A while ago, we quoted a review of Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion, the film that continues the story of the original Madoka Magica dark magical girl series. It accused it of having an "indulgent lack of focus" and "mean-spirited twists," and said that they "beg to be rejected as a conclusion to the work that preceded it."
Those are still our thoughts on Hate Plus. After watching Rebellion a few times, however, they aren't our thoughts on the film anymore, and the film itself gave us a new perspective on *Mute's story and our fanfiction. It's become very significant for us.
Content note: Spoilers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Rebellion, plus videos of relevant parts if you don't care to watch the series! The videos contain gore and disturbing imagery.
Also there's talk of suicide, because it's key to both Rebellion and Hate Plus' stories, and is the reason for our fanfic rewrite of the latter.
So, how does this tie into Hate Plus?
First, we have the author's dubious understanding of *Mute's agency. Pretending a fictional character can choose how they're portrayed is just a silencing tactic, which prevents discussion of what the character should have done and why the author chose to have her do this.
(Especially when the real reason Love made that choice is because she didn't know how to tell *Mute's story. Not and have it be meaningful.)
And second ... second, the day after I finished crying, I went back and played Hate Plus over and over again, trying everything I could think of. The whole time, I was remembering Homura's struggle, and listening to Magia on repeat.
I feel I know what it was like for her.
I'll never stop trying to create a world in which *Mute can be happy.
I haven't been updating this enough. But the stuff I've been reading online lately is extremely depressing, so I figured I ought to spend more time on things like Dreamwidth and AO3 maybe. >_>
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That's about all, I guess. Except that if anyone has any SU fanfic recs, or just things that they'd like to share with us, we'd be more than happy to hear them.
Our sleep schedule's starting to recover, though, and we're getting used to the idea of living in a remote high-tech wilderness.
So, here's what we're working on:
capsulerp. Seriously you guys. Also the Time Fridge campaign.
Selling all our old D&D 4e stuff, because in hindsight it's very fiddly and technical and there is no one who has time for that.
Brainstorming an 18+ RPG that uses Dungeon World's rules, to help players explore sexual interests in a safe environment. I think I'll call it "Dungeon World."
We haven't forgotten about the Hate Plus fanfic, but having to actually play through the game again has been stressful. -_-
Probably the highlight of last week was watching Mari from Geek Remix stream a pacifist run of Undertale. It is the best RPG. On the down side, we cried for like a half hour straight afterwards, and I can't tell if that was a bad thing or a good thing. Maybe we ought to cry more instead of repressing all our anxieties. >_>; This is a thing, right? It's okay for girls to do this, right?
Anyway, I hope Yule all survive the tinselbombs and blinding lights of the War on Christmas season. Take care, everyone ~
When you first encounter her, you know Hyun-ae is being deceptive for unclear reasons, while Mute, on the other hand, just seems awful. She seems to at first despise everyone and is constantly snide. [...] Mute can be reliably counted on to have terrible views regarding women’s’ capabilities and what is 'proper’ for them.
Yep, that's about right. I didn't want to have anything to do with her in my first playthrough of Analogue: A Hate Story.
So when after [...] reading about the noblewoman being mocked and put-down by her husband and Mute asking my opinion on it, I select the 'she deserved it’ option because I figure that’s what Mute expects to hear. And then she disagrees with me, saying something along the lines of, “Well, in a way, true. She was a failure of a wife and a disgusting human being. But… that’s no excuse to treat someone like that, even her! No one should be treated cruelly like that."
I was floored. This was the point where I started to actually like Mute. Because it became apparent that Mute isn’t actually hateful. She has very messed up views, but she believes in them so strongly because she is genuinely convinced that these are the things that will be best for everyone’s well-being and happiness.
I think I grasped that pretty early on too, in my playthrough of *Mute's route. Which is maybe partly because, back when I used to say and believe a lot of hateful things I really believed in them, too. I hadn't had enough contact with the outside world yet to realize all these things were wrong. And most of the contact I did have, like browsing DA for furry art and reading webcomics, seemed so shameful that I learned to compartmentalize it.
Sort of like *Mute's fascination with "scandalous" women and acts.
All that said, let me get to the main thing I want to say about Mute in Hate Plus.
Author's note: This is an omake / crack fic that I wrote to decompress from writing the Analogue: A Hate Story adapt. It uses characters from Xcom and Portal, and features the Analogue version of *Mute and the Hate Plus version of *Hyun-ae.
Content note: Chryssalids being chryssalids, and *Mute being *Mute. So violence, sexism and homophobia played for laughs, and an attempt at Portal-esque dark comedy.
A darkened room, made out of sci-fi props and big-screen TVs displaying useless information. Their lights reflect on a middle-aged woman's glasses, as she puts down a coffee mug and opens an email on her computer.
Your performance in combating the alien threat has been excellent thus far ... and that is not a statement this council makes lightly. The leaders of the world's nations believe that you are making excellent use of their funding.
So excellent, in fact, that they are cutting it in half. Henceforth, all non-combat Xcom personnel under your command will be replaced with artificial intelligences, in order to save money. We have every confidence that they will perform just as well as the employees you're used to working with.
Good luck, Commander.
The woman blinks. Then she Alt-Tabs to Microsoft Word, and starts updating her resume.
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I am playing Hate Plus again, with the Level 4 Revive Materia mod installed. After what I went through the first time, this is scary and difficult emotional labour.
Hate Plus is the game that really made me care about *Mute as a character. She looked more attractive, and was much more conflicted and sympathetic.
I'm trying to figure out how to structure everything leading up to the Hate Plus adapt so as to capture the feelings I had playing it, so that I can finally confront and avert the emotional crisis I had.
I need to change some of the Analogue adapt to facilitate this. Its ending particularly rings hollow to me. It was faithful to the game, but ... it didn't feel right, on so many levels.
I've pulled the chapter 16 that I already posted. I'll update when there is more.
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.
(Content note: spoilers for Hate Plus and The Cat Lady, talk of depression and suicide, and strong language.)
The Cat Lady is the most challenging game that I've ever seen. Not so much on the level of gameplay, but emotionally it was hard to get through. It was written by someone with clinical experience dealing with depressed and psychologically damaged people, and it shows.
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We're having a breakdown / major depressive episode on account of being screwed with by a visual novel designed to punish people for caring about its characters.
We're ashamed of our response to it and hid everything we've posted about it so far.
We hope you're all having a better day than we are. :P
The title is a reference to a publicly-available Steam achievement, but the rest of this essay contains spoilers. That is the point of this essay: To provide a trigger warning for people who are depressed, and have dealt with or are dealing with suicidal thoughts. Especially people who survived an abusive, fundamentalist upbringing.
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