Thoughts on We Know the Devil

This game is why I started this site. I wrote far too many words about it, realized it was too many words and stopped and shelved it. So I'm repurposing some of it for here.

We Know the Devil is a horror visual novel that takes place over the course of 12 hours at a Christian summer camp and follows three troubled teens: the tomboy, Jupiter, who tries to always do the right thing; the shy, bullied Venus whose words can be subtly, bitingly cruel; and Neptune, the meangirl who wants her friends to stop trying so hard to be good. It's approaching the end of their time at camp and Group West knows their turn to be sent to the cabin is coming up. It's their turn to be on watch for the devil and drive him off.

We Know the Devil has a unique aesthetic that immediately catches your attention. While it's not uncommon for visual novels to use drawn characters and photographs as backgrounds, the black and white, rougher style of the characters works a lot better than others I've seen, and the dark, synth soundtrack that feels out of a John Carpenter film brings it all together.

The story focuses on alienated teenagers, religion, social pressure, LGBT identities and repression. As you play through it, you will be asked to choose which two of the three characters will be together in a given scene, which is how the routes are handled. Not all combinations are available for every scene and you will always force one to be alone. I really related to the topics of repression and fear throughout it. If the basic concept of horror aesthetic, gay teens and a religious summer camp interests you and you haven't played it, please go check it out, it's available on steam and ($6.66) and has a prequel demo called We Know the Demo.

The Summer Camp the girls are at is never named and the game only has scattered mentions of its bigger picture. We don't get a lot of answers as to the world of We Know the Devil (WKTD from here on out for brevity), but we know what we need to because the story isn't about unraveling the mystery of what is this camp, we only need it as a setup. The Summer Camp has a cultish vibe, the students carry around crystal radios, wear white button down shirts with crosses that appear to be hastily drawn onto their pockets with a fabric pen. They also hear god on the radio, there's mentions of transformations and they go to a cabin to face the devil.

To those unfamiliar with the history of radio, the crystal radios sound even more mystical than they actually are in the game. Crystal radios were popular around 1900 as they required no external power to play the radio signals they could receive, they instead used the power of the radio signal itself for power. The crystal that Venus — who excels at working with the radio — references in the game, galena, is what was commonly used in these radios of the time. Crystal radios are simple, you need some wire, a capacitor, a crystal and some sort of earphone. They're a very interesting topic I highly recommend you look into further.

Brief diversion aside, even with prior knowledge of crystal radios, something is different about the crystal radios in WKTD. They are described with odd adjectives. Venus mentions their use in slicing things in the demo and each girl's radio has a different adjective associated with it. The Bonfire Captain — the only seen camp counselor — describes them as unique to each person and they connect to each of our three protagonists' personal issues.

The campers tune in to hear God on the radio and — if they are not careful — they can sometimes pick up signals from the devil. The Devil lives between the frequencies, while god is always found at 109.8. God sounds like every boy you are afraid of talking to at once. God doesn't check in to make sure you're caught up to what he's talking about. God expects you to show up on time and pay attention. God has rules.

The kids are split into groups of three and are then setup to isolate one of the three in most activities. The demo shows that this is common across most camp activities as only two of them can compete in a dodgeball game and only two in a talent show. The kids must be cruel to each other, especially when they go to the cabin. The Cabin is where kids are sent to face The Devil. The Devil lives in the woods and one of them will be tempted by and possessed by him. The Camp sends groups to The Cabin because they believe they all have something wrong with them and want that stamped out. They pit these kids against each other, they want them to isolate one of their number so that they fall to the devil and then be stopped by the other two. The kids must know that they are wrong.

The game centers around this as the mechanic. You the player/reader must pick which pairing will work together at each decision point, and outside of one the seven events, you only get to pick between two of these pairings. This not only saves time on writing and makes replaying for each path a bit quicker, but also forces you to see every combination of character. You can't just stick Jupiter and Neptune together every chance you get. But because there are 7 events, you can't balance them perfectly either. Someone is always left behind until you unlock the true ending.

