Digital: A Love Story

I’m not entirely sure whether it really counts as Interactive Fiction or just a form of Visual Novel, but I stumbled across Digital: A Love Story a short while ago and it really impressed me. The game, produced in 2010, is an 80s hacker romance/mystery. The entire interface is very similar to an Amiga or early Apple computer and is played via connecting to, downloading messages from, and posting to different BBSs. I found the experience to be fairly accurate - down the the sound of a dial-up modem connecting, and having to manually enter the phone number to every site you connected to without recourse to copy/paste.

On the downside there is a certain lack of interactivity involved. When you reply to a message or post to a BBS, as a player you never even see what it is that your character writes - you just get the responses the next time you dial in. There are a few hacking/phreaking related puzzles (though you don’t need to know anything about 80s cyberpunk culture to figure it out), but beyond that you’re basically following a story told to you through the messages you receive. This is really the only sort of “exploration” the game provides. You’re ALWAYS a guy sitting at a computer dialing out to other computers.

I’m interested in getting some other opinions on this. It’s freely downloadable from the site I link to above, and there’s a longer review of it here if you need a bit more prodding before bothering to download it. I’m particularly interested in hearing opinions regarding whether or not it qualifies as Interactive Fiction.

You may enjoy reading Em Short’s Gamasutra article on it: … _Story.php

Oh, neat! But what do you think about it?

I really like Digital. The lack of interaction (really I suppose we really mean choice or branching) doesn’t bother me.

There’s all sorts of ways to tell stories, and I don’t believe that we always have to make maximum use of interaction. I’d take a strong story that I can’t change over a weak story that responds to my choices any day. Not because linearity is superior to interaction (or vice versa) but because what matters is whether the story has impact the way it’s told. This isn’t true for every story or game, but I think Digital would only be a weaker story if different things could happen.

I think the author might question whether one of the words in that sentence is always the case. :wink:

I meant “guy” in the generic sense of “individual”. Curse my subconscious gender bias!

I enjoyed it, too, although the design isn’t perfect. There were quite a few bits where I was just flailing about, looking for the next trigger, and that really weakened the story for me. I loved the random messages from others - the flavor text, so to speak. I’d definitely recommend it to others.

The protagonist was interesting in that s/he (I don’t remember an explicit gender, but he did seem very male to me) is both a nameless, faceless adventure person, and a personality - just one we don’t get to see much of, because we can’t read his emails and don’t get commentary on what he’s thinking.

I like it quite a lot. It tells its story very well, and the incidental details (like “Ni hao, bitches!”) are great. The music helps set the atmosphere too. And before I ramble on any further, the author seems to have just released another visual novel; hooray!

I’d say there’s definitely interaction; typing in the phone numbers and hitting “dial” is an interaction, even when there’s only one number to dial. It’s the physical quality of dialing the computer that gets you involved in the story. Off-topic rant:

[rant]I think people who talk about games don’t take nearly enough account of the extent to which they can be about physically interacting with the game, even when the rules don’t give you a choice about what to do. Chutes & Ladders gives you no choices, I think, but rolling the dice and moving the pieces yourself is what makes the game. One reason the combat of Reliques of Tolti-Aph is so much less fun than that of D&D is that you don’t get to roll your own dice. And isn’t Trouble! entirely about the Pop-o-matic?[/rant]

And there are places where you can choose what to read, or whether to go into a side conversation, or something like that. It does lack branching, but so do many IF games. It’s not even entirely linear, in that I think you can take certain steps in different orders; see the end of the post. I think what we’re getting at is that it almost entirely lacks puzzles – which I don’t think detracts from the gameplay at all – and that it’s not always obvious what effect your message will have. When you reply, you don’t always know what you’ll say. (Though sometimes you do; after the first BBS crashes, you know exactly what message you’ll send.)

I don’t think it’s IF, though, in the sense we’re talking about in this forum. The way you interact is just too different; not that I think that IF has to consist of typed commands, but, well, there’s something not-this about it. It reminds me more of RPG dialogue systems, except done well. :stuck_out_tongue:

Some parts of my experience with Digital were not completely ideal; comments on another game gave me a big spoiler, and I got stuck at a few points, one or two of which diminished the impact:

I ran the program that unblinds you before I actually got blinded, because I thought I should run everything when it becomes available, and then at the very end I was expecting/hoping that my last action would be something a little more dramatic than simply replying to Emilia’s last message.

[UPDATE: gravel, it’s interesting you read the protagonist as male; I poked around the author’s website a bit, and there aren’t a lot of boy-girl relationships in her other work. Anyway, I agree that she did a great job of making me identify with the genderless faceless voiceless PC.]

After reading the posts on here, and looking this game up (and seeing more positive comments) I gave it a go. Wow! I really enjoyed it, thanks for bringing it to my attention. A strong interactive story. Not sure if I’d call it interactive fiction though, it’s too different.

I’ll definitely be checking out more of this author’s offerings.

I posted my thoughts on Digital a while back at

TLDR version: I thought it a remarkable game, well worth playing, that got a lot of things right.