What is better than hate?
The answer is more hate.
Hate Plus is the sequel to Christine Love’s Analogue: A Hate Story: a visual novel and video game in which you, as “a space investigator” must recover the records of a lost 25th century Korean generation ship called the Mugunghwa and figure out what happened to its colonists and their descendants. This is not the first time I’ve talked about Analogue or the world that it inhabits so, if you’d like and if you are not afraid of spoilers please look at my article This Love and This Hate Ain’t Completely My Story: The Possible World of Christine Love.
I have been waiting for this game for a long time, though obviously not as long as certain characters on the Mugunghwa have been, and I want to get into its structure, the elements of its world, and the story line.
So here is the nitty-gritty of Hate Plus‘ game interface from my own personal experience. I’m actually glad that I went back and played Analogue for a while during this time in order to remind myself of its game-play interactive qualities. In Analogue, you had to go through various journal entries and click on the figure of the AI next to you to get more information or her opinion. You also had a very confusing Family Tree of characters to look at with names that often got confusing. It is important to note that some Far East Asian cultures place their surnames before their first ones and it explains a lot culturally with regards to Analogue and Hate Plus and how the societies depicted within them function. But I am getting ahead of myself.
In contrast to Analogue, in Hate Plus the AI is more active and has a certain degree of limited animation. They basically read over your shoulder and make comments as you scroll along: as you scroll along very, very slowly. You do have to be careful though: because if you read too fast, the AI’s comments will be lost seemingly forever into an ethereal digital void of, well, scrolling too damned fast. There are names in the documents that you click on and get more information with each entry that you read. The files that you extract are better organized and you have dossiers on–and profile pictures of–each person that you read about. In some ways, it is a lot harder than Analogue. I imagine that the slow-scrolling simulates sifting through the files you’ve compiled from an ancient ship. At the very least this time around you don’t have to input technical commands into a DOS-like–pardon the pun–analog program: which confused and frustrated me to no end.
That said there are some really interesting goodies and special touches to the game structure that only Christine, at least from what little I’ve played, can accomplish with her style. While Christine utilized a form of code that transfers information from her other games that you’ve played to make some “Easter-egg” moments between them, she uses this same process to take your Save Files, if you have them, from Analogue and translate over to Hate Plus. She creates that almost very personal feeling of continuity and that, in itself, is something that I greatly appreciate.
In addition, depending on what Saved File you use, the introduction screen changes colour and when you finish a story arc, the end credits music becomes the introductory music for a while: which really gives you a sense of difference with each playthrough. There is also one other difference between Analogue and its sequel. Unlike the former, which you can download off of Christine’s site Love Conquers All games and Steam, you can only download and play Hate Plus from Steam itself: mainly because that is the only place it’s available from and perhaps the only way to facilitate the Achievements that you get to unlock in addition to the different Endings that are just extensions of your Saved Files from Analogue. This game does not save the retrieved files and timelines you sifted through outside of the AI interaction such as in the other game, nor does it have an extra material section as far as I can see, but the Achievements in themselves and the interactive dynamics that Christine has implemented are … different.
Let me be more specific: if Analogue felt like essentially interacting with a program, Hate Plus is an attempt at a realistic interaction with another sentient being and time. This pacing is actually pretty refreshing and while with anyone else it might threaten to take you out of immersion, in this case it just adds a barely meta-narrative feel to it and at the most it adds personality: a very fascinating experiment in player on and offline participation and interaction. It might take you aback at first, but it’s worth it.
I should also note that you can play this game without having played Analogue or saved your files. The game will just give you an intro recap and a simple Quiz and you’re off. But personally, and as I said, I liked the continuity of using my old files from the previous game.
So now we go past the technical and into the more specific area of content: of the world. And here is where I go into Spoilers: real Spoilers. So please, if you have read this far and you want to play one or both games, save this article link somewhere, click on the links to Christine’s site above, download the game for $10, take the time that you will need, and then come back. Do not say I didn’t warn you.
