February 16, 2013

Review: Coffee For Keisha by Tlaero and phreaky

If you came here looking for a walkthrough, it's here.

Plot
Coffee For Keisha is the fourth game from the team of Tlaero and phreaky (not counting Daydreaming About Keeley, which wasn’t a full game and has since been folded into Virtual Date With Keeley to produce Meeting Keeley). As the name suggests, it stars Keisha, who was a supporting character in several of the previous games. The player takes on the role of Sam, who works in a coffee shop by day and pursues his dream of being a rock star by night.

The plot of Coffee For Keisha is pretty standard for this kind of game. The PC gets up the courage to talk to the girl of his dreams and tries to pursue a relationship with her. That’s similar to Meeting Keeley, and pretty much identical to Getting To Know Christine. There are only six scenes and the game is almost entirely linear until midway through the fifth scene, when it branches according to whether the player has predominantly chosen the nice or the naughty options (or a perfect balance between the two). This is a sophisticated method of determining how the game plays out, but it has the unfortunate side effect of making the game seem more linear because there are no obviously significant decisions for the player to make.

The comparative brevity of the game poses some problems for effectively developing Sam and Keisha’s relationship, especially since the first three scenes are rather innocuous in terms of what actually happens. Sam serves coffee to Keisha and Keeley and they chat. Sam meets Keisha at a bar (with Keeley chaperoning) and they chat. Keisha goes to see Sam’s band and afterwards they chat (and then go dancing, but that happens off-screen). Those scenes are not interesting in and of themselves in the way that, for example, Christine taking Adrian to a gun range was. More importantly, there’s little in the way of romance, or indeed anything to indicate that there’s much chemistry between Sam and Keisha. What was really needed was an extra scene where Sam and Keisha go on a proper date and do something romantic. As it is, when Sam goes to Keisha’s house in the fourth scene and they engage in some almost heavy petting it feels like it comes out of nowhere.

The player has to wait until the fifth scene before the choice between nice and naughty affects the game in any obvious way, since it determines which episode from her past Keisha decides to relate. I’m sure it’s every man’s fantasy to listen to a story about his girlfriend’s sexual adventures and how she’s never going to do anything like that again. To be fair, it is a big characterisation moment for Keisha, but it does nothing to suggest that she and Sam are in love, or even lust. In the sixth scene they finally have sex (unless Keisha has dumped Sam, in which case he might get another girl as a consolation prize). That involves either anal or bondage depending on the options the player has been choosing, which seems pretty extreme for their first time, especially given how slow Keisha has been keeping the pace up to that point.

One specific plot point that struck me as rather tenuous is Keisha’s confident assertion that Nostafaru (the PC’s band) are big in Japan. Her sole evidence for that claim is that someone she knows in Japan really liked them when he saw them in America. From that to Nostafaru being popular in Japan as a whole is a massive leap. And if they were popular in Japan, wouldn’t the PC have some independent evidence of that fact? Likes on the band’s Facebook page if nothing else. To be fair, Keisha may just be trying to show off her knowledge of obscure bands, since music snobbery is one of her few notable personality traits. However, it’s a little surprising that the PC isn’t at all upset by the fact that this supposed popularity is based on a bootleg recording that his band derives no financial benefit from. If anything, he’s pleased because it helps him get to third base with Keisha, which perhaps explains why he’ll never achieve any professional success without her help.

The game’s dominant theme is how great Keisha is, specifically when compared to the groupies the PC has been with up to now. It’s implied that the latter are immature, but if they live virtuous lives they might grow up to be like Keisha (“[Keisha] gets along well with the groupies, who are a little envious, but really want to be more like her”). Meanwhile, both Keisha and Keeley are quick to label the groupies as sluts, a label that they’re at pains to make clear doesn’t apply to Keisha ("So you like the outfit? I was going for 'Sexy rocker chick who's not a slut.'"). Because Keisha is “not a slut” she is reluctant to perform any sex act that is remotely non-vanilla (such as oral, anal, bondage or threesomes), because "[t]hat's what a groupie would do". Despite this, the player is repeatedly told that sex with Keisha is inherently more exciting and fulfilling for the PC ("The groupies never kiss you, they just go straight for your cock. This is... better").

