In Now Playing articles PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today Tony tries to steer and unsteerable romance in Cibele.
This article contains major spoilers for Cibele.
Illicitly trawling through the contents of an adolescent girl’s computer is less fun than I had previously imagined. The folders I open contain a lot of selfies, a few message logs and blog entries, and not a lot else. I’m playing a game called Cibele, by the way, in case you thought this was something I do as a hobby. It’s set in the online world of nearly-nineteen-year-old Nina, as revealed by the contents of her desktop. Nina has pink hair, plays videogames with her friends, and is sorta interested in Blake, a guy she knows through the MMO Valtameri.
When I click on an unfamiliar taskbar icon and Valtameri itself starts up, things start to look more promising. I’m in a shifting pastel landscape with adorable pink octopus sprites, and there’s Nina’s pink-haired avatar, which I control. I’m playing Nina in a videogame playing Nina in a videogame! I’m totally clicking on the adorable pink octopi to make Nina zap them with her staff.
Except, apparently I’m not playing Nina after all, because while I’m clicking, she’s shyly voicechatting with the equally socially inept Blake, who is also here. And I have no control over that at all. I have no dialogue options. All I can do is listen while they clumsily shove awkward adolescent compliments in each other’s general direction like shopping trolleys overloaded with dough. Periodically I trigger the next scripted exchange by killing enough octopi or opening a new email. There is no option to tell Blake ‘You are an emo twat’, which is a particular shame.
The session ends. I’m returned to Nina’s desktop with the news that two months have passed. A quick rummage through her folders reveals that she’s now sending Blake saucy selfpics, and writing excruciatingly bad poetry.
I start a new Valtameri session. The scenery is different, but my presence is as irrelevant as ever as the two lovebirds step through a new pre-scripted voicechat. Dear God, now they’re full-on flirting with each other. Can I push the conversation in a new direction? No. Can I get out of this by dying? No. In this MMO, it turns out, the monsters don’t hit back. All I can do is farm creeps with Nina’s avatar while she has the fun. I’m like one of those indentured children living in a warehouse in China that people hire to level their character for them. Except I’m not being paid.
When we return to Nina’s desktop, another four months have passed. Incredibly, Blake and Nina still haven’t met up in real life. Perhaps I can help their relationship by clicking on sprites while they talk? I boot up Valtameri again. It’s a lava world this time, and that’s never a good sign. Sure enough, Blake is confessing that he only feels comfortable with their relationship in-game. He doesn’t know how to relate to people in real life. Nina persuades him to meet up anyway. In a short video denouement they have sex then he breaks up with her. The end.
It’s an old story. Girl meets boy, girl has disappointing first sex with boy, boy says he’s not actually that into her.
It’s an old story, but it’s not my story. It’s not the story of what happened to me when I played the game called Cibele. Me, I clicked on stuff with Nina’s avatar, while the story happened to her. I sat through a three-act college play, while she got to star in it. And do you know, Nina, I feel a little bit used.