This doesn’t really come as a surprise to me. After all, there’s a good reason I put off playing Cibele for so long. Lasting barely an hour, it certainly wasn’t an issue of the time commitment involved, rather my hang-ups about approaching such a personal work. There’s a respect there that I want to show that, quite honestly, supersedes any critical thoughts I may want to put forth. It also doesn’t help that I am, shall we say… hypersensitive to certain topics, namely that of romantic relationships and the many complications they bring. Often I simply avoid tackling anything that deals in that space because it can often hit a little too close to home.
But that’s the point with Cibele, really. You need to be there, to remember what it was like to be young and naive, maybe even attempt to recognize that you’re still that person to some extent. While I’m, obviously, not a 19 year old girl, it’s hard not to relate to Nina, and even harder to determine exactly where the character ends and the creator of the same name begins. This makes Cibele disturbingly voyeuristic in the beginning, a feeling that never quite goes away, though you do start to get lost in the world after a bit of time. It’s similar to how Nina herself gets lost in Valtameri, the MMO where her relationship with Ishi, a handsome devil living on the opposite coast, develops. Through her desktop, you get a sense of the world, of other people existing even if they’re not critical to the story or its message. After all, we’re all minor NPCs in someone else’s narrative. Sometimes, though often temporarily, we even become major characters to them.
The faux-MMO segments seem superfluous at first, but all of that time spent clicking just reinforces the passage of time; those countless hours we find ourselves spending more with our online friends than those in the “real” world. More subtly, and perhaps even not intentionally, there’s also the feeling of continuing to do something long after you’ve grown out of it simply because of the people (or person) you do it with. I’ve never been in the exact scenario Cibele presents, but I’ve most definitely felt more at home with a “stranger” in a virtual world than I often did in my own skin, interacting face-t0-face. I’ve also dealt with my share of love interests that were perhaps a little too careless with the emotions of others.
It would have been easy for Cibele to cross over into the territory of something petty or vindictive, but it never does. I’ve often had to consider that in my own work whenever I veer a bit more towards the autobiographical, naturally wanting to paint myself in the most flattering light possible. You’re never asked to view Nina that way. She’s vulnerable and most certainly someone you feel deserving of the love she desires, but at the same time, she’s clearly flawed. During your time in her shoes, that sense of dread is always looming, seeing the mistakes she makes as they happen, as if she were a horror movie heroine about to open the wrong door. You want to reach through the screen and yell at her, but you know she likely wouldn’t listen anyway. It’s hard to determine if she’s even ignorant to those things as much as she simply doesn’t care, seeing it all as collateral damage in the wake of going after something she loves.
Love, after all, makes us do stupid things. I would know. I’m a pretty big idiot myself.