“Analogue – A Hate Story”

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“Analogue” is an interactive visual novel created by Christine Love in 2012. The story concerns a ship launched by Earth into deep space with the goal of establishing the first interstellar colony. This colony dropped out of contact and disappeared, never reaching its destination. Thousands of years later, it has finally been found. You must read through the dead crew’s logs, letters, diaries, and more in order to uncover the mystery of what happened to this lost colony.

I have read a decent amount of visual novels, and time and time again, the same problems become evident. The story is too linear, defeating the purpose of making the novel interactive, the female characters are all empty, lifeless, husks who only serve to be visual stimulation, the writing is of poor quality in comparison to a good book, etc. However, every once in a while, a visual novel comes along that breaks tradition. “Analogue” is one of those visual novels.

The first thing that astounded me about “Analogue” was how the story itself was presented. Rather than reading an endless amount of wasted dialog or some forced melodramatic fantasy/sci-fi plot, “Analogue” sets up a situation, and then lets the player explore that situation. The story is revealed in a relatively non-linear manner as the player assimilates and reads a multitude of logs and letters of the now dead inhabitants of this lost colony. In other words, this is not just a novel with visuals. “Analogue” makes full use of interactivity in order to distance itself from traditional novels. It wonderfully utilizes all of the strengths of the interactive visual novel medium, a medium of entertainment and storytelling that is grossly under-utilized and poorly represented today.

I feel that visual novels have a lot to offer, especially on platforms such as the iPad and other tablets, but it is sometimes difficult to find examples of visual novels that prove that they are their own entity. They are not games, they are not novels, they are not comics, and they are most certainly not pitiful excuses for pornography, as they have been susceptible to for far too long. They are interactive visual novels, a new medium for storytelling. In my opinion, the strength of this medium is the ability to tell non-linear stories that require reader participation and exploration. Christine Love realizes this, and “Analogue” makes fantastic use of it.

While reading “Analogue”, you really feel like you are uncovering a mystery of a lost civilization. You begin to relate to these characters you are reading about, understand them, pity them, maybe even despise them. It is more than just a linear documentation of the history of this fictional space colony. You feel like you are uncovering this history yourself, as if you are making history by being its discoverer.

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There are even sections of the novel where the reader has to decipher a command-line interface, decrypting data and enabling and disabling systems. It really adds to the whole experience. It helps to create reader immersion by establishing this world in which the story takes place, and then giving the reader the tools necessary to aptly navigate that world.

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Another element of “Analogue” is the inclusion of two A.I. systems that you communicate with over the course of the work. You can speak with them about various topics and see what their perspective is concerning the logs and letters you have been reading. These A.I.’s are highly advanced systems, and are portrayed in the novel as being women. Rather convincing women at that.

This creates a unique feeling of “connection” to the A.I.’s that is rather difficult to explain. It questions human’s relationship to technology, both in the fictional, futuristic setting of the novel, but also our relationship with technology today. By the end of the novel, some readers may feel somewhat romantically inclined towards the two A.I.’s. Of course, only the most delusional of readers will fall in love with a virtual character in a fictional world, but it does bring up an intriguing point. Humans can place affection on a lot of different things: People, pets, objects of great importance, and, needless to say, stories and the characters in those stories. Regardless of the fact that “Analogue” is not real, and not only that, but the character’s within this fictional story are not real either, this does not deter the human mind from unnaturally growing in affection towards these characters. This utterly confusing, twisted emotion that appears to be love and yet is more or less just an intense reaction to the narrative and characters involved is immensely interesting to me.

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Aside from that, like most of Christine Love’s writing, she is not afraid to address rather controversial topics in her work. Previously, she has addressed everything from homosexuality and transgender issues, privacy in social networking, cyber bullying, and much more. “Analogue” does not fail to bring up its fair share of controversial topics as well.

“Analogue” brings up a lot of things, but primarily, it  focuses on the treatment of women. In particular, it focuses on the treatment of women during the Joseon dynasty of Korean history, a time of great female oppression. This was a time where women were greatly dehumanized, married off to leaders for political or economic reasons, and discouraged from learning, reading, and writing, which the women of the time did anyway in order to express themselves during this time of oppression. The idea behind “Analogue” was to take this concept and adapt it to a modern visual novel in a sci-fi setting. And it works. Brilliantly.

The crux of the story is a specific character, dubbed “The Pale Bride”, who was put into cryogenic sleep in the past and was awakened at the time of this space colony’s existence. She is completely baffled by the current state of female oppression, as the world was a much different place before she entered into sleep.

Obviously, a lot has changed in society since this period in history, but there are still problems. However, I am not entirely convinced that the point of this novel is to bring up all of the oppression of women in our current time. I am sure that is part of it, but I think there is more to it than that. I think that Christine Love was interested more is how a society could reach a horrific point like that of the Joseon dynasty. To quote Love herself, “Nobody ever just wakes up one day and says, ‘yeah, I hate women, I wish we’d stop letting them read.’” “Analogue” is an attempt to understand the events that take place and the ideologies that take hold which lead to societies that are this fundamentally broken.

I believe that what Christine Love has done with this novel is incredible. Not only has she constructed a gripping and entertaining story, but she has brought to light many of the problems with society historically, and presently. She has also proved that the visual novel medium is fully capable of being much more than what it currently is. We need more visual novels like “Analogue”. We need more people like Christine Love who are willing to bring the medium away from its detestable roots, and prove that it is a great way to create and experience enthralling, meaningful stories.

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