It’s not a common enough occurrence that we see games being released where inclusivity has been one of the main goals of their development, so when games like this do appear it makes me stop and pay attention.
LongStory is an episodic dating/adventure sim for mobile that takes players back to high school to solve a mystery and navigate the complexities of school politics and relationships. You start the game by choosing your name, your pronoun (he, she, or they) and what you’d like to look like. You also get to choose which of the 5 datable characters you’d like to pursue, if you want to pursue any of them at all as you don’t have to. It’s these options for gender neutrality and choice of sexuality that really helps LongStory towards achieving it’s aim of having a story for everyone.
The games visuals are colourful and appealing in a cartoonish sort of way. The characters you meet and form relationships with are diverse in appearance and personality and – refreshingly – the game manages to avoid falling into rehashing the same old high school character cliches like ‘the mean girls’ we’ve become so used to seeing. Another reason the game’s characters are so enjoyable to interact with is the dialogue – it’s honestly not bad! This is unusual when teenage characters are written by adults (cringe-worthy dialogue was one of the most common complaints made about Life is Strange) but in LongStory, nothing about the way these characters speak feels forced.
Through its story, the game aims to frankly tackle issues such as social anxiety, learning disabilities, consent, sexual orientation, gender identity, and both online and offline relationships. Thanks to its well written characters, low-pressure style of play, and determination to be an experience accessible to all, I genuinely believe LongStory has the capacity discuss these issues well.
Part of the fun of LongStory is in the fact that it encourages you to explore sides of yourself and try roles you might not have the courage to in real life. You can flirt with that person you like, hell you can ask them out; you can stand up to the bullies; you can select that dialogue option you’d normally be too shy to say out loud; and in the process you can learn more about what it is that makes a healthy relationship.
LongStory is available to download now on iOS and Android. The first episode is free to download and play, which is a good way to get a sense of whether or not the interactive novel style of gameplay involved in a dating sim appeals to you or not. After this, the rest of the episodes are available as in-app purchases for £1.09 each. There are going to be seven episodes in total but right now episode four has just been released.
Often I wish there had been more games like this available when I was in my early to mid teens; safe environments where it was okay to explore and express who you are without the worry of what other people would think. I think it’s genuinely important that we make sure they stick around for teens now to get the chance to play. Now that I’m playing it as an adult, I’ve found LongStory to be a nice way to reflect on my high school experiences and the relationships I’ve had over the years. I have to say I’m looking forward to seeing where the game goes next.