Coming Out Simulator 2014
Trigger Warning: This game contains scenes and themes that some people may find upsetting.
Nicky Case, best known for his demo of the upcoming Nothing to Hide and Gap Monsters gets more than a little personal with his interactive story Coming Out Simulator 2014, also available on Itch.io. Created for the Nar8 Jam, this semi-autobiographical game opens in a coffee shop, but primarily takes place back in 2010, when the narrator's boyfriend, Jack, encourages Nicky to come out to his parents. As you read, you'll be given different responses to choose that can drastically alter the flow of dialogue, and, as the narrator cautions, everyone will remember everything you say, so think about your words before you pick them, but don't expect to "win" in the traditional sense.
Coming Out Simulator 2014 approaches its subject matter with unexpected style and charm, bringing out a smile or a laugh even when you've braced yourself for the worst. The visual style is simple, with clean lines and a limited colour palette, and yet all the characters manage to be extremely expressive despite a lack of, um, expression and significant animation. Sound here is mostly used for ambiance, and a few well chosen audio effects pull you into the conversations. As gamers, it's hard sometimes to shake yourself out of the mentality of playing to win versus simply playing, and that's at times even harder here because simply by virtue of its subject matter, Coming Out Simulator 2014 makes you want to win for Nicky himself. The narrator charms with just a few lines, creating a character that's likable and easy to identify with regardless of who you are. There are scenes that are extremely hard to watch, and choices that are even harder to make, simply because, as the start of the game points, out, there are no right answers, and so how can you win? Despite not knowing what actually happened, since the narrator tells you the game is full of a mix of things that could have (or never would have) been said in addition to things that were, Coming Out Simulator 2014 uses its short running time to make an impression and make you feel, and that, more than anything else, is the hallmark of a successful tale, and an unexpectedly intimate one to boot.