I didn’t think I’d be posting any more actual reviews of IF entries, but since Emily’s review of Caroline was what first alerted me to IF Comp in the first place, and because I totally stepped in it in her comments section by replying to someone who’d spouted some Twine-hate, I figured what the hell, I wanted to organize my thoughts on it.
This is a review of Caroline. I was raped by Caroline. The game and the character, if such a thing is possible.
As a game, Caroline is not very good. It’s not very fun, either, and crashed multiple times when I played (which is impressive, for such a sparse experience). To play, you simply type in the words that the game tells you to type.
It does raise interesting questions, however, about agency and consent. In dating sims and interactive novels that focus on relationships, consent is programmed in and characters are scripted to say ‘yes’. Being scripts/objects/whatever, characters can give no consent, and any sexual advances towards them allowed by the programming are met with the programmed response, either agreeing to a sexual encounter or declining a sexual encounter based on the choices made by the player. However, Caroline flips this: the player’s agency is removed; the game’s program is ever driving you toward the inevitable conclusion of having sex with an awful crazy woman. No choices you make prevents this, opportunities to say no, while given, are of no consequence. Caroline is going to force you to have sex with her whether you want her to or not. Is the player character raped? As I said, you can say ‘no’, but it doesn’t change anything. You can consent, but does consent mean anything if not consenting isn’t an option? Of course, unlike real life, you can always turn Caroline off.
Other than this intellectual bone to chew on, there isn’t much that you’ll find in Caroline. It’s not a fun or enjoyable experience, but rape isn’t supposed to be, is it? If this game was going for something else, I have no idea what it could be. At the end, Caroline turns into a magic angel; does this mean her crazy cult was right? Who knows. I think the only reason i felt the need to say anything about this was because of how creeped out I was by it by the time I got it to actually work. Consider this explanation of my being creeped out therapeutic in nature.