There's something to be said about meeting people over the Internet and creating real, honest connections with them. Cibele seems to say a lot about this subject. And not in the way that most people talk about the process of meeting people online. By that, I mean the game doesn't highlight the dangers of meeting people online.
In the early aughts (2000s) there were a lot of teenagers getting access to the Internet in their own homes. After spending most of our lives disconnected from the world around us -- something we didn't see as a problem because that was normalcy to us -- there was a sense of eagerness to meet people across the world.
Cibele captures this, sort of, older and more aware eagerness. Taking place during the 2008 (the late 2000s) we sort of assume that the titular character has had the same "training" when it comes to the way you present yourself online that we all had (by "we" I mean those who have had this experience growing up with the Internet being born in front of our eyes).
That being said, that doesn't mean she, or I for that matter, was immune to feeling something strong for someone who we'd only known through a computer screen.
The game has you control the actions of Cibele as she uses her computer. There are a number of things you can do here. You can look through old pictures she keeps on her computer, poetry she's written for class, and other "embarrassing" or maybe more honest folders she has on her computer.
There is honesty in this. And it's that honesty that grabs you into Cibele's story, into her world. It's extremely voyeuristic and at times it feels like you decided to go onto a friend's laptop while they were busy taking a shower, or if they needed to run to the store for cigarettes real quick. By framing the game in this way, it allows the player to stumble across different snippets of character development. It's one of the most personal, real, and honest ways to tell a story.
I remember the first person I met online. It wasn't in the same sort of way that the Cibele did, but it was still online, over the Internet. I remember keeping chat histories and weird poems/short stories in a strangely titled folder. Much like Cibele and Ichi (the boy she meets in the MMO she plays), we didn't use our real names either. Not at first anyway.
October and I (we used our favorite months as nicknames, mine was April) spoke every single day. I had more fun talking to her about music and video games and movies than I did with anyone else. At the time, I believed that I was in love. We continued this for almost 5 years. We didn't engage in relationships during most of our teen years because we had made a playground promise to each other. That we'd wait until we were old enough to meet each other without anyone asking questions.
Meeting someone you met online (at that time) was something that wasn't as easy as swiping in a direction. It took time and commitment, it was something you really had to think about. And Cibele takes you down this kind of journey. Even though it's framed within the world of MMOs and message boards there's something entirely human about the game.
And like I've been doing throughout each of these blocks, it reminds me of my own experiences with the Internet, the people I've met. And October, who I thought I was in love with (which is funny because teenage love always feels like the most real even though it probably isn't). But the really interesting thing about this game isn't how it approaches the subject but it's how it engaged me to think about my own experience. My own history with meeting people online.
It made me think of the ways that I probably wasn't the best to my online friend. Or the ways she wasn't good to me. It reminded me of all the times I was afraid to send her pictures of me (nothing explicit, just me sitting at my computer). And it made me think about her and how she probably had the same fear of sending me pictures of what she looks like. I thought about all of the embarrassing e-mails and poems and songs I wrote/sent her.
And through my extremely personal, I realized why this game works so well. And it's because it tells an extremely personal story. Coming from a creator's perspective, it made me realize that the most personal story is often times the most universal. Cibele and Nina Freeman (the game's developer) found a way to connect with me through this very personal story. And I couldn't feel any more grateful and thankful for Freeman's game.