Sometimes, video games open up our eyes to new ideas and ways to look at issues prevailing in the world and in our lives. In the rare instances that games invoke these feelings, it makes a game set itself apart from the rest of its contemporaries. In the hour and two minutes it took me to complete Cibele, I was left with new thoughts and ways to look at how narratives in games can be better than what they currently are. If Cibele can be the kick start that games need in order to improve, we are well on our way to seeing a future full of narrative rich games.
Cibele is a game about love, sex, and massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Mixing full motion video and Diablo-style gameplay mechanics, Cibele weaves a story about intimacy over the internet. The plot is the backbone of the game and while the gameplay is very stylish, it is not what is going to hook you in. Though, Cibele did do a good job of making me yearn for a Diablo MMO with how the combat is woven into the game.
It is not often that a game can make me feel uncomfortable. For the most part, this usually happens when an especially violent scene takes place or there is a moment of awkwardness between characters. Since the story of Cibele is of the player learning about and understanding the relationship between Nina and Ichi, the player is given a look at how the two become closer through the use of chat logs, in game party chat, and phone calls. Never has a game made me feel as if I was witnessing something so intimate that I should not be able to see what was transpiring. It was a genuine feeling of wanting to back out since I did not know these two and basically should not be able to see any of this. At that moment is when I knew Cibele was something special.
Long -distance relationships have been a part of our culture for quite some time and now with how quickly we can chat and see another person to talk to them, these types of partnerships have boomed in recent years. Cibele does an excellent job laying the foundation of how a relationship like this would work. As someone who has experienced a long-distance relationship, this portion of the game hit home very hard. Trying to figure out and define what the relationship is, the struggle and awkwardness of deciding if planning a trip to see the other person is a good idea, and figuring out ways to explore each other’s sexuality are all points that the game portrays and are facets that I had experienced. These are concepts that people now can also relate to and relive those memories, whether good or bad, within the confines of the game.
As Cibele is intended for more mature audiences, it addresses these issues in quite possibly the best way out of any video game I have played. For the most part, sex in video games is shown through a power fantasy. The player’s character can have the option of romancing either one other character or a set number of characters. Games and series like The Witcher, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Persona 3 and 4, a host of anime dating simulators, and numerous others feature sex or relationships in this way. The player will have relations with the other character and that usually ends up being it for how you interact with your partner. Usually these sex scenes are almost Hollywood-esque in how they are portrayed to the player in that they are glamorous and not at all awkward. Cibele takes the sex narrative and flips it on its head. What this game does well is push forward the narrative that sex can be awkward and strange, especially for your first time. Coinciding with the game’s relationship being long-distance, it can be hard to figure out how to tackle that subject. The characters in the game have to deal with this and approach it in the way that most people would if they were in their shoes. Their conversations about this subject are in a sense, shy and reserved, which is normal. Talking about these subjects over the internet to someone that has never met you face-to-face is challenging and a tricky road to go down. Cibele is able to give the player these sorts of conversations so well, that it felt like conversations that I have had during my previous relationships. Hopefully, this can become a beacon of hope in terms of how video games address sex instead of trying to go straight for the straight male demographic most of the time.
In a year that has been rich in terms of games, it is surprising to me that a small game like this could completely make me rethink how storytelling in games should be. Games can have massive stories that make the player feel like they rule the world, but as Cibele shows, there can also be works in this medium that are raw, real, and emotional that give the player not just a new way to look at stories in games, but also give you a more relatable and down to earth video game. If you are a fan of narrative focused games or you just crave something that is not like the norm, Cibele is absolutely a game you should check out. It will be an hour or two well spent.