I’m blogging, and something beautiful is happening at 4Chan. Rare.
Katawa Shoujo was released ten days ago. It’s a choose-your-own adventure game where your main task is to decide which of five disabled girls you want to have sex with. 4chan responded to the game like this.
Those words link to the most honest man on the internet, and he’s not alone. I’m not normally a 4chan man, but I’ve been following the Katawa Shoujo threads with fascination. Go to /a/ or /v/ now and you might be quick enough to find one of these downpours of emotion. Confessions, tears, hearfelt promises to start exercising. All coming in meme-laced english from people who booted the game up looking for masturbation material. “I was prepared to fap, 4chan,” sobs one poster, “BUT I WASN’T PREPARED TO FEEL.”
This is the most amazing reaction to a game I’ve ever seen. It’s even more incredible because I’m certain this game is terrible.
I don’t want to disengage myself just to laugh at the raw honesty people are putting forth here. I say this because I believe it’s true: the game is terribly written. Every time it presents an idea it’ll spend three sentences making sure you didn’t miss it’s meaning. At one point the protagonist complains “Looking at them communicate is terrible, like looking at a man being tortured by drilling his head open while blasting pop music at full volume at the same time.” I know how he feels.
Yet, despite how much time I spent yelling at the screen, this game moved me. I looked at the end credits doing a kind of half laugh, half sobbing thing. It was even more pitiful because I knew this game was shit.
Does it matter if something you’re moved by is bad? I was once deeply moved by Kingdom Hearts. I look back on it now and I know it’s not good in any meaningful sense. Yet I cared about it’s stupid plotline, and there’s a massive online community of people who still do. The internet makes it obvious just how many people out there are dedicating their lives to terrible art. Is that a waste of emotion?
I’ve come to believe that art is made to serve you, not the other way around. A transcendent experience doesn’t lose any worth because it came out of a worthless game. Now, anyone who intends to create something still needs to keep a vice-like grip on what Quality is, but if you understand what’s wrong with the things you love I don’t think it matters how bad they are. If you can get something out of a game, you’ve won.
Katawa Shoujo is bad, but it’s got a good soul. It’s a Mills and Boon for men, with a take-away message that goes something like “Disabled people are beautiful too.” I think it’s ok to fall in love with that game. There’s a chance it could teach you more than Kingdom Hearts taught me, anyway.
All the 4chan threads seem to be winding down now. You can’t live in a game forever. Talk turns to moving on.
“I guess I’ll never feel that same breathless mix of anxiety and jubilation again. I’m gonna miss the way this story made me feel, the first time I played it, and I’m gonna miss lurking here, while seemingly hundreds of outspoken individuals resonated the same frequency of the wounded heart. So now it’s over, and I have nothing to show for my time here, playing this game, and talking about “them feels bro”.
But every once and a while, I think we’ll all be able to recall this single fleeting week, where we weren’t alone in our loneliness.”
The way 4chan works means that this post is already lost, and no-one can ever know who wrote it. There’ll be records, of course, in Wikipedia and meme-tracking sites and the game’s website, but I feel like I’ve been witness to some fleeting moment of laughable, stupid beauty.
Maybe it was worth something.