There’s a universal truth in saying that love and relationships are difficult. Harder still, is the expression of these difficulties, even between adults.
“Will Love Tear Us Apart?” is a game that attempts to express what words often fail to convey between people, and puts us in the shoes of an individual dealing with a failing relationship. The game abstractly defines itself, with crudely drawn genderless figures in a black and white world. The sounds are mellow, but there’s a permanent feeling that something is incredibly wrong. Although each of the three “phases” of the game are different, they are played out in a simple fashion that requires very little explanation to understand.
The first phase is the argument, where you sit at a table opposite your partner. While the argument has no words, it does contain emotions: anger, compassion and guilt. Your chosen reaction either makes you win, lose or stall the argument. The patterns of emotions become predictable, and winning soon becomes trivial. The disturbing factor is that every subsequent “victory” drains the life of your partner until they become nothing but a skeleton. The last victory, where you absorb your partner completely, causes you to move forward to the next stage where things get fairly tricky.
You are transported into a maze, where you control both parties, attempting to make it to the center of a heart. The maze is riddled with obstacles: the walls contract as you get closer to the centre while blood begins filling the pathways. Should any of the two parties die before at least one of them reaches the light at the centre, you’re forced to start the maze over. The instructions read: “To save the partners from the pain of breaking up, guide them to the light.”
The truth is that this phase can’t be won, no matter how well you strategize. The pathways will close, leaving one of the two partners stranded and left to die, either eaten by a parasite or drowned in blood. “It’s not a flaw in timing. One is always left behind,” the game reminds you.
Although it would be unfair to spoil the game at this point, it becomes clear that the ideas expressed during the gameplay are true to life. There’s an innate reality of the difficulty of relationships and the struggles that we face when undertaking that journey.
This symbolism, firmly expressed by the creators is spot on and its impact reminds us that there are never any clear winners or losers in relationships, only participants. This entire journey clearly glorifies the values of communication and makes you, the player, understand that winning an argument really just means that your partner has lost it.
While the game isn’t perfect, it stands as a testament that games can be art, despite critics saying otherwise.
In the third phase, if you choose to take one of the wrong paths, the game will have you start over from the first phase. Although the goal of this forced restart is most likely to convey a message of futility to the player, it’s hard to have it create the same impact that these decisions would have in a real life situation. When this happens, it often feels that starting over comes as a relief from the strain of the tensions in the relationship. We get this romantic notion of a second chance, when in truth we’re only starting the entire cycle over.
“Will Love Tear Us Apart?” may seem like a pessimistic game at first glance but, buried in the troublesome images, it displays is a message that begs to be acknowledged.
You can experience the free-to-play browser game for yourself at www.willlovetearusapart.com