Among the denizens of the Internet, particularly those who are interested in video games, anime and other such nerdy things — especially those nerdy things that are a little outside the mainstream — there’s a strong trend of self-deprecation.
It’s not uncommon to hear people referring to themselves with something akin to “pride” when they describe their own awkwardness, their loneliness, their enjoyment of solitary activities over socialisation and the indulging of their passions in increasingly extravagant manners.
In practice, this sort of self-deprecation has a few different social purposes: firstly, to provide a shared sense of struggling against perceived adversity with fellow “outcasts” and consequently help to form something of a community; secondly, an attempt to prove to themselves and others that, despite what they may apparently believe and/or acknowledge to be their drawbacks, they’re comfortable in themselves; and thirdly, in some cases, simply to try and entertain others through voluntarily creating a sense of schadenfreude about themselves and their life.
Whatever the exact reason for it, it’s this sort of self-consciously lonely nerd stereotype that new episodic visual novel Games & Girls from the heavily Japanese-inspired German outfit Yume Creations fully embraces and begins to explore in its first installment.
The first episode of Games & Girls sees the unnamed protagonist all but penniless and bereft of the majority of his worldly possessions having just purchased a strictly limited edition of the latest and greatest games console: the “Sirrah”. Despite it throwing him into abject poverty and complete solitude — “my parents and friends couldn’t understand this and so left me,” he notes — Protag-kun is nonetheless delighted with his new acquisition, a situation which many of us can doubtless empathise with, though perhaps not to quite such an extreme degree.
He’s delighted, that is, until he wakes up one morning and finds his beloved console gone, and an unexpected visitor in his room: a well-endowed, apparently human girl with a hairstyle rather reminiscent of Purple Heart from the Neptunia series, wearing an Xbox-inspired costume that fellow Neptunia star Green Heart would be proud of.
Unsurprisingly, as this sort of thing tends to go, the girl is actually Sirrah, who has somehow — through a process that even she doesn’t quite seem to understand, and which will perhaps be explored further in future episodes in the proposed series — turned into something that, while not quite human, certainly passes for one.
Protag-kun finds Sirrah to be unusually compliant when she first becomes self-aware, noting that he’s “a bit worried about her behaviour; she’s only doing the things I’m telling her to do; she isn’t thinking for herself.” Given her backgrounds as a piece of consumer electronics, however, this is entirely understandable; computers and consoles don’t have intelligence of their own. They can be given software to make them appear intelligent, such as Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, but true intelligence is, at the time of writing, anyway, out of reach.
What follows is a short piece of speculative fiction about how such a being might find being exposed to the real world and to a character like Protag-kun — who, after all, being in his mid-twenties, unemployed and largely destitute save for regular handouts from his grandmother, isn’t exactly an enormously positive role model.
As is often the case with stories of this type, both Sirrah and Protag-kun come to learn things from one another. Protag-kun in particular comes to understand that now he is in the presence of a real-life woman — or something as near as dammit, anyway — he can’t simply indulge his own horny desires as he sees fit. This is something of a learning process for him, having been alone for so long.
“I know it’s weird that I can’t handle romantic things like holding hands, but not have any issues with doing perverted things,” he muses to himself after being unable to restrain himself from groping Sirrah in the street, then getting caught by a disapproving neighbour. Sirrah, meanwhile, having no real concept of propriety, perceives Protag-kun’s touch as no different from when he had his hands all over her controller; indeed, later in the story, she notes that her “buttons” are now on her collarbone and nipples, while her navel acts as a touchpad for navigation.
It would be easy for Protag-kun to take advantage of such a situation and simply use Sirrah as his own personal sexbot, but to his credit he knows that this would be inappropriate. “Well, duh,” you might say, but particularly during the opening moments of the story, it’s clear that he hasn’t had a great deal of contact with other people in his life, even back before he became alienated from his family and friends, and as such could be interpreted to have missed out on some important socialisation in his earlier years.
He comes to interpret Sirrah’s unflinching loyalty towards him as feelings of genuine affection; as the story progresses and Sirrah becomes more confident and comfortable about expressing herself, there’s an obvious shift in how they both behave towards one another. Sirrah becomes more assertive in wanting to demonstrate her feelings, while Protag-kun is more receptive to the things she is doing, and less embarrassed about doing “romantic” rather than “naughty” things.
Protag-kun becomes convinced that his feelings are real when Sirrah becomes infected with a virus after connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot to perform an update, and he becomes frantic with worry as a result. The virus manifests itself as a physical ailment, but since Sirrah isn’t quite human, conventional treatments don’t appear to have any effect.
In order to resolve the problem, both Protag-kun and Sirrah have to demonstrate that they trust one another and cooperate to find a solution — by which time it’s apparent that Protag-kun, at least, is convinced that he is in love. Whether Sirrah truly understands or not by this point is a little open for interpretation, though she certainly appears to reciprocate his feelings after his confession.
This first episode of Games & Girls can be read in several ways. One interpretation is to see it as a sweet story of two lonely people finding one another and being able to grow as people through their relationship.
Another is to interpret the story more metaphorically, even tragically — Protag-kun’s acceptance of Sirrah’s human form and choosing to pursue her rather than getting out into the world, finding a job and interacting with real humans could be read as him rejecting reality altogether and throwing himself into his own fantasy world.
A third way of reading it can see it as Protag-kun attempting to begin a long and difficult process of “healing” from however he ended up being such a lonely outcast in the first place: throughout the narrative, he often questions whether he “preferred” Sirrah as a console or as a woman, though it’s not long before he realises that he’s actually having fun with another “person” and doesn’t appear to be missing his precious games all that much.
Whether or not any of these interpretations is “correct” remains to be seen, since Games & Girls as a series has only just begun. Subsequent episodes are planned to be released as both free and paid DLC, with each installment introducing a new character.
While this first episode doesn’t really have the time to get too deep and meaningful over the course of its half-hour runtime (and has a few noticeable textual errors throughout its script, none of which are overly distracting, thankfully), it definitely has the potential to grow into something very intriguing with subsequent installments. The premise is interesting, the characters are pleasant to spend time with and the story, while rather mundane and clichéd, is charming.
I’m certainly interested to see where Yume Creations goes with it from here. And if you, too, are a lonely nerd, you might just find something to like here as well.
Games & Girls is available now on Steam and includes mild sexual content.
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