Ever spent a little too much time in a game when you know you really ought to be dealing with real life? Escapism has its place, but sometimes it can hold us back — and that’s the dilemma it sounds like </reality> plans to explore.
It’s an upcoming visual novel by Fancy Fish Games, expected to come out next year if it hits its Kickstarter goal this week. One of its two protagonists is Lilya Martel, a gamer who struggles with social anxiety. As her story gets into the philosophical issues that arise when the lines between virtual reality and reality itself start to blur, </reality> will also get into how she copes with her mental health issues.
“In Lilya’s character, we are striving to represent a serious mental health affliction in an accurate and non-romanticized way. We hope to make Lilya a realistic and relatable character, and for those who may not be aware, give a glimpse into the everyday battle of living with – and managing – anxiety,” explains project lead Natalie Maletz.
The game promises a deep narrative, a heavily branching storyline, relationship building, and a mix of sci-fi and fantasy elements inspired by films like The Matrix and Inception — and the MMORPG-based anime series .hack//Sign.
Here’s how the developers describe the plot:
When VR nerd Lilya Martel arrives at InterMense as a beta tester, she expects to spend the weekend battling her social anxiety in exchange for the opportunity to enter Vitalia, the flagship Penta simulation. But between the physical side-effects of the Penta, suspicious explanations from the developers, and the odd and unbelievably intelligent inhabitants of Vitalia, clearly all is not as it seems at InterMense. Ben Evers, another beta tester, claims that Vitalia is the world in which he belongs – permanently. When Ben’s life is threatened, Lilya sees that she has become involved in something much riskier and more eye-opening than she realized.
As Lilya, Ben, and Jacob’s fates intertwine, they must make some of the hardest decisions of their lives, and confront their own beliefs and perceptions of the nature of existence.
It sounds like it may be a treat for anyone who knows what it’s like when your game life feels more real than your irl life, who’s experienced social anxiety, or who spends a lot of time thinking about whether the world could be an extremely advanced simulation created by our technological superiors. Or, you know, anyone who’s just finished Westworld and wants more some time before 2018.