Freshman Year is the latest personal game from designer Nina Freeman. It's brief, and it tells an upsetting story -- a teen in college goes to the local bar to meet a friend, only to have an unwanted interaction with the bouncer (take care playing if you have a history with abuse themes).
The player's mode of interaction with Nina's story is mostly to choose responses -- the increasingly-impatient texts she sends Jenna, the friend she's supposed to meet, or how to address the over-friendly bouncer, or when to leave the dance floor. You can decide whether the Nina in this situation is confident or not, eager to drink or not. You can decide what she wears, even though, of course, that never has anything to do with anything.
Throughout her night out, Nina keeps texting Jenna: Are you here? Are you outside? Are you coming? Are you okay? You perform all the expected exchanges that happen when plans are fleeting and timing is relative. The player's attention pings between the phone screen and the environment she's in, until you experience Nina's own sense of polarization and anxiety.
This constellation of small moments helps illustrate all the facets of an old memory, up for processing: Is Nina mad at Jenna for abandoning her? Should she have done any number of little attitude adjustments differently? When we look back on the brief, confusing violations in our time as younger women, do we really know for sure how we felt at the time? Read the rest