don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story
Christine Love, 2011
At a prestigious high school in the year 2027, all students have computers at their desks and all teachers are given full access to their online communication, public and private. While peeking in, new teacher John finds himself swept up in the lives, romances, and dramas that play out among seven students in his English class. don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story is a free visual novel by Christine Love, written for NaNoRenO (the visual novel equivalent of NaNoWriMo). As such, it has many of the flaws and limitations that you'd expect: gameplay consists almost entirely of dialog choices, user input has only a moderate effect on the story, and there are sprinklings of typos, clichés, and heavy-handed plot elements. But despite its simplicity and lack of finesse, there's something unexpectedly wonderful about don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story. Additively fun yet surprisingly thoughtful, it reads not unlike a high-quality fanfic or BL manga and it's often the best that it can be given its limitations, and neither one of those is a backhanded compliment. With shipping and slashing, outlandish humor, and wish-fulfillment galore, the game has enormous appeal if itand gay teens and romantic escapades and high school drama (and internet culture, too)are in any way your thing. But Christine Love has an good eye for character design and dialog, and behind the fun and games there's always depth: on issues of sexuality, identity, communication, and love, don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story is surprisingly perceptive. There's plenty of little things here to stick with youinsightful bits of dialog, meaningful interactions, and truly enduring characters. If wish-fulfillment is the cake, then this complexity is eating it too, and it makes for a satisfying dish.
Not everything comes up roses, however. Players already familiar with gay slice of life dramas may find don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story enjoyable but not revelatory. As a game, it has the potential to use interactivity to set it apart from those similar stories, but (in large part because it's a visual novel) it doesn't capitalize on this opportunity. The game's lighter aspects occasionally run away with themselves, which is harmless until things grow too ridiculous to allow for suspension of disbelief. In particular, John is never convincing as a teacher; as a result there are no natural boundaries in his student/teacher relationships, and it means nothing when those would-be boundaries are broken, and the story suffers for it. The limitations of the game's format and production value do leave a mark: while its subtleties excel, its explicit themes and subjects are handled poorly. This is somewhat redeemed by how relevant and thoughtful those issues are, but that doesn't really matterthe bad (and sudden) twist ending is a disappointment in itself, and it also makes sure that what the game tries hardest to do, it does worst. And so don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story has issuessometimes plenty of them, sometimes in direct contradiction to its strengthsbut they're never enough to ruin the game, and they certainly shouldn't deter interested players from checking it out. For a few hours of free entertainment, don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story is fantasticand even without those caveats, it's a little treasure of a game. I enjoyed and recommend it.
I liveblogged don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story here on my Tumblr, but take warning: it'll do just about everything to spoil the game for you.