Video Games

I Was a Teenage Exocolonist Wants You to Game Its Decade-Long Groundhog Day for Happiness

The first hour of I Was a Teenage Exocolonist is, by and large, dictionary-defined coziness. There are vague indications of an external or future threat to the space colony of planet Vatamna, but within the colony’s walls, our 10-year-old protagonist lives safely in a world of cotton candy trees, receiving gentle guidance from adults, I take simple school classes. , and low-stakes interactions with her peers. I chose to fill my days with sports, digging fields to help the colonies, and sometimes studying engineering.

Then one of my friends died suddenly. I was crushed. They were my favorite characters for a short while.And from there, Colony’s pastel loveliness faded a bit, and Vertumna’s world became a little more grounded and a little more human.

I Was a Teenage Exocolonist deftly balances its soft aesthetics and dichotomy of the most beautiful moments with a tale of grief, conflict, and turmoil. After all, it’s a story of growing up. The protagonist is a child brought to Veltamna with his family to build a new life in a colony on a (we think so) uninhabited planet. There, the settlers have big dreams of (initially) breaking free from capitalism in a peaceful and self-sufficient environment. society. Players play by year and choose which activities to do in the colony each season. This affects statistics and unlocks different careers and paths for young excolonists. Your decisions, your knowledge, who you befriend and how you interact with the rest of the colony will ultimately affect both the direction of the colony and yours as you grow up to age 20. give

It’s a great summary of what creator Sarah Northway set out to do when she first started working on the game in 2017. Her vision at the time was Princess She-Maker’s Style Life Simulator. She is the parent of a little girl and raises her to be a princess.

“It’s all about super-crisp stats and choosing what she does each day,” Northway says. “I wanted to reverse it so that you are that person. It’s not about being an adult, it’s about being a creepy girl, it’s just your life growing up.”

But five years and a lot of video game foundation cooking has allowed Northway and co-writer Lindsay Ishihiro to build the premise in the context of a perfectly large-scale, choice-based narrative. Northway estimates there are about 600,000 words, or “basically six of his books.” And 800 stories he boasts 10 dateable characters with a mix of events, 30 different endings, 25 jobs, and different types of relationships.

Do we really need to go to other planets and push ourselves into these new spaces? That’s a major component of the story.


But given all its text, Exocolonist isn’t a visual novel, she adds. It’s a card her battler, a narrative-focused RPG where decks are built through the experiences of the characters and used in small poker-like mini-games that effectively serve as the game’s combat. The word-count deluge spans hundreds of tiny moments, discoverable or undiscoverable, depending on how you choose to spend your decade-plus. So while there are major story elements and themes that everyone encounters, some are never seen in one or more runs. And just like the few hours I’ve been playing the game myself, those moments vary wildly between the carefree fun of childhood and the harsh reality of adulthood.

“Because it’s a colony there, it’s not specifically about colonialism on Earth, but a lot of things like human augmentation, environmentalism,” says Northway. “Do we really need to go to other planets and shove ourselves into these new spaces? No. Players get lost in it and say, ‘Oh, it’s just one of those fun little farming simulator-type things.You have to work hard to industrialize on this alien planet.That.’

“And slowly over time, as you grow up on this planet, you come to realize that what your parents taught you about man’s place in the universe isn’t necessarily the only way. We can come to a conclusion: One of the main choices is whether or not to follow what the colonies are doing, which is very anti-environmental, people-first, at any cost. Or will we try to find another way to coexist with the Earth or limit human destruction of it entirely?”

But one of the absolutely key features of I Was a Teenage Exocolonist is that while my friend may have died prematurely in the first run, I’m not forever bound by the outcome. It’s about not getting hung up on its sad or unsatisfying ending. You may get it by chance. Nearly all bad events can be modified or prevented in some way. After completing the first run, the character begins a Groundhog Her Day-like loop back to being 10 years old using all the knowledge about the results obtained in the first. They shortcut their way to a better ending each time, effectively solving each relationship or choice puzzle only once. Exocolonist has a lot of joy alongside dark moments. Northway said there are also some “very true and good endings” that require multiple playthroughs and many different choice paths to reach.

If you’re going to make a few people more comfortable, put it in the game.


Everything Northway describes has worked very well in my playthrough so far, and is largely fueled by the power of Exocolonist writing. , lovingly created planets complete with archeology, climate and future. It’s a pleasure to read, especially since each playthrough allows you to focus on the He One or He Two components. If you know, try another path next time. The characters, likewise, are surprisingly multi-layered people who often surprise (for better or worse) over the course of the story. During the interview, Northway teased that the character I had a particularly hard time getting along with was one of her favorites, and that if we could tear down his walls later on, he’d have a wonderfully complex arc. I couldn’t avoid it on my first run, but I’m already ready to track him down on my next run.

If you’re reading all of this and are procrastinating a bit because of the possibility of death, grief, and tragedy, there’s one last element of the absolutely brilliantly done Exocolonist that will help you: its content warning system. The in-game menu has a list of warnings for all of the various triggers that can occur in-game, though nested so that those trying to avoid specific triggers can skip them altogether. , know what’s going on without spoilers. You can keep the list at surface level, read the spoiler-light details for a particular trigger, or drill down into the menu to learn how to avoid certain scenarios so the game doesn’t show the trigger at all. I can do it.

I Was a Teenage Exocolonist Official Screenshots

According to Northway, the system was devised after seeing some streamers playing early versions of the game cry or react emotionally when encountering particularly difficult scenes. Thing. She reaches out her hand and says she made sure they were all okay, but realized others might not.

“The best thing about this content warning is how easy it is to enter,” she says. “It was very, very easy. It took about a day from idea to ‘in the game and done’.” everyone should do this. It just seems like a no-brainer. If you’re going to make a few people more comfortable, put it in the game. We understand that in many AAA games people come expecting violence. There are things that are upsetting and triggering. But certainly for an indie game it’s really nice to tell people what to expect. “

No major triggers to avoid, but as someone who likes to be cautious about a few things, I was a teenage exocolonist. I think I’ll spend a little more time with the lonely kid I didn’t have, build better empathy skills, and see where it all takes me. Now that we’re all set, I’m most excited to see what Vertumna looks like when tragedy doesn’t strike almost immediately. Maybe we can keep that bright cotton candy planet just a little bit more innocent.

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. you can find her on her twitter @duck valentine.

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