Providing a positive model of female sexuality in an adult game is a laudable ambition. However, in my opinion, the best way to have achieved it would have been to simply portray Keisha as a confident adult woman, something that worked pretty well for Keeley in her first appearance. Having Keisha and Keeley constantly criticising other women for not living up to the arbitrary standard they’ve set just makes them seem judgmental and self-righteous, not to mention insecure. It’s made worse by the fact that neither Keisha nor Keeley have actually met the women they so casually condemn, and the player is given no evidence that their opinions have any validity. At the risk of editorialising, no woman is a slut, it's merely a label applied by people whose sense of 'decency' is offended by her behaviour. Keeley and Keisha are apparently easily offended, since their definition apparently encompasses not only promiscuity, but dressing provocatively and, seemingly, enjoying sex too much. It’s a bizarre attitude for an adult game to seemingly promote and in its own way this kind of slut-shaming is just as offensive as the more stereotypical depictions of women that male authors sometimes produce.
5.5/10

Characters
In many ways Keisha feels like a copy of Christine, only without any of the compensations. Like Christine, Keisha is dating a man to whom she’s superior in nearly every way. Professionally, she has a highly paid job while the PC is a struggling musician. Educationally, she speaks seven languages while he never displays any similar erudition. Even physically, there are suggestions that Keisha is fitter and stronger than the PC. The author was perhaps sensitive to this problem as there is an attempt to paper over it with some clunky dialogue about equality and being good at different things. However, that’s undercut by the fact that Sam only has one noticeable talent (music), which he’s so good at that he’ll never achieve any success without Keisha’s help. The lack of actual equality is even reflected in the title of the game: it’s coffee for Keisha, not coffee with Keisha.

Keisha also resembles Christine in the sense that she’s the dominant partner in the relationship. She decides what she and Sam do, what they talk about, and how far they will go. When Sam suggests going to the beach, she decides they’re going to the park. When Sam wants to rub her to orgasm, she stops him and gives him a handjob instead. Even when she’s supposed to be playing at being a submissive she’s telling Sam what to do. That kind of dynamic worked in Getting To Know Christine because Adrian was presented as diffident and lacking experience with the opposite sex. By contrast, Sam should be much more confident since he’s a fledgling rock star who’s had a great deal of success with women in the past. Despite this, but in keeping with the game’s theme, he is often nervous and deferential around a ‘real’ woman like Keisha. She quickly becomes the centre of his existence and things like his friends and his music fade into insignificance. That made sense when it happened to Adrian with Christine, because it was basically Adrian’s first relationship. It's far less believable that Sam would feel the same way about Keisha, especially since their relationship receives far less development.

The final way in which Keisha resembles Christine is that they both have traumatic incidents lurking in their pasts that drive their current behaviour. For Christine it was a betrayal that left her with serious trust issues, while Keisha had a couple of threesomes at college. That doesn’t sound particularly traumatic but even though it must be at least five years since she graduated, Keisha can’t think about what happened without becoming visibly upset. That’s in stark contrast to Keeley’s attitude, which is much more relaxed even though objectively she has much more to feel guilty about. I’m not sure why Keisha reacts in such an extreme fashion, but my best psychobabble guess is that she’s sublimated all the anger she felt towards Keeley for stealing her boyfriend and re-directed it towards the threesome itself. That would explain her frequently expressed aversion to any behaviour that could conceivably be considered as slutty. It also suggests that her need to dominate any romantic relationship is driven by a fear of losing control, like she did during the threesomes. However, it doesn’t explain why the untraumatised Keeley parrots Keisha’s opinions using exactly the same language, which consequently feels like lazy writing.

The larger question is what this trauma was intended to achieve in terms of characterisation and plot? Why give the main character of an adult game what almost amounts to an aversion to sex? Keisha was clearly intended to be seen as a flirt, because that’s how both Keeley and the narration describe her. However, in the author’s eagerness to clear Keisha of any possible accusation of sluttiness she’s taken Keisha’s character in the opposite direction, with the result that she seems passionless much of the time. The flashbacks themselves feel more like a sop to the significant proportion of the playerbase that’s interested in such things, without forcing the author to compromise the loudly proclaimed virtue of the ‘real’ Keisha.

Keisha’s seemingly pathological craving for monogamy is one of the traits that reminded me of Keeley, who also makes an appearance in this game. However, Keeley has either changed a great deal as a result of the events of Life With Keeley, or she’s very out of character here. I suspect the latter since her role in this game is basically to act as the chorus for Keisha’s opinions about the equivalence between groupies and sluts, and to emphasise that Keisha doesn’t fall into the latter category. She also describes Christine as a psychopath and threatens that she will take vengeance on the PC if he mistreats Keisha. That seems rather two-faced, given that Christine is depicted as being a good friend to Keeley in Life With Keeley. It also seems a bit childish of Keeley to threaten to get a ‘bigger kid’ to beat Sam up if he’s mean to her friend. Word of God is that Keeley didn’t mean the threat seriously. If so, that’s something that could have been conveyed much much better, especially since Keisha later confirms the threat with an equally straight-face.