There is nothing to fear where there is two against the devil. Two people can shame and drive back The Devil. Two people can report this fall to sin and push their third back on the right path. Each path ends with the character you featured the least turning to the devil as the other two use their radios to turn them back. The isolation has caused the remaining character to turn inward on their "bad" impulses and they know the devil. T

As the girls turn to the devil, they undergo a graphic transformations that reflect each character before they are driven back by the other two. One of them always has to be a bit worse than the others, one of them must be a scapegoat and the other two must be good and turn them back.

I mostly want to talk about Jupiter. I want to talk about her in a way that really goes through a lot of the details of her plotline, so if this game interest you, go ahead and play it yourself first. It's $6.66 normally and usually is in a bundle or steam sale for less.

Jupiter wants to be a good kid. She needs to be a good kid. She's supposed to be good. She can't not be good. She's smart, a good student, an athlete, and everyone else expects her to do well. She's not the kind of girl who gets sent to a camp like this. Even the jerks in Group South think she's cool. Jupiter always tries to put on a strong face. She acts like nothing bothers her, she tries to be friendly and tries to do the "good" thing without being sanctimonious about it. Jupiter makes occasional reference to her parents. Her mother is implied to be emotionally abusive. She may have been physically and/or sexually abused in the past as well. Jupiter has an extreme aversion to touching or being touched that can imply this.

Each girl in the game has a tic, her's is she snaps her hair tie on her wrist.

Jupiter has a crush on Neptune — she's a closeted lesbian who tries to lock these feelings away because it's not "good" to be gay. This is why she is at the camp. If you're not aware, snapping hair ties or rubber bands on your wrist is a form of aversion therapy often used by gay conversion camps. The idea is you snap the band on your wrist, causing you a non-serious amount of physical pain whenever you have gay thoughts. This causes you to begin to subconsciously associate your sexuality with pain to cause you to retreat from it. It's a cruel practice.

Jupiter really wants to be a good kid. Everyone expects her to be good, the pressure of the expectations of everyone else clearly weighs on her, particularly in her own route and the true ending. Her radio is described as heavy. I find the other character's "radio adjective" can be more directly related to how they communicate, but Jupiter's is a bit more general to the character I suppose. She feels the weight of the expectations of her parents, friends, and society. In Jupiter's ending, she, as she does through much of the game, immediately blames herself.

Jupiter says she liked it when she thought heaven was based on merit, where if you do good things, you can one day be good eonough to go to heaven. But she's gay. Her heart isn't "good" it's deviant. She can't be inherently good, she can only act it out. She can't go to heaven, God knows her heart has other desires. If it was about doing good things, she could make it. She doesn't have a shot at heaven now. She can act good, but she can't be good. She's inherently wrong and broken. Her mother taught her touching others is not polite, her dad told her as a girl she must protect herself from the touch of others, but she can't protect herself from her own touch. She asks what would happen if she stopped trying to stop herself from trying?

Throughout all the routes and especially the final route, Jupiter has trouble choosing her own happiness. She wants the devil to be real because she wants the devil to make her choose him. She needs it to not be her fault. She is too scared to make the call to be herself. She's afraid.

In the true ending, all the girls turn to the devil, be together and be themselves. Jupiter has the most trouble doing this though. She just can't let go and be herserlf, be "bad." She tells Neptune that she needs her to force her to join the other two with the devil becaus she's not strong enough to do it on her own. She begs them because it neerds to not be her fault. If she has to turn to the devil then it's okay.

She's scared, but she knows it's what she needs to do. She knows that if she takes that first step, she'll never be able to look back.

Work Music - 9/17/2020 - Shibuya-kei Jazz

Don't normally listen to stuff on spotify, but it is handy when just trying out new stuff. Going into the sub-sub-genres now.

Work Music - 9/16/2020

It's really funny hearing Dog Song played by a full orchestra.

Mobile Suit Gundam First Impressions


So I started watching the original Mobile Suit Gundam series because I've never watched a Gundam before. The only mecha show I've ever watched is Big O. I'm liking it a lot more than I thought I would. I knew that it was about child soldiers and war being hell, but I didn't expect episode 1 to feature a bunch of corpses as a main character shakes her dead mother's body and the protagonist Amuro blowing a hole in the side of a spaceship killing people.

About halfway through it now and really like it. Still really holds up after all these years. The animation not so much, but I do like the characters and the overally story.

