I probably shouldn’t go around saying that I have a crush on a high schooler . . .

Let me try that again: I probably shouldn’t go around saying that I have a crush on a high schooler without explaining that it’s only within a video game. Though, I get the feeling the producer of LongStory, Miriam Verburg, might think that’s just swell.

LongStory is an episodic, LGBT-positive mobile dating/adventure game developed by a small Toronto team. The game got its release on Google Play earlier in March, and as of today it’s now available on iOS (free, I hear, for a limited amount of time).

In LongStory you play a high school girl who is starting her first day at a new school, trying to navigate the awkwardness of adolescence while uncovering the mystery of a note in your locker. You’re quickly introduced to a cast of characters, which includes your annoying little brother, the glued-at-the-hip mean girls, a bizarre student who dresses in a turkey mascot costume, and more.

Probably the most outstanding aspect of LongStory is the incredible art and design, by artist Yi Pan and art director Sara Gross. While the game is a simple, linear text adventure, the writing (snaps to head writer Renee Vrantsidis) is tight and extraordinarily effective in establishing relationships and sympathies for characters. I’m not a big mobile gamer, but after playing through the first episode, I can promise I won’t be missing a single one!

My only criticism for the game is a small, technical nitpick. At one point I wanted to put the game down to go and do something else, so I toggled the settings button but then had to restart the section that I had already gotten a little ways into. A placeholder or save function would be helpful and is a simple fix for future episodes. Beyond that, my only problem with Episode 1 is that there’s not enough of it! How am I going to be able to wait?

In the game, you form and get to make choices about new friendships . . . and, without spoiling too much, a budding relationship, maybe? While I, as the player, might have developed a bit of a crush on Marcel, the curly-haired “obligatory sometimes-a-jerk” teenaged Dubai ex-pat (it’s the bad-boy thing . . . swoon!), for the penultimate choice I went another direction for the sake of the story I wanted to see.

“Have you ever fallen in love with a video game character?” asks Verburg, the game’s producer. She’s recently presented a talk, Building Empathic Games, at SXSE, and is revising it this weekend as part of the Toronto-based gaming initiative Dames Making Games’ March Speakers Social. No doubt with the recent release, and growing success, of LongStory, she’ll have plenty to say on making a game that really grabs you by the heartstrings!

DMG March Speakers Social:
Building Empathic Games
Bento Miso,
862 Richmond St W
No cover
dmg.to, longstorygame.com

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