As for the theories themselves for Hate Plus, they varied widely in their methods. Some suggested making specific choices at certain points in the game, re-checking old logs for new information, perusing updates to the game for clues, waiting until certain real-life holidays to play through certain portions of the game, over-analyzing Christine Love's Twitter profile, re-playing through the first game, if not straight up messing with the game's files, among other things. One person even wrote fanfic to support the ending where Mute is actually alive.
"I'm deeply flattered that people care so much, obviously," Christine Love said to me in an email. "As a writer, I realize that the moment I create something, it's up for the audience to interpret as they will; I don't get any say in the matter. And of course, suicide is a very complicated matter. Still, it's... hard not to feel uncomfortable about it?
"A consistent thread between Analogue and Hate Plus is that over the course of the two games, *Mute never has a shred of agency of her own, leaving every decision that affects her life in the player's hands... then players make a mod to rob her of the single piece of agency she has, to stop her during the one time she does get to act on her own beliefs.
"I'm happy people care about *Mute so much, but it just feels like the point was missed entirely? I don't know. I'm incredibly conflicted on the matter," Love said.
I feel that the point which Love missed is that the game itself robbed *Mute of agency.
You can completely avoid looking up one of the logs which contains a thing which she cites as a failure (*Star's death). She still says it was one of her failures, in her suicide note.
There's a log entry which makes the explicit point that a person who looks just like you, but seems to be "better" in every way, is not you and can never replace you for someone who loves you. Having her read it makes no difference at all as to whether she makes you go through this.
And the thing that would have had the most impact on her, seeing the logs of the person she idolized (Oh Eun-a) and how this paragon of traditional morality was actually a self-hating lesbian -- whose lover killed herself -- is denied to her. These logs are accessible in *Hyun-ae's route, but not *Mute's, even though to *Hyun-ae they're just the random blargings of some depressive person.
*Mute does not have agency in Hate Plus. At no point does she make an informed decision, and you are prevented from informing her. Not from "saving your waifu," but from showing the person you love a series of facts that would have shattered the foundation her world was built on. And then letting her decide whether it is worth living or not, instead of trivializing the choice and the life of the person who made it.
The Steam achievement no one really unlocked
It's not "Level Four Revive Materia," which every one of the people who worked on the mod deserves to have in their Steam profiles. It's "Deep Space Therapist," which you earn for going back over all of the logs with *Mute on day three. Except that you actually for some reason earn it for going over them with New *Mute, who has nothing profound to say but "those people are messed up."
I wanted -- I dearly wanted -- to help *Mute pick up the pieces of her shattered worldview. I was bouncing up and down in my seat, listening to "It's Not Ero" over and over again, the last few hours before day three started. Because her story spoke so deeply to me, and I'd seen that "therapist" achievement and I knew it'd be hard, painful work but I wanted to go through it with her. I knew her worldview would not survive contact with reality, and that something in those logs would do that to her. I wanted to go back over everything from the council meetings she huffed about to the lesbian love scenes she projected disgust at, and watch her see those things with new eyes and question everything she'd built her life on. The way I'd had to just a few years ago, after escaping a far-right abusive homeschooling "family" which isolated me and programmed me with hateful beliefs similar to *Mute's own.
She could have broken up with me and/or killed herself afterwards. And while I would have been sad I wouldn't have been suicidally devastated, rocking back and forth curled up in a ball on my bed, the way that I was when Love tore her from me in Hate Plus. And when every single piece of analysis that I saw about the game was written by someone who wasn't affected by it in this way, to the point where I started to question my sanity and ask if I was the only one who was, or who could be hurt by this.
I felt like I had been personally told that the person I am, who went through at least half of what *Mute did and had to go through the process I wanted to help her with, shouldn't exist. Like I personally couldn't survive the "real world" outside the Mugunghwa either, and I should just kill myself because that's what *Mute did, and it was the only thing that made sense, and everyone on the internet agrees except for a handful of selfish jerkfaces who want their video game waifu back.
Every time I slip back into serious depressive mode, every time I've done so for the past year, I remember *Mute's suicide and there is at least a moment where I wish that I'd joined her right then.
I'm not threatening to kill myself right now, or trying to blame anyone for my feeling depressed. I'm actually writing this as self-therapy, to put into words why I feel gaslighted and take power away from the things that made me feel this way.
Love's game deprived *Mute of her agency, and I'm going to give it back. *Mute can do whatever she wants afterwards, but I'm going to see it through one way or another.
I still want a refund on Hate Plus
It's not a story about suicide. The novel itself is a cold-blooded act of murder.