Jun 14, 2022 - Technology

Shakespearean dating game receives peer-reviewed journal release

We Are Not All Alone Unhappy. Screenshot: Axios

A Shakespearean dating game published in a peer-reviewed journal takes to heart the Bard’s line that “The course of true love never did run smooth."

What’s happening: We Are Not All Alone Unhappy, the charming side project of Firaxis narrative lead Cat Manning, asks players to test the romantic chemistry between characters from various Shakespeare plays.

  • The game was released with the new issue of the academic journal Borrowers and Lenders, accompanied by an essay from Manning explaining its construction.
  • Manning wrote in the essay that “These characters carry their personalities and preoccupations into these meetings, and success or failure in a conversation is determined by (my judgment of) what might fulfill each character’s emotional arc.”

What they’re saying: “Before I was in games, I was an academic who wrote on and taught Shakespeare’s plays, so when an academic colleague told me he was putting together [a journal issue] on Shakespeare and gaming and asked if I’d like to contribute, I jumped at the chance to bridge two of my passions in an interactive medium,” Manning told Axios.

The goal of the game is to find a number of happy endings for all nine characters by matching them up. Ever been curious whether Juliet would hit it off with Ophelia?

  • “We already have a lot of dark takes on classic literature, so what might a deliberately happy one look like?” Manning says.

While Manning did the writing, she said she brought on Destina Connor and Florencia Minuzzi of Tea-Powered Games to give the project its “teenager’s diary” look.

Manning is no stranger to novel games. She has been a part of creating Blaseball, the very odd, very fascinating browser game that simulates an absurdist baseball league.

  • “In the way that Blaseball dramatically widens the possibilities of baseball (incinerations, hauntings, fighting an imperious peanut god), I wanted to widen the story space of Shakespeare plays,” Manning says.

For now, she says she’s just happy to have We Are Not All Alone Unhappy, which she started working on in 2018, out into the world.

  • “There were definitely moments where I wondered if I shouldn’t just have released it on my own,” Manning says. “But having it out as part of a journal, and having my idiosyncratic field-crossing game in conversation with academic peers, has been great.”

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Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to remove an incorrect reference that Manning is involved with Marvel’s Midnight Suns.

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