Decisions That Matter: An Interactive Experience is an interactive web comic where readers can make decisions about how to respond to situations. The situations in question are centered around sexual harassment. Characters are freshmen in college. The comic aims to help guide students through making better choices when it comes to sexual harassment in a variety of settings.
I have to admit, while I think this format is extremely promising, this particular comic fell a bit flat for me. I was given very little feedback after making a choice. Or, rather, it was feedback that I already knew I would get. For example, a group of three female friends is walking through campus one morning. A stranger starts making sexual suggestions and catcalling them. I am offered the option to say something to him, to ignore him, or to passively show my discomfort. I choose to say something. He, predictably, starts throwing slurs at me and my friends. On to the next scene.
This isn’t news to me. It’s not a teaching experience; this is something that happens to me frequently, and seeing it play out on screen the same way it does on the street wasn’t particularly illuminating. In a way, this is a great example of how games sometimes fail for certain audiences. This scenario might be incredibly revealing for a teenage boy who’s never had to confront this situation. There’s nothing wrong with raising awareness! But for me and others like me who confront sexual harassment weekly, it does nothing. I think it’s fair to assume that most women are already aware that catcalling is a hard-t0-deal-with menace.
If I were to rewrite this game, I wouldn’t just replicate physical-world scenarios; I would offer advice on how to navigate them. I would give scripts for confronting a catcaller, an overly handsy acquaintance, or a friend who asks “what were you wearing?” when you relate an instance of sexual harassment. I would give readers tools to keep from internalizing traumatic events. I would state explicitly that it doesn’t matter what the situation is—if you’re uncomfortable, it’s okay to back out.
I do think that “Decisions That Matter” is a worthwhile read. The scene at the party does illustrate the importance of keeping an eye on friends, even when they appear to be having fun. I just want more depth—I want the interactive web comic format to be taken a step further.