a few months ago there was an interesting thread on r/otomegames about self-insert romance games vs. ones with a clear protagonist. it’s an interesting question of intention and maybe draws the line between a “dating sim” otome and a cinematic one. fwiw I enjoy playing both, as much as I don’t really self-identify with the self-insert style ever. I still feel like I’m role playing, rather than seeing myself in a story.

how does it make you feel? has a very defined protagonist for a game that is in some ways about figuring out who you actually are. the project began as part of an ideation exercise around angsty teen music. as much as I remember literally all the words to a lot of the sad sack albums I listened to in high school, there are very few that I actually listen to anymore. I felt pretty disconnected from this version of myself who would literally just lie on the floor listening to Kid A on loop for hours. so the game began as a way to look back on that time playfully and try to figure out what parts of that person were still inside me.

the character Molly is a very loose version of me. ok the haircut and wardrobe is the same, and I definitely looked in the mirror to draw some of the character art, but as I’ve started writing she’s branched out into other paths I didn’t take as much as ones I did.

the visuals of how does it make you feel? draw from a hoard of period accurate influences. when I was actually in high school, I thought maybe I wanted to be an illustrator and was obsessed with album art, book covers, movie posters. I had a phase of drawing gig posters in my early 20s, but for the most part that was as far as it went before I went into “graphic design for web” to like, actually make money.

as an exercise for the game, I started using this decade of pent-up energy to make some character art homages to these influences. first up was Molly in a tribute to Charles Burns’ iconic Black Hole, another story about teens with too much time on their hands:

Molly’s a true neutral deadbeat. She dreams of traveling the world and making art but can’t be bothered to do her French homework. Good thing her art classes don’t have homework. If this was the 16th century, she’d gladly join a nunnery and just, like, chill. Maybe she’d smile more if she didn’t still have braces.

so, how does it make you feel?