Cibele (Nina Freeman)

Cibele

Cibele is Nina Freeman’s game about being a 19 year old college student who spends a lot of time in an online game, and who meets an Internet Friend who becomes more; and about what happens to their relationship next.

It intersperses non-interactive video (in which Freeman plays her younger self) with largely agency-free segments where you’re playing the game (mostly endlessly clicking on enemies to attack them) and hearing voice dialogue between Nina and her new friend. There are also some more exploratory elements – you can poke around a bit on Nina’s computer and look at her email and the selfies she’s been taking to send to her internet companion, but they’re fairly limited and none offer diegetic agency that I can see. This is pure dynamic fiction in which the actual events will unfold in the same way regardless of what you do.

I’m not the first person to see Cibele as a kind of bookend piece to Emily is Away. (I am, for the purposes of this article, not getting into the concerns I had about consent in Emily is Away, which the author has said were not intended; there’s more that could be said there, but I’ve already talked about it elsewhere. Cibele does not present similar issues – it does directly show you how some of the main character interactions go down – and in comparing the two pieces for the rest of the article I am comparing the rest of the experience of playing EiA.)

So. These games are both stories of internet relationships that go wrong between people who have some difficulty articulating their feelings to one another, difficulty listening to one another. They’re about people who are too young and inexperienced to be skilled at relationships yet. They both trade on the likelihood that the player has actually had a relationship somewhat like this, sometime in the past, whose details can be pasted in even though the actual characters in each game are minimally specified.

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