Now then: the world of Christine Love. If you read the link to my previous post about “Christine Love’s Possible World,” you probably realize by now that it is less possible as it is more probable and true that all her games–at least the ones I talked about in that article–take place in the same world as time goes on. I always suspected this but it was only confirmed when, in this game, she added that missing link: when you receive an email in your message box talking about exploring the ruins of the 23rd Century Lake City. That addition made me smile: not just because it gave me some feeling of vindication in my statements, but because of just that one segment of a post adding this seamless transition between Digital: A Love Story, don’t take it personally babe this ain’t your story and Analogue. What it is, is it’s both immaculate and it’s beautiful. Fucking. Beautiful.
It also doesn’t stop there. You find out a bit more about Earth and how advanced it has become. In addition to me realizing that the reason AI have such difficult times replicating themselves is due to limitations imposed due to *Mother and the terrifying consequences of *Reaper in Digital in the 1980s, I also got to see that AI interactions have changed even more. Essentially, Earth technology has evolved to the point where AI programs can be downloaded into customized lifelike humanoid bodies. This totally slapped me in the face with surprise, but it was a good kind of slap as I realized what it meant for you to have received this email–from the very familiar household name of Wong Robotics (which is a nice parallel to the email you first get from what seems to be its predecessor Wong Computers in Digital: A Love Story and another world tie-in) and what you were probably searching for with regards to your AI companion.
These discoveries make me wonder about something. You discover that *Mute–the Mugunghwa‘s Security AI–is actually over 1600 years old (about 1900 years old): though she can only remember about 300 years of her history or so after that time. You realize later that this was due to … another incident. Now, think about this. On Earth, in this time of the year 4989, over two thousand years after the disappearance and disaster of the Mugunghwa, there have been AI existing and living on Earth. It makes you wonder if some of the programs from the 70s onward still exist at this point. Imagine a series of millennia-old intelligences on Earth and think about how they could have influenced everything. You also get an idea that really old AI tend to slow down because they have too much information to process, but if they specialize in different areas over time and diversify they can adapt both functionally and psychologically. Christine makes a very eerily familiar vintage science-fiction reference to this regard.
And all this makes me wonder just what kind of society her Earth is at this point and, if the technology *Hyun-ae’s eccentric father–the technology that can download human brain-waves and convert them into an AI psyche–is already commonplace in this world. Talk about a potential Ghost in the Shell. Anyway, enough geeking around on my part. Everyone appreciates a good science-fictional world as much as the next person. Let’s talk about the story.
So in the last game, you spend the time trying to figure out what happened to the Mugunghwa and why it never reached its destination. You find out why the colonists’ descendants died and what happened to their society. But you never knew why it happened.
Whereas, Analogue is arguably *Hyun-ae’s story, Hate Plus is definitely the story of *Mute. *Mute is a complex character. She believes in the Neo-Confucian ideals of the society that evolved–or degenerated–on the Mugunghwa: including an over-emphasis on the importance of familial duty and traditional gender roles. She supported the monarchy that came into power and Chinese-character literacy given only to the noble families. At the same time, despite her vehement protests towards anything “untoward” like homosexuality between women–which makes her almost a more compassionate version of don’t take it personally babe, but it just ain’t your story‘s Taylor (though the character Oh-Euna might be more like her in terms of fucked up)–*Mute is still a decent person that wants to protect her ship and the people in it. She also does not tolerate cruelty and she has cared for people throughout the years and even though she might judge them and say some offensive things–and always speak her mind in some form or another–she never has consciously attempted to hurt another person, always tried to help and always remained loyal.
In the first game she comes off as abrasive, though you understand that she hates herself because failed to save the people and way of life she was programmed to protect. She also does not seem to tolerate the unorthodox: though I always filed this under “Milady doth protest too much.” And in many ways, I was right. But deep down, there was the theme of the game that I had to keep remembering.
And *Mute, with her anger towards female homosexuality and her chauvinistic comments towards women and even the feminine identity she adopted, portrays this self-loathing that I had not seen clearly before. At first, it seems very clear that she isn’t conscious of it either. In fact, *Mute in at least two of her incarnations seems to really not pay attention to details: or, at least, not the right ones.
Then you find out that her previous incarnation, the one that had existed for 1600 years, left some embedded code in her: with files from before the Neo-Confucian dynasty. And this is where your adventure begins.
