I always enjoy playing video games during the holidays so I thought I’d play a new one from my too large list of unplayed Steam games. In comes Emily is Away Too which is an indy game reminiscent of AOL chats from the late 90s and early 2000’s. Since I came of age during this time I found it very nostalgic. It also made me reflect on the way things used to be and how dissimilar my life is from that time period, and how quickly we forget.
First, the gameplay of Emily is Away Too isn’t very advanced, it’s basically a choose your own adventure with multiple directions and endings. You get 3 “options” to reply to messages and usually they all express the same meaning. I was hoping there would be some puzzles, like you need to read people’s profiles for information on how to advance, but I don’t think there was much like that in the game except for some secret unlocks. It’s pretty much straight pick 1, 2, or 3.
I wouldn’t call the story line to be that great either, it’s actually pretty dull and not much happens. I got to the end of Chapter 5 with supposedly one of the “good” endings which is merely a summary of what choices you made and then it’s over. What this game exceeds at is accurately recreating how middle class white people grew up during this time period. If I were to go to my dad’s house and find my old computer from that era and boot up the hard drive, I would find this game’s chat logs stored in the AIM logs folder. Only they’d be sadder and more pointless. This brings me to my next point: 1) How this game helped me realize how I personally went through these exact scenarios in real life 15 years ago and 2) How putting current me through the same ordeal is completely different.
Now I am genuinely curious if I could find those old chat logs somewhere. From what I remember, I was overly attached, cringey, obtuse, and hesitant to hold a definitive opinion about anything for fear of alienating someone. My life was ruled by anxiety and how I was perceived by other people, I think in some way it actually looped all the way around where I would be so anxious and paralyzed by fear I would break down and actually do new and interesting things just to get out of those scenarios.
It’s been my life goal to break out of that cycle and this game really helped me realize how far I’ve gotten. At this point I feel like a different person than the one staying up late at night feeling anxious about the next day of school. Put current me in 15 years ago and I would be able to handle it and make decisions that not only help myself, but friends as well. “Yo Emily, you gotta break up with Jeff, that guy is crazy needy”. Whereas teenage-me I would have sided in the other direction, because I wasn’t much different. It’s good to change for the good, and self improvement is key. Then you can see all that drama filling those little chat boxes are simply games, as they always have been.