Love is Zero (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie, Sloane)

Love is Zero screenshot

Love is Zero is a Twine piece about vampire high school girls in a tennis school on the moon. It’s not really a piece with plot, per se: instead it’s a sort of meditation on how identities are formed. You have a series of choices — usually “STUDY”, “PLAY TENNIS”, and “BULLY”, though sometimes specialized other choices as well. Every time you make a decision, something new is added to the long sentence that describes who you are. And despite how it may look, all of those choices are rather harsh ones. Bullying is obviously problematic, but playing tennis is about winning and beating other people down, about getting hit with rackets and hurting and not minding. And studying is about kissing up to teachers and gaining knowledge that sounds frightening and dangerous. So the STUDY / TENNIS / BULLY choice is not a PET PUPPY / KISS PUPPY / KILL PUPPY style of moral choice. They’re all sort of KILL PUPPY options.

Sometimes things happen to you outside of your control and those can affect your description too. You belong to a randomized clique with a randomized uniform. The vampirism and the tennis are signs for something else — for the bloody and out of control violence of teen emotions, for the ubiquity of blood in puberty, for competitiveness. The game touches also sometimes on the relationships girls have with their bodies — there are some randomized events that touch on and talk about eating disorders.

That all sounds pretty heavy, but the game is very stylized and cartoony. It manages to talk about the real emotions that underlie teenage female experiences while at the same time not overwhelming the player with hyperrealism. Porpentine’s gift for capturing significant feelings and experiences in single sentences is once again on display here.

5 thoughts on “Love is Zero (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie, Sloane)

  1. I just played this a couple of days ago and really enjoyed it. I don’t know how I’d describe it: like you said, it’s not really a story, and certainly not a game, but a big part of its appeal for me was exploring the options to find new events. I’ll probably play it again soon. In terms of writing it is, predictably, excellent: Porpentine’s flair for freakish and evocative world-building details is at full display.

    (I’m kind of hoping Porpentine reads this, so I can tell her how much I enjoyed the game. Porpentine, if you’re reading: this game is great.)

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