reads a ton into it, which is obviously invited by the game so I'm not criticizing here.

I immediately read the abusive relationship angle with the subversion of the gender choice at the beginning. I can also see that being abusive parental. I do have a hard time with the whole "God" interpretation with the first thing you see being the subversion of the gender choice. Then again, without that, it fits pretty well so maybe I'm letting that throw me off.

I think they're both valid. What's clear is that there's an authority figure giving orders that don't always seem in your best interest and making declarations that don't always seem to value your opinion. That doesn't really make it clear what kind of dominating authority it is.

Gravey wrote:
PyromanFO wrote:

I do have a hard time with the whole "God" interpretation with the first thing you see being the subversion of the gender choice. Then again, without that, it fits pretty well so maybe I'm letting that throw me off.

Well, you didn't get to pick your sex at birth, did you? ;)

The only clarity this gives me is that the authority figure has some "say" in your sex or gender. Could again still be parent or god (though perhaps other options that I'd rather not go into).

Gravey wrote:
PyromanFO wrote:

I also think that the incoherent multi-color distortion being "the way the world really is" is completely interpretation. As far as the game is concerned it's distortion and obfuscation, I feel. I don't see any indication it's revealing a deeper truth of the world that's behind a fake black/white facade.

I disagree that it's obfuscating: the game is still navigable, and harmful areas are always red. You can still finish the game when disobeying. I would say that the only truth it reveals is that without a black-and-white view of the world, it makes things more chaotic and uncontrollable but maybe also more beautiful. So not necessarily that the gameworld is a blinking multicoloured pixel mess, but that it's at least something more than what you'd see if you only choose to obey. For instance, compare the Great Chain of Being with cladistics. Okay, maybe I am stretching the interpretation with that, but the game is ambiguous enough that I don't think I have to force that interpretation on it.

There's a bit of an ambivalence here, in that the changes both make things more and less clear at the same time. Sure, things become abstracted into cubes when you disobey, but they also become color-coded such that all dangers are red squares--the threat couldn't be any more clear, even if you don't know what the threats actually "look" like anymore.

Sounds to me like a stress response in humans and animals. That doesn't mean it's "Fear And Trembling," but it's possible.

Side note:

Gravey wrote:

The game jibes well with my worldview.

Gravey probably meant "jives," not "jibes."

wordsmythe wrote:

Side note:

Gravey wrote:

The game jibes well with my worldview.

Gravey probably meant "jives," not "jibes."

Trust me, I got hung up on this and couldn't figure out which one to use. Apparently both normally mean "taunt" or "jeer", though either can also mean "agree with". I eventually settled on jibe (definition 3).

I spent a lot of time thinking about this after playing it through three times with different levels of obedience. The platforming is a little frustrating with those controls, but gets easier with a little practice and getting a sense of the "floatiness" of the jumps.

It's open to various interpretations, or it might be less a metaphor (strictly being "about" religion or parents or an abusive relationship) and rather a more general allegory. Even when I found flaw or disagreed with the apparent symbolism, I had to admit that the game made me think, and that's always a good thing. And, it was kind of fun.

So, thanks for sharing!

beeporama wrote:

It's open to various interpretations, or it might be less a metaphor (strictly being "about" religion or parents or an abusive relationship) and rather a more general allegory. Even when I found flaw or disagreed with the apparent symbolism, I had to admit that the game made me think, and that's always a good thing. And, it was kind of fun.

So, thanks for sharing!

Yup, there's not enough to go on to say what the designer intends the game to be "about", if anything, and I like how ambiguous it is that we can all see it these different ways.

Re: the gender thing.

I haven't tried selecting "woman" yet at the beginning yet, but selecting "man" has the authority respond that you are a "girl". Near or after the end (by obeying) I could select "boy" or "girl" and in selecting "boy" the response was, "No, you are a man". I don't think the choice is meant to signify determination of gender as much as it's about your growth/progress in the estimation of the authority figure. In the beginning, you are still unworthy (in the authority's eyes) of being called what you will one day become, so you are belittled with a typical societal insult, the opposite youth gender name.

