Today, Laura Kate Dale released a demo for her game in progress, You Are The Reason. It’s a bit rough around the edges, as one might expect for a work in progress, but I already like a lot of the concepts I see in it. The demo is only about ten minutes long, so you really should just follow that link now and come back after you’ve played it, but if you need some more encouragement, let me tell you what I like about it.
The big point of departure between YATR and other RPG’s is the pacifistic bent. The protagonist is demonized because of her magical talent, and due to a combination of that and her own strong sense of morality, you cannot lethally retaliate against the people who persecute you. Not only will that confirm to the world that you are the monster they’ve already labeled you as, but the protagonist herself will conclude she has become something terrible and you’ll get a nonstandard game over. Most RPG’s use a simplistic notion of self defense to allow you to carve a bloody swath through anyone that so much as threatens you. YATR takes a different route: You have the ability to protect yourself using non-lethal means; hell, the “sleeping pollen” spell doesn’t even cost any magic points. Even though your opponents mean to kill you, they’re not necessarily bad people, just misguided and prejudiced, and you have an obligation as the more powerful person in that specific situation to show some restraint. When you can obliterate all of your opposition with a single action, compared to the many, many turns it would take them to whittle down your hit points, it is absurd to consider that self defense.
Another major departure in YATR is the the protagonist is transgender. This aspect is not especially emphasized, so you could be forgiven for missing it if you didn’t read the “Super Awesome Fact Sheet.” No one in the village appears to consider this a big deal, with the notable exception of That One Guy (the lack of name plates to designate the characters is a little inconvenient here) who seems to take your identity as a personal affront. Aside from exhibiting a bit of transphobia himself, subtly misgendering you at first and calling you a freak later, he implies that your character’s father left the village as a consequence of you coming out, so this is something I expect will be developed in greater detail in the full game. This is not to overstate the importance of this aspect of the protagonist to the narrative of the game as a whole. It’s obvious from the demo that the fact that you can use magic is much more important within the context of the game, but it is notable given the scarcity of trans representation in the media in general.
I’m looking forward to seeing where this game goes as it develops. There is enough space in the menu screen to hold additional party members, which doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to recruit allies, but if you can, it will be interesting to see how you can win over comrades despite your pariah status. Not to mention seeing how these people might react to your unwillingness to fight back against your persecutors. It’s also implied that you will come across dangerous monsters that you will have to kill, so I’m eager to see how the game handles that, and whether you have to be concerned about collateral damage resulting from cutting loose with your magical powers.