November 2, 2015 1:00 PM | Joel Couture
Many games tell a story; Cibele asks you to experience one. It's not a game where you watch a character live through the hardships of finding love online, but where you feel it for yourself. You are told a story, and are playing as a character, but the game's systems blur the line between character and self, asking the player to settle into main character Nina's skin for a while. To feel her insecurities and the bubbling excitement this new intimacy brings. But you can feel that something isn't right, and that there is a negativity that permeates the online flirting from your new love in this MMO landscape. YOU know this, but for now, you are her, and must live out her life, good and bad, as it unfolds. Cibele, truly, is virtual reality for the heart.
Cibele is a semi-autobiographical story of developer Nina Freeman, told through documents on a desktop and through interactions in a fictional MMO, Valtameri. You can navigate Nina's blogs, emails, photos, poetry, and chat logs to get a sense of who she is, clicking on her private words and images and getting a look into her life, feelings, and friendships. It paints a sad picture, showing a woman who is learning to love herself but is still filled with doubt and insecurity, leaving her vulnerable, and despite her friendships, clearly lonely. Yet in the world of the MMO, she has Itchi, a man who, despite his constant snark and contempt for most people, seems to care about her.
You watch their relationship grow as you play the MMO, idly fighting monsters as you watch Nina open her heart to this man, and see him open his back. The interfaces seem simplistic, clicking away at the MMO and reading her poetry, but elegantly immerse you into (fictional) Nina's life. You're a watcher and a participant in this intimate, heartbreaking story of barriers broken by the distance of the internet and the kind of love that blooms when you don't yet know how to love yourself.
Cibele is available for $8.99 on Steam, Itch.io, and the game's site. For more information on the game, Star Maid Games, and Nina Freeman, you can head to the developer's site or follow them on YouTube and Twitter.