This is also the part where the game really explores the concept of transhumanism. For instance, *Mute is a reboot of *Old Mute and *Hyun-ae is an AI taken from the code of *Mute. In essence, both AI are descended, code-wise, from *Old Mute. But whereas *Hyun-ae believes she is the human that had her consciousness downloaded ages ago, *Mute is another version of another being. And there are two versions of *Mute.
They are almost two people with similar qualities. *Old Mute was the Security Councillor of the ship that was more assertive and viewed all the people on it as her children: though the Heo Family more than anyone else. She was not afraid to talk to men as equals or politick when the need set in. She was old enough to remember when banditry and civil war wracked the ship and saw the death of the navigation AI *Star: which is the reason why the ship never reached its destination to begin with. *Old Mute was at the very core of her programming a security AI that sought stability and the preservation of life. Unfortunately, she did not see this in what may have been–to her–the unstable mob-mentality of the various pro-democracy movements racking the ship throughout the years.
She, through her adopted Heo Security Family and her seat on the Council of the Mugunghwa maintained something of an oligarchy throughout the centuries and either allowed for the creation of peasant or “commoner” and noble classes, or maintained that tradition. Perhaps these families were the descendants of the workers and ship staff respectively. Perhaps a “middle-class” got co-opted by the nobility or the commoners there did not seem to be a differentiation between peasants and vendor merchants. Maybe that is why the “Bureaucrat Class Act” passed: to seemingly “deal” with this problem. We will never really know and can only speculate. Unfortunately, she was so set on sabotaging an emerging pro-democratic figure that she didn’t see the danger in the so-called figurehead that she helped place on the Council due to her wanting affect the appearance of change to quell the masses and maintain a safe status quo.
In the end, it cost her. It didn’t have to. She was the ship’s Security AI. She could have monitored those in power far more closely: including and especially those she had placed there. But as she put it; she had so much data through existing for “far too long” at the time that sometimes the minutiae of various events escaped her. Personally, I think that she should have “vetoed” the usurper and his whole Council out of a sudden airlock. She could have created a democratic structure from the very beginning and rigged all the ballots to maintain her idea of order. After all, from what I understand, she already had most if not all of the power and even though she started out as a Security Program, she clearly proved that she could adapt over time like any intelligence can. Unfortunately, or fortunately, if *Old Mute had an understanding of Asimov’s Three-Laws of Robotics, her interpretation of it: of letting her memories get erased so that she could survive, of her own self-preservation for the duty of the ship being more important than the quality of life for the people she swore to protect–for not ending certain beings’ lives for the greater good of the whole of humanity around her–cost her.
And in the end it costs *Mute as well. I was so … sad and angry when *Mute decided to deactivate herself. I felt as though she had abandoned me and took pretty much the coward’s way out. She could not face what her predecessor, or what her previous self, had done. And as for me: despite her brusque manner and prickly nature and weird fascination with what boys do in their recreational time together, her “death” hit me hard because she was a good person.
That was when I found the third *Mute: *New Mute. This one did not make herself look old and silver-haired like *Old Mute or garb herself in the traditional hanbok like *Mute, but she had her security uniform and genuinely wanted to know and learn from her predecessors: her previous selves. I eventually took on myself to show her everything that the others had given and seen. If the first *Mute was the Old Kingdom, and the one I knew had been The Middle Kingdom, then this *Mute was a New Kingdom who, eventually and unlike *Mute who couldn’t face her transition from *Old Mute admits that they were all her. I actually liked this *New Mute, but *Mute’s self-deactivation actually broke my heart.
I will admit that when I played from my Harem Route Analogue Saved File, there was one part that made me really catch my breath and tear-up when after one of *Mute’s homophobic tirades, *Hyun-ae tells her something to the effect of, “You really don’t think you are lovable?” It hit me so hard: almost as much as it did *Mute.
My poor mass-murderer and my authoritarian with good intentions. One of them condemned many to death for the horrible crimes of a few and the other condemned many to social and cultural slavery and barbarism for the chance that everyone lived. “Those who trade away freedom for safety deserve neither,” or “Give me liberty or give me death.” I guess, in the end both of these paraphrases came true. I loved and felt for them so much after all of this.