Jolly Bill wrote:

Re: the gender thing.

I haven't tried selecting "woman" yet at the beginning yet, but selecting "man" has the authority respond that you are a "girl". Near or after the end (by obeying) I could select "boy" or "girl" and in selecting "boy" the response was, "No, you are a man". I don't think the choice is meant to signify determination of gender as much as it's about your growth/progress in the estimation of the authority figure. In the beginning, you are still unworthy (in the authority's eyes) of being called what you will one day become, so you are belittled with a typical societal insult, the opposite youth gender name.

If it helps, choosing "woman" gets you "boy."

I assumed. I'm more interested in what choosing "girl" would have said at the end. My point isn't what the authority figure says at the beginning, it's what he says at the end.

Jolly Bill wrote:

I assumed. I'm more interested in what choosing "girl" would have said at the end. My point isn't what the authority figure says at the beginning, it's what he says at the end.

If you choose "girl" at the end, it says "No, you are a woman."

One thing that I think points to it being a statement on the game designer/game player relationship is that ending. I thought it was a really nice ironic touch that the final goal is a floating, spinning coin - something so iconic and instantly recognizable in the context of video games, yet almost completely meaningless in any other context.

Switchbreak wrote:

One thing that I think points to it being a statement on the game designer/game player relationship is that ending. I thought it was a really nice ironic touch that the final goal is a floating, spinning coin - something so iconic and instantly recognizable in the context of video games, yet almost completely meaningless in any other context.

Not if you're disobedient, it's not.

Did everyone else get a short series of questions at the end?

wordsmythe wrote:

Did everyone else get a short series of questions at the end?

When I was disobedient. When I behaved myself, I got the coin.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Did everyone else get a short series of questions at the end?

When I was disobedient. When I behaved myself, I got the coin.

Me three. The voice of authority wants to know why you hate it so much, and begs you to stay with it. Which works for me as allegory, without any specific interpretation: parents always have a special love for the disobedient child (look at the parable of the prodigal son), society often thinks that those who live on its fringes hate and want to destroy it (my experience as a long time "goth" probably applies to most subcultures)...

beeporama wrote:

parents always have a special love for the disobedient child (look at the parable of the prodigal son)

There's a lot more going on in that passage than you may realize.

wordsmythe wrote:
beeporama wrote:

parents always have a special love for the disobedient child (look at the parable of the prodigal son)

There's a lot more going on in that passage than you may realize.

That is quite possible. My familiarity with the Christian mythos (? - not sure what the most PC way for someone like me to put it is...?) is through casual study pretty much in a vacuum. The links unfortunately do not present a deeper reading that I can readily discern, but I'm happy to have you summarize it here or by PM if you'd like.

Despite a possibly poor choice of reference, though, I hope my point still stands: people often have a special love for the disobedient and the rebels, their perceived disdain sometimes increasing that love all the more. The different tone of the love you get from the voice of authority (tvoa) based on your obedience/disobedience feels authentic to me.

beeporama wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
beeporama wrote:

parents always have a special love for the disobedient child (look at the parable of the prodigal son)

There's a lot more going on in that passage than you may realize.

That is quite possible. My familiarity with the Christian mythos (? - not sure what the most PC way for someone like me to put it is...?) is through casual study pretty much in a vacuum. The links unfortunately do not present a deeper reading that I can readily discern, but I'm happy to have you summarize it here or by PM if you'd like.

I would have just linked to the Amazon page for the book if Amazon weren't broken yesterday. The gist of the book is that both children were obstinate and wrong in their own ways (one in an obvious way, the other through treating his family like a rule set to min/max), but that the elder brother has trouble looking past his self-righteous attitude to realize he has a problem. It's a neat tangent, but a tangent all the same.

Despite a possibly poor choice of reference, though, I hope my point still stands: people often have a special love for the disobedient and the rebels, their perceived disdain sometimes increasing that love all the more. The different tone of the love you get from the voice of authority (tvoa) based on your obedience/disobedience feels authentic to me.

The point does still stand. The US is a nation built out of rebels and underdogs, and we love that sort (so long as they win or have the marketing of the Tribune Company behind them).