PEGBRJE: Gataela and Saving You From Yourself

Just your average bomb thrower in the forest, nothing to see here.

Gataela is the demo of an adventurous JRPG created by Atemly Games, an indie studio based out of Canada and operated by Paige Marincak. Players will be diving in to a Victorian-flavoured world and following Zack on his quest to hopefully improve the lives of those he holds close. However, when venturing in to the world one must be prepared to uncover much that they may not be prepared for; best to ensure that there’s a party of individuals to back them up.

With all JRPGs, Gataela contains a vast world for players to explore, full of characters that wander about their day in set locations with little pieces of flavour dialogue to help build the world. There are shops to purchase items that might be helpful while exploring, and items that flash on the ground to be picked up (or stolen, best be careful) that can be sold or combined with others to create something new. Combat can be instigated by enemies who run in to Zack and his party, either due to them being scripted encounters or random encounters out in the wild; both begin the turn-based combat system that should be familiar to many RPG players in its execution. A slight twist is that the player’s turns are timed to ensure that the flow continues while creating a sense of pressure for players to not overthink Zack’s moves. At early levels this is not much of a problem, for Zack doesn’t really have many moves to work with, but as new abilities are acquired and new party members are added the complexity can widen and time can feel more restrictive.

What I found to be much more of a peculiar draw for Gataela is its second ‘battle’ system in the debate mechanic, which is only instigated by certain NPCs that have a unique icon above their heads. Instead of attempting to simply converse with the individual about what the player is trying to learn, an RPG stylized choice-system appears with a timer, and players begin to ‘debate’. Essentially, the goal is to acquire information about whatever Zack is hunting for from that specific NPC through discussion, either by leading the other person in to the answer, tricking them, being earnest, or many other ways. The point is that players need to get a feeling for who the individual they are talking to is and play to those traits whilst avoiding conversation possibilities that will cause them to become sidetracked, confused or worst, hostile. It reminded me somewhat of a previous JRPG that was debate focused in Last Word, but instead of focusing on the technical aspects Gataela is aiming for more of a free-flowing choice-based narrative mechanic which helps to bolster the main experience. Players need to pay attention to the information they’ve learned and utilize it to gain more, lest they get left with nothing and Zack’s quest to assist becomes redundant.

Of course, this is all within a demo; just when you get sucked in, it ends within a few hours. It’s quite obvious that Gataela wishes to be that 20–30 hour roleplaying epic, and has laid a solid foundation for players to become invested in the characters and systems that make the game special. There are a few quirks that some might find a bit odd, such as how easy it is to dodge most random encounters by simply running around or past them, which can lead to the awkward moment of getting stuck at scripted encounters whilst severely underleveled (yes this is from experience) but that can be mitigated by playstyle and some tweaks. There’s a lot to witness within Gataela’s demo, and if this is just a vertical slice I look forward to seeing where the rest of the title goes.

Well… these are questions.

Saving You From Yourself is a small narrative title created by Taylor McCue, a solo indie dev of many Twine-based games. This is the Unity version of one such title, visualized with graphics and stylized decisions for players to interact with. But what exactly is the story about?

Well, players are a transgender therapist, one who signs off on letters to allow for individuals to acquire the medical approval to transition. Players will be introduced to one such individual who wishes to transition in Arle, who is hoping that the player will sign off on the papers. However as the therapist, players are able to ask a single question of Arle to understand more about how serious they are to transition, before wrapping up the session with some dialogue and either agreeing or disagreeing to write the note.

Now, if I sound completely out of my element, it is because I am; not only am I completely unaware of transgender therapy and the nuances that exist within it, but I’m also completely unaware of the process itself outside of what is being told in this title. The location itself could be a factor in the medical process, but I wouldn’t know, so I’m taking everything at face value to ensure consistency.

What we get is a very short experience on the mindset that can occur within a transgender therapist, one who at the very beginning of the title is attempting to ensure that all are investigated before accepting to ensure they don’t ‘regret it’. This might have to do with medical costs, as Arle mentions numerous times just how utterly expensive it can be, or it might be due to the therapist’s belief that they need to ‘protect’ these individuals. The reasoning is not necessarily the point of this narrative, but the intent that the therapist has to stop any that they believe to be ‘unsure’ — in essence, we are the judge of their transition.

How players decide what to do after the first session of Saving You From Yourself will dictate just how long the title is; for my first run, it was barely over a few minutes long as I agreed to the procedure, and Arle went on her merry way. Refusal will lead to Arle performing certain procedures and tactics outside of the therapy session, and continued rejection will lead to Arle completely abandoning therapy and the therapist believing themselves in the right as Arle no longer wishes to be transitioning if she skipped out. It’s a depressing reminder of the reality for many, even outside of transitioning, that many will feel so desperate for certain procedures that they might risk their life and health to get it in non-safe places. However, when we continually reject the applications, we essentially reject those that wish to attempt these procedures safely; no matter what kind of procedure it may be.

Saving You From Yourself is a small title that reminds you that there’s no true reason to block other people’s self-actualization and happiness, any more than we can block them from getting it illegally. All we can do is ensure that they can acquire it safely, which you can do immediately for Arle. If you wish to witness this little title for yourself, it can be played in a browser.

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Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.