When game designer Nicky Case built a Choose Your Own Adventure tale for the Nar8 hackathon last month, he chose a real-world, if no less difficult, journey as his subject. The Coming Out Simulator is the story of Case's announcement to his parents and its complicated aftermath. As a player, you'll meet Case (portrayed as a blank-faced, hipster-haired cartoon) in a present-day coffee shop. He'll invite you to enter a fictionalized version of his life—the night of his coming out—but with the caveat that you can help direct the story. At each turn, you are offered three options for what Case, his boyfriend, and his parents say or do. One is true to Case's actual biography. One is completely fictional. And one is a semi-true version of what really happened.
"I wanted the player to feel the stress of making the decision that I had to make," Case explains. "Offering a lie, truth, or half truth increases the weight of the decision."
The story, which Case built with HTML5, features black and white graphics, some basic sound effects, and text bubble-narration. The dialogue is chatty, if a little sarcastic. "Because I'm snarky," Case says. "And you write what you know."
He decided to deliver the dialogue via text message as a narrative metaphor. "Texting is full of miscommunication. It's impersonal and hard to connect—just like the coming out conversation that I had with my parents." The game—which is more like an interactive comic—is at turns harrowing and humorous, but ultimately, the Coming Out Simulator isn't a downer. No matter which choices you make along the way, Nicky truly does come out okay in the end.