You Were Made For Loneliness is, basically, a love story. It’s a lot of love stories. The kind of love that you wish you had, or the kind you wish you still had; the love that puts the fear of god into you, or the other way around; it might be every love story. It’s small in its scope, but ambitious and rather long. It will probably take you a touch over an hour to complete.
Something of a sci-fi anthology made in Twine, You Were Made For Loneliness is a collaboration from
seventeen (?) eighteen contributors. Centered on an android waking from two decades of sleep, freshly bought and put to work, this particular unit has the unique trait of holding hundreds (thousands? [millions?]) of other people’s memories in her brain. As the android (named Naomi by her aging, lonely millionaire owner Adrienne) goes about her daily work, two ghostly voices—one in blue text, one in magenta—eventually emerge in her head; and with only the slightest provocation (one word is all it takes), they spin love stories for each other, plucking from Naomi’s presumably vast databanks.
There’s some subtle world building at work throughout the game. Humanity’s been scattered across the solar system by some near-apocalyptic event; we get just enough information to start guessing at what happened, which is fun. We see early on why Naomi is the way she is, and maybe even kind of figure out who the two voices are. And there are love stories.
And why not? Heck, why not. These range from teen drama to historical fiction-flavored to (not trying to disparage it with this term or anything, it’s just what it is) snuff film creepypasta, with a handful of philosophical musings mixed in. The writing’s solid across the board, and contrary to a lot of Twines, there’s a lot of it, too, presented all at once. Though some of these stories just don’t really fit—I wasn’t a big fan of a piece about two ship (airship?) captains squaring off against each other, for instance. That one had too big of a world, written too abstractly for something already fantastical. On the other hand, I was surprised at how well that creepypasta story worked; can love bloom on the internet, where people send each other horrific videos? Apparently, yes. And special mention should be given to a beautiful collection of passages revolving around a poet and a prince, where the player can build up a poem, seemingly at random; the effect is dreamlike and wonderful.
It’s not all roses and synchronous heartbeats, though. The game carries a trigger warning for “suicide, depression, and psychological abuse.” Sometimes sad, sometimes horrific—but I think this is where You Were Made For Loneliness gets its thematic footing and sets things up for Naomi’s narrative to unfold. (Love in bloom is great, but one likes variety in one’s reading.) So—okay, we’re talking about breakups. Okay? Putting the stories aside a moment, Naomi’s narrative culminates in a breakup. After suffering months and months of emotional abuse from her owner, Naomi (not to put too fine a point on it) finally resists her programming and stands up for herself. And it really is a breakup, with Adrienne’s last minute bursts of honesty (borne by oh-god-how-can-this-be-salvaged desperation) re.: the fate of the last android that worked under her, and promises of change and betterment. There is, of course, a choice for Naomi during all this. There’s always a choice:
- Save yourself
Yt. found that a particularly powerful way to put it. Because that’s usually what it comes down to, right? Selfishness v. selflessness; though put like that, there’s a condemnatory/dichotomous sense about it. Self-x-ness posits hero and villain characters, whichever side yr. on. Which is kind of where the whole self-x-ness dichotomy breaks down, is with the sides, which is why I like how You Were Made For Loneliness handles it; if we’re leading blessed lives where no one we meet is actually evil, there’s just two usually reasonable people in unreasonable circumstances, and there’s going to be some moral relativism all up in here. At first blush, this sounds unconvincing and unsatisfying, but I find a lot of hope in this: that the capacity to forgive/be forgiven/save/be saved isn’t a continuum but a—an—it’s—either way, it’s people trying to be good to themselves and to each other. I guess? It’s hard to describe. This one needs some festering time.
But either way, we come to the same terminus. Whether by her choosing to leave or by Adrienne’s eventual passing, Naomi finds herself cut loose and free to travel into parts unknown; the realization that her future is unfolding before her sparks like a synapse.
And so, the two voices in Naomi’s head: they have a story, too. Theirs is less a breakup, more of an unfortunate separation, occurring at just the same time that Naomi finally leaves Adrienne; a neat synchronicity. The last words of their story are spoken by the blue voice, promising to find the other voice again. There’s this whole suggestion of a soul mates thing, which I could skip over; I actually find it more interesting to consider that You Were Made For Loneliness rejects the concept—because with Magenta and Adrienne gone, who’s left to find? I think one would be hard pressed, too, to argue that Naomi and Adrienne fit the traditional soul mate description, anyway—good friends, given the chance, but I don’t think there’s any profound spiritual connection.
I don’t mean to be all about how nobody is anybody else’s destiny. I don’t want to spout off rationalizations of love, in its myriad romantic/platonic/familial/&c. &c. forms, as if it’s some blast of brain chemicals divorced from any sort of spiritual sense. More that I think the Naomi-Adrienne/Blue-Magenta stories and their synchronous separations, reinforced by the game’s two endings, are a kind of confession that we basically just don’t know what-the-fuck when it comes to how love works/doesn’t work on a philosophical level, but just effin' go for it anyway. Or, put another way, it takes a certain gumption to want to keep wading into a sea of seven billion people and putting in the work to finally do right by one of those seven billion, sight unseen, through breakups and false starts. It’s an admission that an infinite, anxious, exciting future exists beyond heartbreak. That takes a certain love.
Not literally. Well…not any god you know. ↩
seventeen (?)eighteen contributors. ↩
I ended up assigning gender to the two on account of this; I’m wondering how many other players did, too… ↩
If not actually historical. ↩
I peeked at the source file, and I can only assume that it was a logistical nightmare to make coherent. ↩
Incl., aforementioned creepypasta aside, a piece which feels a heck of a lot like a “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.” ↩
A particular gameplay mechanic being, up until this point, that the game presents several options when the player must make a choice—but disables all but one, ensuring maximum obedience. It’s a nice narrative trick, establishing early on that Naomi clearly has some moral agency but, for various reasons, no autonomy. ↩
Yt. thought he made up “dichotomous” and was pleasantly surprised that it was in the dictionary. ↩
Admittedly might be a lot to ask. ↩
Polyamory is a thing, but I don’t know about it. I mean that in the literal, not litotic (“litotic” is not a word) I’m-condemning-it-with-understated-doubt, sense; I genuinely do not know anything about it in any functional and/or philosophical sense, except possibly that the use of “two” in this context is very loaded. ↩
Is there any way I can talk seriously about spirituality without sounding like a crazy person? No? Okay. ↩
Edited: July 18, 2014
Because yrs. truly was still learning how to count, I misstated the number of collaborators that worked on the game. There are eighteen contributors, not seventeen.