Thoughts on Hypnospace Outlaw

Screen Shot of Zane's Hypnospace page

I started to write a Game of the Year list for 2019, but uhhhh it was July and I hadn't finished it so here are my thoughts on hypnospace broken out.

Hypnospace Outlaw is extremely my shit. Hypnospace Outlaw got me to consider making this site and writing stuff on it again. It made me miss the days of the personal website. Now social media allow a cover photo and avatar at best, with tumblr being the last refuge of custom looks and feels to someone's page. Hypnospace is not just a nostalgia piece though, I think even those unfamiliar with the 90's/Early 00's internet can get a lot of out Hypnospace. It is not a simple recreation or reference to the internet of the time, but something with the "feel" of that period of the internet that captures what it is remembered for in an alternate universe setting.

Hypnospace takes place in an AOL-like internet full of geocities-esque pages full of animated gifs and poor design accessed by people in their sleep using special headbands and technology we do not have today. Almost every page has autoplaying music, mostly in a simple midi-like style that many older websites had. You play as an Enforcer, a moderator of this internet and the main gameplay loop is that of a detective game, you are investigating reports of rule infractions and giving people demerits and bans for inappropriate conduct.

The first case you get is that of copyright infringement in "Good Time Valley," a community dedicated to the good old days full of older users. It seems the residents are using animated gifs and images of an older cartoon character named Gumshoe Gooper and the copyright holder is not happy about it. As you report the infractions of an elementary school teacher who posted drawings her students did of the character, she updates her status to express outrage at her unfair treatment. As the game progresses, this snowballs into an open rebellion as people begin to put "I Stand With Gumshoe Gooper" badges on their page. A page with american flags and patriotic midis is created to denounce the communist plot to take down Gumshoe Gooper and take away their rights to free speech as the community becomes divided over the issue. The debate bleeds over to other communities with "Teentopia"'s teenage hacker T1MAGEDDON making a satirical page about it to keep people riled up.

The thing I liked the most about Hypnospace is the characters involved weren't just there to be funny. They all have their own lives and relationships you can glean from their pages. Abby, the school teacher, is lonely after her daughter died at a young age and she lost her husband. The trial of Gumshoe Gooper's censorship causes her and another member to begin an online relationship as they bond over organizing the protest. Abby is popular in the community and is friends with an older biker who lost his wife a few years ago and they connected over their shared loss. The gooper gifs are made by a furniture salesman who lost the use of his legs in a car accident in his early twenties and uses hypnospace to communicate with people who don't just think of him as the guy in the wheelchair. Each investigation allows you to go down a rabbit hole of webrings and links to find out more about the characters and their lives.

Every area in Hypnospace includes its own cast of characters whose homepages give you glimpses into their lives. There's the pastor's kid in Teentopia afraid her dad is going to take away her Squisherz game because he thinks its satanic. There's a recurring washed-up musician known as "The Chowder Man" (played by internet funny guy Hot Dad) who is trying to return to popularity and is the source of the funniest songs in the game.

Most of the gameplay involves searching for keywords to find pages both listed and unlisted related to whatever investigation you're currently working on. This is reminescent of Sam Barlow's 2015 game Her Story and its computer-based search puzzle. The conceit works well enough and facilitates finding easter eggs and new pages and it helps that other mechanics are layered on top of it regarding hidden pages and areas. Collecting icons, wallpapers, themes, virtual pets and especially music tracks were really enough for me to keep engaging with every page I could find.

I don't have anything particularly profound to say about Hypnospace and its overall story arc, so I won't go into great detail about it. But the story of corporate greed and shortsightedness, teenagers desperately trying to be cool and loved and the ending really emotionally affected me in a way I didn't expect. Hypnospace does a great job of capturing that feeling of putting an image of yourself out there for others to see and how others who see this can keep an image of who you are for years to come.

World 1 - Mushroom Kingdom of my Super Mario Maker 2 game

Super Mario Maker 2 - The Mushroom Kingdom

I'm once again taking Super Mario Maker too seriously and am making a world map for my levels. This is the planned first set of levels, though I've only made up to the tank and will likely change the map a bit as I make more levels. I plan on making an interactive map with the level IDs when I'm done with this part. I have some Tiled tilesets I made this with. I also have the SMB3 tileset for the worldmap and the super mario bros deluxe map. I might switch up the style on world.