Romance, drama, and technology are three themes that fans of Christine Love‘s other works (such as Cell Phone Love Letter and Digital: A Love Story) should be familiar with. don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story is a visual novel that includes all three in spades. You play as John Rook, a two-time divorcé and high school teacher that secretly monitors his class’ social network on his Amie XTablet computer for potential cyberbullying. Through both reading their private messages and talking to his students face-to-face, Mr. Rook becomes seriously involved with seven of his special snowflakes’ lives.
The game plays out in two different ways. It’s like your typical visual novel with a bunch of choices, three endings, seven chapters, character development, and lots of dialogue. What makes the game shine is in its second feature – the Amie XTablet. That’s where you find the high level of customization that you’d expect from a Christine Love game. The tablet is your voyeuristic passport into the personal lives of your students. Their social network is like a better, more interesting FB with status updates you can actually care about, rather than bash your head open over.
Every time one of the kids posted something new (indicated by a noise), I rushed to read it. It didn’t matter to me that they weren’t paying attention in their lessons. Who cares about that when you can read about the latest classroom gossip? It’s funny how different they seem online versus reality, when you first meet them. There’s a quiet and proper girl standing in front of you in her uniform, and there, online, is that same girl with a suggestive profile picture. It made me laugh, because the same thing happens in real life – people have all kinds of pictures that their teachers shouldn’t be seeing, but probably can by doing a simple search.
The social network aspect made this game worth it to play, especially since we’re all stalkers. “Friending” and following and checking up on people – those are today’s most acceptable forms of stalking, because people post every minute detail of their lives, hoping that someone, somewhere out there will read it, even if they’ve only got their moms as followers/friends/etc. Some of us admit our creep status more readily, but social networking has provided us a whole window into people’s private lives. People air all sorts of dirty laundry online.
The characters in this game do exactly that. When they have problems, they write about it. As soon as they’re done confronting someone, they post about the aftermath. Nothing offline is kept one hundred percent separate from the online world. Even when John talks to his students, they’re texting away on their tablets, carrying on with the latest news.
The game is set in the year 2027, which is important to the plot. The chatspeak that the characters use might get annoying, but as someone who hears people quoting memes on a near daily basis, I think it’s feasible that kids in 2027 would have adopted “lol” into their regular speech. Strong language (including a certain homophobic slur) that we’d find offensive in 2012 has also become as common and innocuous as saying the word, “cat.” I found it more surprising that the kids weren’t using chatspeak in their actual posts.
It’s also set in a more liberal era, where homosexuality is more readily accepted. You witness the struggles and innocence of a new gay relationship, and can choose whether or not to help a broken up lesbian couple get back together. You can also choose to accept the advances of one of your underage students, if you’re feeling up to that. It was great to read a story where the relationships were treated naturally and realistically. There’s an opportunity to look at one of your students’ nudey pictures, too, by Googling a password. If any of those things bother you, then this might not be your game (’cause it definitely ain’t your story). The pedo storyline did gross me out, though, mainly because of their first kiss graphic.
Speaking of the CGs, some of them were pretty awkward looking. For the most part, the art is passable. The writing and coding completely trumps it. The side images are redundant, but I loved finding out more about the characters, and realizing how much more insightful they were than what I expected them to be on the surface. They’re more mature than they look, but at the same time, they’re just kids. And, this game, ultimately, is about their stories and lives, not yours. These are characters that will stick with me for a long while.
Read it. Play it. Whatever. You won’t regret it. The ending was a little preachy, but it did make me think about what the kids of the future will be like when I’m around John Rook’s age in 2027. I think I’ll look back on this game, and see how much of it rang true.
Become the bro-est of bros, and download the game here.