So, first up, spoiler warning. If you plan on playing Twelve Minutes (which I cannot recommend at all), don’t read ahead. Yesterday, I talked about it already in my review but Twelve Minutes isn’t the best game. The main reason for this is the poor execution of its obtuse puzzles… but the writing is also incredibly bad and pretentious. That’s a word I couldn’t think of yesterday, btw. Today, I wanted to talk openly about what I think about the game – from a moral standpoint. In my reviews, I try to mainly go into the gameplay and that sort of stuff but in Twelve Minutes’ case, the experience was ruined by the horrible ending.
But first a recap: In Twelve Minutes, you’re a white male whose wife is pregnant. You’re trapped in a time loop where a cop barges in on your romantic evening to accuse your wife of her father’s murder. Then you get killed. This happens over and over again and as you try to solve the mystery by repeatedly drugging your wife, you come closer to the truth that she didn’t do it but her brother did. In an incredibly stupid plot twist, it turns out that you’re her brother, actually, and that the cop that barges into your apartment is the manifestation of your common father and the trauma caused by him. All of this is just your attempt of dealing with the traumatic experience. None of this is actually real… apart from the apart where you fucked your half-sister. Before I get further into my thoughts on this, I’d like to mention that Renata Price over at Kotaku wrote an incredibly well-written piece on this game, detailing what everything means while still stressing how problematic all of that is. I read up on other people’s thoughts on the game after I wrote my review. After all, I wasn’t sure if I can really just “dunk” on that game so much, simply for its writing. In the end, the game got a lot of good reviews and a lot of bad reviews, so it was fine to publish my piece. Either way, read Price’s review if you want to get in on the madness without playing the game.
The whole thing about Twelve Minutes that bothered me from the get-go is that we get away with doing a lot of incredibly horrible things to our wife and the cop that barges in because none of this is permanent. If I was in a time loop, I wouldn’t try to run around while I’m naked because what if this is how it ends and I go to jail? I wouldn’t murder everyone around me because what if they don’t come back? Also, I’d be scared for life because… I never murdered anyone. I wouldn’t do all of these horrible things but apparently, it’s fine in the game and the main character has no issue with killing our wife or drugging her repeatedly so that we then have the time to torture some man in peace. But hey, killing yourself with a knife is not okay… and shooting yourself is because the visuals are so pleasing. The game doesn’t make sense. At the same time, it tries to excuse the horrible deeds of the protagonist by telling the story of a traumatic experience. I’m not saying that trauma doesn’t excuse certain things… I’m just saying that it’s handled incredibly poorly over here and that Twelve Minutes doesn’t convince at all that the protagonist is the victim in this situation, even though it really wants me to think so.
While Price at Kotaku and I here at Indiecator have these issues with the game, apparently other people don’t. Ryan McCaffrey at IGN praises the writing and speaks highly of the game – but then again, it’s IGN and they have no clue. Similarly, the game got nominated for “Best Indie Game of the Year” because whoever votes for the nominees hasn’t played OPUS: Echoes of Starsong, Road 96, Wytchwood, Olija, or Eastward. All of these were great games that were better written and better executed than Twelve Minutes.
But hey, maybe we just need more stories about white men “saving” women by repeatedly hurting them in the gaming industry. Maybe we just need more stories that tell us why it’s fine for men to do shitty things. Maybe some developer needs to tell me in an interview why abuse is fine as long as it progresses the plot. Because I don’t get it.
Tessa (who is a lovely blogger, too) shared this article today on Discord where Ken Burnside talks about how abusers most of the time get away with abuse. I say “abuse” but they go more into detail in the article and it’s a great read that I can recommend. Anyway, the article is from 2016 and it’s still happening. When people come forward with stories about abuse, the victim is often shamed or blamed while a lot of people turn into apologists that protect the abuser or the one that is being accused here.
Twelve Minutes kind of takes a stance on that. This poor white male had a traumatic experience and the only way to deal with it was to drug your wife a lot of times, torture a man, stab your wife, electrocute your wife, stab the man, shoot the man, shoot your wife, sell out your wife, and watch as she dies. There are probably more interactions that I completely missed but I’m glad about the fact that I might have more horrible things that you can do to your wife in this game. Obviously, all of this is fine, because it just happens in your head and nobody cares about that, right? Well, nah? I don’t know. It’s bad writing and it sucks, morally and practically. I don’t know why this was nominated for Indie of the year but hey, award shows suck. More on that soon.