Don’t Take it Personally, Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story

I recently heard the Experience Points Podcast talk about the game “Don’t Take it Personally, Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story” (what a catchy name! ;) ). I remembered I read about the game previously so I decided to give it a whirl.

Don't Take It Personally, Babe

Normally I stay away from interactive novel teenage drama but…

It’s basically an Japanese-style interactive novel with a clever twist. It tells the story of a teacher, who is slowly dragged into the teenage drama of his class by having access to the student’s social network. So in paralell to the traditional interactive novel dialogue, you can check the in-game social network at any point to read up the newest posts. To top it off, there is even a 4chan spoof for humorous intermezzos.

I especially like the idea of having a social network. It breaks up the linearity of an interactive novel and adds more variety to the interaction. You no longer click trough a lengthy dialogue sequence. You browse through multiple conversations in parallel, constantly switching between “private” and “pubic” “public” conversations. In the middle of one dialogue, you might read a post that sheds a completely different light on the person you are talking to.

Don't Take it Personally, Babe

…. the social network functionality completely mixes up the otherwise linear game.

The game is well-made in general. The school structure adds a nice rhythm and structure to the storytelling. The game is divided into chapters. Each chapter culminates with a different student visiting you at your office and asking you for advice. Already the first chapter starts out with a bang by having a student-teacher crush drama right off the bat. The quality of writing is good. I especially enjoyed the copious amount of authentic teenage slang and Internet culture references. The multiple-choice decisions are cleverly set up in advance. Instead of the good/evil clichés they are subtle and therefore more emotionally charged. The interface is surprisingly clean and sleek for an indie project and the graphics are very high quality… mostly.

I say mostly because I soon realized that almost all of the graphics come from a generic interactive novel graphics library. Only a few special graphics were made for the game in specific. The stand out by not being quite as professional and polished. The entire game still carries a lot of weight from being an interactive novel. The dialogue may be less linear, but there are still very few opportunities of interacting with the story. And of course there is the obligatory Hentai part in form of a few nude pictures. Apparently they were custom-made and not part of the generic graphics package. As a result I don’t think they do the game any favors. Perhaps it’s for the better that they are hidden in a password-protected part of the game.

But none of this is a serious detriment. It’s still a well-made, innovative title. It pays tribute to the genre but also experiments with it’s constraints. The story tackles bold topics such as homosexuality and privacy in the digital age. Even if interactive novels are not you, it’s worth trying one chapter at least. Hey, it’s short and free.

Finally, one reasons why I checked it out is because it was made with Ren’Py. We used the system just recently in a Cologne Game Lab project. It’s an open-source engine for interactive novels. It’s mind-blowingly simple. Yet, due to it’s Python heritage, it offers an amazing level of customization. “Don’t Take it Personally, Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story” is a good example for the kind of complex games you can create with it.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

7 responses to “Don’t Take it Personally, Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story”

  1. GhostLyrics

    “private” and “pubic” My, my… Freud is gonna love that.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      ROFL! The ironic thing is that there is also a lot of pubic conversation. And by that I mean they are taking a lot about dicks. Which apparently the author regretted.

  2. Clayton Hughes

    “I say mostly because I soon realized that almost all of the graphics come from a generic interactive novel graphics library.”

    I don’t think there’s any shame in this. Also, the password for the questionable pictures wasn’t in the game, so that’s an interesting sort of meta-question about how willing you are to go searching on the Internet to invade privacy / get some titillation (there’s some irony there, certainly).

    1. GhostLyrics

      Well, Sir. I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly certain that Krystian would do the same that I’d do: If it is not in the game I’m going to look it up anyway, regardless of what is in the encrypted archive. The fact that it is encrypted just makes it more interesting. It’s not even about the pictures but about the completion, the fact that you’ve seen every aspect and hidden detail of the game.

    2. Krystian Majewski

      No, there is no shame in using graphics libraries. But it does create some awkward artifacts. For example, the visual design of the characters doesn’t always match with their personality. There are limitations in facial expressions. And when you do want to break out of that mold (which you inevitably do) there will be a visible seam between the pre-fab work and the custom stuff.

      On the other hand, going with 100% custom graphics wouldn’t do the game any good if they were of the quality you see in the game right now. I guess the moral of the story is to get a good artist. And once you do, there is no good reason to use pre-fab graphics anymore. ;)

      The password stuff fell flat for me because I heard about it in a podcast already. But generally, I doubt that’s in an idea that works. I don’t consider the characters in a story as real enough to be concerned about their privacy. I would be more hesitant if the game realistically simulated the consequences of me spying my students out. But it becomes apparent early on that it doesn’t. If fact, the game EXPECTS players to spy them out.

  3. Robin Saunders

    It does more than expect the player to spy on the characters; it actually forces them to, because it’s necessary for the anvil-dropping conclusion to make any sense. Still, I found most of the game pretty entertaining. The characters were quite immersive, there were a few funny moments and I liked the elements of foreshadowing and metafiction. It was good enough that I played it through a second time to get one of the alternate endings.

    1. Robin Saunders

      Update: just read the blog post. It covered pretty much everything I could have thought to say.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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