By: Devonne Tourre
Emily is Away is set in the time period of Home Improvement, AOL Messenger is what allowed you to truly stay in contact with your friends and Windows XP was considered the revolutionary operating system—before they were replaced by Skype, Facebook, and Windows 10. Emily is Away is a free-to-play Steam game that consists of an interactive story between the main character—played by you—and Emily, a friend that you have known throughout your school years. Journey through 2002 to 2006—which is senior year of high school through senior year of college—and experience the heart-changing relationship between you and Emily.
In Emily is Away, the player creates a username and signs into AOL Messenger. After the player chooses an icon from the provided list, they are thrown into a chat with Emily, a well-known friend of the player. Emily and the player message each other back and forth for a bit before Emily logs off. The game goes through five chapters, with each chapter representing one educational year of the timeline that the player exists. The events pertaining to the plot of the game shift as the player goes along. As the player chooses responses to Emily, her opinions and attitude towards the player changes, making the experience of the game feel real.
The growth of the friendship between the player and Emily seems so familiar and true to life that the player could easily identify with it. Emily and the player go through their own lives with parallel situations or events that someone might encounter in real life.
Later on in the story, the player has the option of admitting their romantic feelings towards Emily or pretending to like someone else at their own school.
As I was playing the game, that scenario left me feeling like I have known Emily for a really long time, just as I have known my real life friends for the same amount of time. This type of dialogue doesn’t feel forced onto the player and truly makes them think about their decisions, just as in real life.
Towards the end of the game, the relationship between the player and Emily becomes rocky. It becomes hard for the both of you to speak to each other, mainly because of the awkward and somewhat life-changing conversations that have been occurring throughout the game. You both manage to make small talk before all of the responses turn into a permanent ‘goodbye’ message. As heart-wrenching as it may be to send that final goodbye message to Emily, the player must do it, which ends the game in full. It’s hard to say goodbye after all of the things that you and Emily went through, but that’s how relationships work.
If you have an hour and a half to spare, then boot up that old laptop operating system and sign into AOL Messenger once again with Emily is Away.