What I Learned about Myself while Gaming: Regency Love Edition
Games, by virtue of their interactive nature, ask you to make choices as a character. The better the game, the more complicit you’ll feel in the story when you make those choices. The path of your own agency can tell you a lot about yourself, even when you think you’re playing make-believe. This time around, I cozied up to Tea for Three Studio's role-playing romantic Regency adventure, Regency Love.
Regency Love has good mechanics and beautiful artwork, and it’s simply fun to play. While it’s the idealized side of Regency life, it’s addicting because it asks the player to shape relationships with each NPC. In doing so, the player must think like a young Regency woman and how she would navigate those relationships. That’s perhaps the crowning achievement of the game: it immerses the player in its world and doesn’t look back.
Set in the fictional town of Darlington, the playable character is a young woman who must work on her accomplishments and catch herself a husband (business as usual). As a lover of most things Austen, when a review of the game surfaced on Twitter I bought it right away. (I’m an easy mark.) It’s affordable and available for iOS.
Along with her best friend Mary, the main character engages in all the activities a young lady of the era might like shopping, gossiping, calling on friends, and attending various social gatherings. Three suitable bachelor scenarios emerge as events in the village unfold. The player influences the plot of the story by the dialogue and reactions they choose.
Regency Love taught me that I don't want to be an asshole, but that being an asshole is sometimes unavoidable, even in a game. Which makes you think that I would ROCK at a game predicated on regency-era manners, because everybody was all politeness, right? Wrong. The game emphasizes that responses could range from affable to civilly pejorative.
To the game's credit, there wasn’t any one “right” response in any given scenario or across the board. In fact, when playing the scenario with Mr. Ashcroft first, his unexpected response to something my character did took me entirely by surprise. I felt put out! That’s when I knew the game had captured me and, like with any good suitor, I was helpless to resist its charms.
If you haven't played the game yet and want to preserve the mystery, I caution you going forward from here.
Bookish Mr. Curtis was my least favorite suitor (surprise, right?). Mr. Curtis’ awkwardness rubbed me the wrong way and first impressions didn’t mend. Even going back and playing through his scenario, I didn’t feel like he was worth all the trouble my character had to go through for him.
Seeing Mr. Curtis rendered on the screen wiped away my preconceptions, and that distance made me reconsider what I find attractive. My character was still polite to him (see earlier), but like in real life I was bad at discerning when a man is interested (yes, even when it's sort of the point). The nature of men and women’s relationships has changed quite a bit, and the game capitalizes on that.
Being friendly with Mr. Curtis at a dinner or two seemed innocuous to my modern mind. It dawned on me that my character's behavior was rather more encouraging when he came for tea with a gift. Women and men once occupied two wholly different spheres, which is one thing when you’re talking about it with your Lit class and quite another when it plays out before your eyes. When Mr. Curtis showed up, quite hurt that my character was entertaining Mr. Ashcroft, I let him down gently.
Enter Mr. Graham
Mr. Graham's scenario taught me that affability in a spouse is perhaps more important to me than I realized, especially as I acquired this scenario last. It makes me wonder about whether I would have chosen for my character to pursue him first if I started with all three.
Mr. Graham's ability (and willingness) to laugh at the outset with a woman was irresistible in contrast. He felt like the most modern choice, because he shared his problems with my character and asked her to help him decide what to do. He trusted her. When he came by the house to hang out, I even found myself thinking that this was how my character would happily spend her days after I left her. It pleased me to think she'd be content in the future I imagined for her. I'm a sucker for a happy ending.