The Weather Report
Credits: Symantha Reagor
Photos & Screenshots
Trigger warning for depictions of emotional and physical abuse.
Event: Digipen Empathy Game Jam 2017
Platform: Browser (PC)
The Weather Report is an interactive fiction game where the player is someone living in an abusive relationship. The game is structured into three acts that take place over the course of a year. This game aims to teach the player that no one chooses to be in an abusive relationship and why some people choose to stay past the point of their physical safety. It may also offer insight for friends, family, survivors, and people still in abusive relationships that abuse is more than just a physical act of violence.
A link to the game is available at the official itch.io website below. Please note: this game is recommended for full screen.
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How does the game fit the theme?
You play as the abused character, from that character’s point of view. Each of the three acts focuses on a seemingly everyday event which may have occurred for everyone at one time or another. The difference here is the way the abusive partner twists the situations into abuse by turning themselves into the victim. One of the most common types of emotional abuse that is often found in abusive relationships is gaslighting, a form of manipulation used against a victim that causes them to question their own memory, perception, and sanity of events and feelings. This is present throughout the interactions that the player will have with their “partner.” The color and UI have a minimalist look that helps create a feeling of isolation for the player. That feeling of being alone is a real issue that victims suffer from and a reason why many feel they cannot escape or ask for help. When checking the “weather report” the game randomizes the result which then affects some of the choices the player makes. If the ‘weather’ is ‘clear skies’ instead of ‘rain’ the partner character will react differently, showing how the player can’t truly control the outcome of the event because it’s dependent on the random factor of their partner’s emotions that day. Using the “you” pronoun for the player helps drop the player into the narrative as well as the deliberate use of the “they/them” pronoun for the partner character allows for the possibility that the characters can be of any gender. The gender-neutral pronouns are an acknowledgment that abusers and victims can be any gender. I’ve had the idea of the Weather Report in my head for years, but wasn’t sure how to tell the story in a game, what engine to use or if I needed to work with a team (programmers and artists) to make it a viable game. When I told game industry friends about the concept, they told me that I needed to join the Empathy Jam. They encouraged me to use Twine and to not feel like I was hindered in creating a game to tell the story just because I’m not a coder or don’t have image assets. I’m a writer. I had a concept for a strong central narrative. So I spent the week before the jam learning Twine and then read over the Design Guide. I was a bit worried about pulling off a game around a topic of abuse. The guide said that having violence in the game might interfere with empathy; therefore, my challenge was to show how violence in a relationship is not always physical and when it is, it’s still about the emotional toll.