Vitals

Title: Subserial Network
Developer: Aether Interactive
Publisher: Aether Interactive
Release Date: ???
Platforms: Itch.io

Summary

Subserial Network is a “video game” narrative made by Aether Interactive. It’s designed to be an exploration of the medium of video games for self expression (and just expression in general, I guess.)

The story is set in a post-singularity society. Humans are long-gone, nobody knows how they left, and the planet is populated by humanoid androids called “synthetics”, who feel and think as though they’re human. They know that humanity existed, they know that it’s tragic that it died, and they believe that they are meant to be proper “children of humanity”, emulate humanity in all the ways they can.

You are an agent of CETUS (Cybernetics Equivalence Treaty of the United System), and your job is to track down “subserials”, people that want to be less human, more machine. They are installing serial ports into themselves so that they can interface with each other, hot-swap, exchange information with their terminals, that sort of thing. Your job is to track them down and find the location of their “leader” of sorts, Andromeda, so that they can be eliminated. 

The in-game explanation of the subserials (better than I could have given it, because it summarizes it pretty well)

From the first page you view when you enter the game:

“Serialisation candidates, calling themselves “subserials,” are simply put, the largest existential threat to synthetic life. The intention of the Cybernetics Equivalence Treaty of the united System, and its empowerment of our agents and operatives, is focused on ensuring your safety and the safety of all synthetics in the united System in accordance with Machine guidance. If you have any information concerning suspected serialisation candidates, please contact your nearest CETUS office or anonymously submit a tip.

What is serialisation? Serialisation is simple: much like more rudimentary body modifications, which manipulate the form of the synthetic body to potentially dangerous ends, serialisation is a deeply-rooted, fatal modification. Candidates employ various techniques to introduce a new cable route through to the central processor, which results in an external serial port for the direct exchange of information.

These synthetics, for one reason or another, have abandoned their life purpose. They are nomadic; they don’t keep a job; they don’t have interests, or hobbies. They are consumed by the need for this modification. They see it as a “better” way of living, distinct from our inherent nature. As there are plenty of ways to perform network connectivity between synthetics without causing potentially devastating damage (including, if not boolean, the possibility of stopping prematurely), these synthetics must be dispatched.”

What the gameplay is like

You have three windows open on your computer: a “web browser” of sorts, a music player (for the vibes, dude) and a “email” of sorts. You navigate the web browser by punching keywords into the little bar on the top, and seeing if the keywords bring you to a page. I believe the first page I managed to find was “sex”, because my hee-hoo peenut brain was curious about android porn. There is no android porn. Androids do not make porn for each other.

You navigate all these keyword pages and slowly glean information and lore as you stumble your way through the web. That’s the entire game, you slowly acquire information. As you play, you can send or receive email-esque messages from synths, which can give you further information that you need or just make you feel for the characters. At the end of the game, you are given the option to either defend these subserials by deactivating the Machine, who runs society, or by giving the location of all the subserials, which kills them all of course. The game really makes you feel sympathy for them, that’s the catch.

Personal opinions

I think the game is worth the money, I believe it is $7 and I got maybe 12 hours out of it. (That being said, I snagged it while it was on 100% off sale and got it for free, so I didn’t have the attitude of “this better be worth the money” when I played it.) The concept is extremely well executed and honestly… it’s a fucking masterpiece. The characters felt like real people. Their pain felt like real pain. Especially the android under the link “human”. My only qualm is just how short the game was. It could have been so much bigger, so much better, maybe if the devs had more money and more time they could have added more pages and keywords but… it is what it is.

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