I can’t say that Lucy Blundell’s name is widely known among the indie scene, but fans of visual novels should definitely remember her story with the provocative title One Night Stand. It recreated the somewhat strange and uncomfortable experience of communicating with a stranger you meet in the morning after a suddenly stormy night together. Despite its laconicism and visual simplicity, One Night Stand was catchy and memorable. VIDEOVERSE is a new project by Lucy, a completely different format and much more ambitious. But the basis here is the same – it’s also a story about empathy.

Genre visual novel
Platforms Windows, Linux, macOS
Languages English
Developer Kinmoku
Publisher Kinmoku

gamesbykinmoku.com, Steam

VIDEOVERSE takes place in a slightly alternative version of the noughties. Your character is Emmett, a teenager who loves to draw and is passionate about playing Feudal Fantasy, the biggest hit of the fictional Shark game console. In addition to games, Shark also boasts an online social network VIDEOVERSE, which allows you to communicate in thematic forum branches, send pictures and chat with friends. Shark even has a simple camera. However, it only transmits images, not sound, so communication is exclusively through text.

Emmett is an avid user of VIDEOVERSE. He has his own interests there and old friends. He tries to follow the rules, maintains a friendly atmosphere, and reports trolls or inappropriate content to the moderators. In other words, he sincerely cares about the community and persistently contributes to its development. And one day, the role of VIDEOVERSE in Emmett’s life becomes even more special when he meets his girlfriend Vivi. The Shark console’s social network is the only way he can get in touch with her.

In my opinion, VIDEOVERSE doesn’t look very attractive on the screenshots. One could even say it’s a bit cumbersome. The eye is already accustomed to modern light minimalist interfaces, and here we have archaic pages in a palette of 1-bit colors, primitive avatars, a lot of text, some advertising banners…

In fact, this wrapper is deceptive. Everything is simpler and clearer than it seems. Forums are limited to a few topics and a short set of posts, which changes in each game chapter. Private chats are just dialogues with choices (there are no newfangled things like generating answers with the help of AI). VIDEOVERSE carefully highlights important information for your comfort. And, in fact, you don’t play the famous Final… sorry, Feudal Fantasy, you just watch key cutscenes, which are then discussed on social media. And that’s right, because this is a story about communication first and foremost.

VIDEOVERSE is surprisingly easy to get into a simple but pleasant rhythm. You can read new posts, leave comments, like and dislike them, and maybe complain about another hungry troll (or throw it to the fan yourself, as this line of behavior is also present here). Quite quickly, you start to notice and identify regular users. Avatars and nicknames turn into specific characters. Game days pass, and your daily logins to VIDEOVERSE form a coherent story.

The meeting of Emmett and Vivi, whose romance is flavored with traditional teenage confusion, is the main storyline of VIDEOVERSE. It may be a bit trite, but it’s very sincere and heartfelt. And this is not the only theme of the game. While following the relationships of the main characters, VIDEOVERSE simultaneously highlights many other issues, such as the total toxicity of modern online.

The pleasant simplicity (if not naivety) of communication in VIDEOVERSE contrasts starkly with the constant information noise and total “float” in today’s real social networks. It’s a painful reminder that somewhere along the way, their owners probably took a wrong turn in the development of online technologies.

The mention of the owners is not accidental, because VIDEOVERSE aptly raises another important topic – neglecting the interests of the audience for the sake of profit. As soon as you get used to the comfort of the social network (and this happens quite quickly, literally from the beginning of the game), you are given a bitter pill – it turns out that it will soon be closed to make room for a new product. Shark is being replaced by a more modern console, Dolphin. Therefore, everyone who wants to continue communicating must buy a new device and agree to a monthly subscription, without which access to the Dolphin social network is impossible. What should those who cannot afford the new device do? How to save contacts and correspondence history? How not to lose friends? Of course, this is not the platform provider’s problem.

VIDEOVERSE is also a story about the love of video games. It is a nostalgic reminder of the times when there were few games and each one seemed special. When games were first and foremost admired, and only then did people look for flaws. When we used to scour game magazines to find bits of valuable information about new releases, fantasize about screenshots, and hotly discuss everything we heard, saw, and read with our friends. In short, when video games truly united.

Unfortunately, we lost some of that. But we kept some of it, as Emmett and Vivi did in the unexpected ending you’ll see after the credits.