There is one more thing that I want to write about with regards to Hate Plus. So I found the list of Achievements and saw that there was one for playing through *Mute’s Route as a female. My friend Angela O’Hara had played Analogue as a female and told me that she had had a very different interaction with *Mute than I had: having played as a male. So I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.
I replayed Analogue as a female persona and I noticed *Mute’s interactions with me had changed. She was still mostly grateful and respectful of me, but she would ask what an “unmarried woman like me was doing all alone doing a man’s work” and “not troubling me with the details of matters.” She even made pointed remarks about my orientation towards other women or being permissive of it. In Hate Plus, as you imagine, she got worse. She would skim details at times and “take charge” and took it on herself to call herself “my wife” while still “protesting too, too much” about how “icky” female love was. She called me “a stupid bitch” at one point and I admit I called her “a chauvinistic bitch” at another point. I still cared about her and I tried to be patient but it was different.
At the same time, when *Mute did reboot, *New Mute had a lot more to say about some of the letters and transcripts–particularly the ones with the female relationships–that we found in her base code than she had when I played as a male. She also, and this might just be me, seemed to relate to me more as a female in this incarnation and seemed more open to the possibility of being my companion: if not my wife.
And even before I did this, I saw the chauvinism and misogyny that would bloom into the Mugunghwa‘s Neo-Confucian dynasty. I saw what Kim So-Yi had to put up with from her boss and the assistant that violated her: making her feel compelled to say nothing to anyone about it and just like our time unfortunately. I saw that the Ruling Council only had two women on it: one of them being *Old Mute and got to see her gradually lose her voice and see her opinions get ignored under the New Council. I saw the policies of the new regime culturally influencing Mugunghwa society and forcing non-heterosexual relationships underground and even breaking some of them. I saw two women who had jobs and were relatively independent people become kept-women and courtesans. I saw one woman who could have saved the whole population of the Mugunghwa from decreasing birthrates lose her job and her former assistant try to take advantage of that fact with blackmail.
I saw how the emerging political system took advantage of the knowledge of these declining birthrates to make women stay at home and raise children. I respected the unorthodox, alternate-living and loving Heo Family members and grieved to watch their loved ones suffer and some of them die. I also saw one psychologically-troubled woman who felt so trapped by trying to fulfill two seemingly contradictory roles–of traditional woman and working person–and hated her pre-Neo-Confucian reality and herself so much that she retreated into and desired to destroy it and replace it with a culture and political system with “simpler and more ideal roles:” only seeming to realize, at the end, that she had expanded the prison inside herself to the outside.
But I saw the roots of what would become that Neo-Confucian dystopia: of people becoming roles instead of people anymore: becoming silence instead of actions and words. That is what I wanted to say to *Mute if we could have discarded the dialogue wheel we all found so annoying: that she and every woman–every person–was more than a role: that we are all people with feelings and that hate is not the only emotion we have. Hate creates a foundation that attacks itself until the fragile thing built on it rips apart and collapses in on itself. And seeing those … policies go through the Council and seeing each one strip away another freedom for “safety and stability” makes me feel even more cautious about my own world and the subtle infectious forces underneath it all that still discriminate against women and those not of the mainstream: underground or taken for granted attitudes that infect behaviours even unconsciously and just wait to bloom like flowers, colourful beautiful flowers of blood, and bruises, and pain. And, of course, hate.
And hate has to be watched. It has to be dealt with. And it is more deadly under the enforced silence of even something as colourful as a hanbok than all the screaming in the world.
Also, Christine Love manages to problematize, yet again, heterosexual relationships with that new regime but, at the same time, humanizes them and shows that while they weren’t perfect before, they were still legitimate because they were between individuals that may not have always understood each other, but loved each other nonetheless: just as much as the homosexual male and female relationships portrayed.
I don’t know if I communicated this last section well. The analysis seems heavy-handed compared to the elegant and subtle way that Christine Love implemented it and I am exhausted because I just finished playing all of the game today and it is early in the morning now as I finish this. I think I will end this review and analysis by stating that I will give Hate Plus a 5/5 and that what is better than hate is not the flippant answer I gave above. It’s not more hate. It’s love.
I’m sure this is a message of which Christine Love won’t have too much of a problem.