Alternate Universe Friends

A peculiar Ren’Py fanfic now available through the website, this probably-copyright-infringing game is liberally illustrated with photoshopped screen captures from the TV show. It’s not entirely clear whether the images are stills, or overlays assembled on the fly.

It’s a Friends episode in a universe where Hitler won World War II.

The narrative frame is introduced from (presumably) the real-world Friends universe, with the crowd all gathered around speculating on what it would be like if the Axis had won the war. They chatter for just a few seconds (Ross: “I’d be half Japanese.”) before the game begins.

So you’re immediately waiting for the punchline, and this (for me) was a major part of the game experience. There’s no one player character. Instead, you’re given little choices, about what the characters say, and a few choice-points that seem to influence the plot. I didn’t play it more than once – I was never into the show, and the game is enough like the show for me.

The minor choices in dialog set up different retorts from the other characters, which are bland-witty in much the way I recall from the TV program. A great deal of the discussion is about a dress of Monica’s, which looks good but is not appropriate for any particular occasion, so the other characters all chime in with ultimately unhelpful ideas about where she can wear it. There’s a sub-plot about Joey’s job, which is a minor acting gig but which may lead to something better.

So what about Nazi New York?

–Well, it just never seems to come up. Apart from a swastika discretely photoshopped into a mail carrier’s shoulder bag, Nazis don’t make an appearance.

I remember seeing Mr. T doing Friends New Year’s predictions on the Conan O’Brien show, and he couldn’t keep a straight face: big black man with a mohawk and heavy gold chains cracking jokes and giggling. One prediction was, “The cast of Friends discovers there are, in fact, black people in New York City.”

I kept waiting for something like that, but, unless I missed it, it just doesn’t happen. As far as I can tell, this is just a straight fanfic episode of Friends that happens to be set in Nazi New York. I don’t know the show well, so maybe the author is doing something clever, or maybe there are veiled allusions to the war or to racism in the dialog, but I didn’t find anything.

My theory is the author just wanted to put forth a Friends fanfic and used the alternate universe ploy to workaround copyright issues by claiming parody.


The dissonance sounds pretty strong in this one. Aren’t half the characters in Friends Jewish?

Honestly, I don’t know. But then, I just discovered via Wikipedia that Monica was Ross’s sister. I was never really into it. What was interesting to me was having a game without having a single player character.

I’ve got a WIP where you can switch to any NPC. I’m interested in isometric interactive fiction. That was really my reason for playing it.


…what is that, like in the sense of Fallout Tactics and Ogre Battle, “a cast of dozens” kind of thing?

The point here maybe is that Friends is about trivial people engaged in trivial things, exactly the sort of people that flourish in a corporatist state where everyone accepts that the police carry guns and the country is always at war.

The game sounds slightly more plausible but equally as fictitious as the dog sitting game.

I don’t know those references, but I doubt it. I want to capture a night in a tavern richly, such that during play you can switch into the head of anyone there. Switching is easy, but having the other actors not turn into mannikins when the player isn’t animating them is hard.


One answer to avoid enmannequination would be to have flexible predefined routines for nonpossessed characters.

Too pat.

C’mon: were the Jews, just before things got bad, by their nature any less inclined to trivia and minutia?

I think it’s just a copyright dodge. The author picked a Man in the High Castle universe for the same reason anyone makes a Nazi reference: it ends conversation.


The Man in the High Castle

My experience in the fanfic world argues against this theory. It’s not a tactic that I’ve ever heard people cite. Changing the setting like that isn’t parody; nor have I seen a trend of fanfic authors believing that it is.

I’m sorry, could we please get a direct link to the title in question? I perused the Ren’Py database with all apparently relevant keywords and came up with nothing.

I refer you to the pattern set by Conrad’s ‘review’ of Find the Dog.

oh, conradcrook, not again!

Fair enough. Maybe there’s something clever going on.

UnwashedMass, I’ll post a link later on.


ps - The title isn’t Alternate Universe Friends, and I don’t remember what exactly it is. I know it starts with The One About…, such as The One About Monica’s New Dress – but I don’t recall the topic. And I seem to remember there’s a wording variation between the in-game title and the website title.

I played it last week. Give me some time to track it down.


Speaking of which… what about that Find the Dog game, anyway? I never did hear anything about it.

I don’t know which is weirder: if these games exist, or if they don’t.