My Divorce

Ma-ma-ma My Divorce!

Free Download
Brett Douville

I'm going to start this review off with a comic that I think sums up the male existential dilemma more succinctly than anything I've ever seen, and then link you to the author's explanation of the game. Then I'm going to say, hey! Don't read that stuff yet! Play the game first! Some fraction of you may have follow the links sequentially and are now feeling cheated. Hey, at least you aren't stuck in a dead-end relationship!

The game follows the abstract geometry of Rod Humble's The Marriage. That game had a no-click interface based on parsing the cursor over different shapes to try and make the pink and blue squares (representing the archetypical male and female since 1956) come together and kiss while also gaining self-esteem from circles representing various nourishments of life such as career. The women gained her esteem from the relationship and the man from the world, so it was.

This time around you've got two children involved (little pink and/or blue circles, randomly assigned), separated from you by a barrier created by the divorce, you can get the kids to come over using a roughly parsed gestural interface, and the clicking to intervene takes a role with the same circles representing general nourishment. As far as I can interpret it, the game is about the wreckage of the pain of a former "true love" not only being distant, but being at once a necessity to the emotional lives of your children and also a subversive enemy, keeping them from you, warping them in ways you do not approve. So you're left with the task of manning up, seeing through your emotions, past that wall, and intervening to try and do the best for your children. In this case, that means keeping them from bumping into the mother too much and making sure they get education or baseball or piano lessons or whatever those circles are so they can grow instead of shrink in her infantilizing aura of matrilineal egotism. On the other hand, if you "round them up" and bring them over to your side, surely as the result of painful litigation, it costs them, so it's not so one sided in male bias.

There's also a dynamic with color fading and gravity, which is kind of interesting, and you can infer your own nuances from that or read the author's statements.

First my personal impression and then the more mechanical critique. I had sort of a lite version of a divorce last year at the age of 23 with a pregnant girlfriend, she has since given birth, threatened me with not being able to see the kid multiple times when she was in a bad mood, basically prevented me from having any direct role in raising him, and exploited me economically while denying my due visitations. But it's all good because he's a beautiful, healthy boy and any amount of visitation is better than none right? We've also chilled out and are on functional if not friendly terms. It's probably better that we didn't get married because it probably would have taken a lot longer to arrive at this relatively zero-sum situation, which surely could be disrupted to my disadvantage if any economic or emotional meteors happen to fall out of the sky. So I can relate to this shit, and my interpretations of the mechanics was undoubtedly biased by my experience, yours may be quite different.

Mechanically I think the game is more problematic as an interpretive system because of the added complexity in interface. Because the input verb of The Marriage was singular, mouse over something, and the resulting mechanics were all context-sensitive, you could explore the screen with your cursor having no preface and construct your own context through experimentation, which interestingly enough is kind of how most marriages actually work (or don't). This game is dealing with a dimensionally more complex manifestation of human relationships and tries to deal with it by adding not one degree of control but several, including one that depends on parsing gestures, which are an extremely problematic form of interface design as I hope many of us learned in the past years with the whole Wii hubbub. As a result players are more or less dependent on the author's explanation to be able to explore the system, thus pre-empting the journey of self-discovery and making the game, if you can imagine this, less accessible than Rod Humble's piece. But maybe that's ok, maybe this kind of biographical game has its place in complement to games exploring a concept from the second person. When Jason Rohrer did it people confused the sprite of his son for a little girl, this time around the little circles will be less mistakable.