With the real time component, I decided to start the game on Monday. While I had heard about the characters from social media and a close friend of mine who was obsessed in the past, I didn’t know what the story was going to be about. I quickly learned that you play as a girl who stumbles upon a mysterious app and becomes involved in the activities of the RFA, a charitable organization that plans parties to get donations. The player is tasked with interacting with various characters through a fictional messaging app called “Mystic Messenger.” Each character has a distinct personality and story arc, and the player can choose which characters to engage with. The main romance options include Zen, Yoosung, Jaehee, Jumin, and Seven.The game progresses in real-time, with characters sending messages and making phone calls throughout the day. Players must respond promptly to maintain relationships and advance the story. The conversations cover a wide range of topics, including fun topics, personal struggles, past traumas, and the overarching plot involving the RFA.
[start screen of Mystic Messenger]
When playing, I thought the game was interesting and I kept wanting to play. However, I hated the time aspect, because it meant I had to check in whenever it pinged just to progress in the game. Usually when I play games, I can stop whenever I am satisfied with my progression, but in Mystic Messenger, the game was able to decide whenever I was done. While some people may enjoy this experience, because it adds realism to the characters by playing into their schedules, I felt like it made me less inclined to play the game as I would sometimes miss out on content during classes or important in-life events.
[chat examples from my playthrough]
I think this experience ties back into the concept of “emotional labor” as explained in this week’s reading pair by Sarah Ganzon. The emotional labor that is enforced through Mystic Messenger is one of the reasons I didn’t particularly enjoy the game. The player is expected to appeal to these random men on their schedules and time in order to get a “happy ending.” For example, when I was playing, I wanted to go with the Zen route, because he seemed like a funny guy. However, as I continued playing the game, he became more and more unbearable, as he continued to dig for compliments to add onto his ego. Furthermore, I felt like I couldn’t back out, because apparently, you have to choose one guy to cater to only or else you won’t get a good ending. While in class, Christina mentioned his toxicity may stem from his traumatizing backstory, where his parents constantly shamed and abused him. However, the way he pushed that back onto the player really reinforced the idea of emotional labor.
[a photo of Zen]
One thing I also didn’t particularly enjoy was the premise of how the player is a woman who must organize “parties,” further pushing into gender roles of having to work hard to appeal to these men. I also felt like for the days that I did play, there was little to no progress in the emails. In fact, on day three, there were still no mails in my inbox, which made me worry I was playing incorrectly or something.
Overall, the experience of playing Mystic Messenger was enjoyable and I liked how they incorporated a real time aspect to it, which was new. However, for me personally, the real time aspect did not work well with my schedule and actually backfired in terms of enjoyability.