Lindsey is the only other character of any significance, and her role seems to be to act as the representative of the groupies and give Keisha someone to be morally superior to. For example, after encountering Lindsey at the club, the 'nice' option that wins Keisha’s approval is for the PC to tell her that he thinks Lindsey is stupid (although to be fair, Lindsey does call Keisha a whore, which astonishingly gets no reaction from anyone). Lindsey is treated a little more kindly in her own ending, where she's shown to be more than the stereotype that the other characters assume her to be. She makes an interesting contrast with Keisha because she's much more obviously interested in Sam
than the highly controlled Keisha will allow herself to be. It felt to me like she genuinely liked Sam, which is a feeling I never got from Keisha, and as a result I found her to be the most likeable character in the game. Despite this Sam doesn’t feel guilty that he stood by as Keisha and Keeley condemned groupies like Lindsey as sluts, although the fact that she turns out not to be a slut does give him permission to think better of her, because Keisha’s viewpoint is still the only one that matters. However, this comparatively positive view of Lindsey is undercut by the epilogue, which suggests that the PC's life with her is emotionally hollow as well as professionally unsuccessful.
5.5/10

Writing
The main thing that distinguishes Tlaero and phreaky's games from the competition is the amount of dialogue. Outside of the sex scenes, nearly every option presented to the player is choosing what to say, rather than what to do. That's something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the amount of dialogue allows the characters to be fleshed out to a greater extent, which makes them more believable. On the other hand, it's not easy to write good dialogue, especially in a game where there's little space for the writer to provide any metatextual information about how it should be said. The result is that while there are a few good lines, there are also a number of lines that I could not imagine a real human person saying. No doubt in the author's head there was a particular combination of emphasis and tone that made those lines work, but unfortunately that's not something that was able to be conveyed in the game.

The bigger problem is that the writing of Coffee For Keisha seems at best complacent and at worst lazy. I’ve already mentioned how Keeley echoes Keisha’s opinions using exactly the same language. There’s also the comparative brevity of the game and the way in which the player’s actions are driven by Keisha telling them what to do, both of which lighten the author’s workload at the expense of the player's enjoyment. More importantly, there is little effort expended to make Keisha interesting to the player in the same way that Christine or Keeley were in their games. Much of the characterisation Keisha receives takes the form of telling the player what she’s like, rather than the much more interesting route of demonstrating those traits in action. There are also little things, like Sam magically picking the bar that Keisha and Keeley are going to. It would have been quite simple to write around that, for example by having Keisha or Keeley actually name the bar while they were in the coffee shop, or perhaps suggesting that it’s fate that Sam picked the right bar. Instead it’s just left as a meaningless coincidence.

The graphics in Coffee For Keisha are as strong as they've been in the previous games, which is unsurprising since Lindsey is the only significant character who hasn't appeared previously. However, I would quibble with how little emotion Keisha shows. When she smiles it’s usually indicated by the upturning of the corners of her mouth, which does little to change her typically stern expression. As a result, it seldom seems like she’s actually enjoying Sam’s company. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the younger versions of Keeley and Keisha either, as they seemed too different from the originals. However, the only character whose appearance I actually disliked was the PC, who I simply didn’t find attractive. He also seems to alternate between having a stubbly beard and being clean-shaven, which might have been intentional but actually makes him look like he has trouble remembering to shave.
5/10

Gameplay
I was impressed by the initial stages of Coffee For Keisha because the dialogue options form a kind of web rather than the typical linear branching. That suggested that the player had a great deal of flexibility in which options they could choose. Then I discovered how the mechanics actually worked and realised that there's no flexibility at all. On hard difficulty, the player has to decide which ending they're aiming for from the very beginning of the game and consistently be either nice (which sometimes makes the PC sound a bit servile) or naughty (which sometimes makes him sound like an arrogant douchebag). Attempting to chart a course between those two extremes (which is where most people would naturally fall) will lead to failure with Keisha. It’s actually strangely appropriate that Keisha can’t deal with a man who isn’t obviously one thing or another since she tends to think in very black and white terms. Men can only be naughty or nice, and women are either like Keisha or they’re sluts.

To be fair, the way that Coffee For Keisha works is not really any different from relationship building in most other games. The PC has to make whatever choices most please the object of their affection, who in turn makes no allowances for the PC's feelings or desires. In some ways Coffee For Keisha is actually better, since the player is given the choice of two extreme paths, rather than just one. However, that illusion of choice is rather undercut by the fact that the epilogues make it clear that the ‘nice’ path is supposed to be the best ending.

The design decision that I had the most trouble accepting was the addition of mouse-based 'minigames'. These are similar to the scenes in various Flash games where the player moves the mouse back and forth to guide the tempo of the action onscreen, with the added difficulty that there is no indication of how far or in which direction the mouse is supposed to be moved. Some of the minigames also require the mouse to be moved at a certain speed, which I found next to impossible. Overall, I felt that they added frustration but not much else.

There are six sex scenes in the game. Of these, one is severely circumscribed, two are mutually exclusive flashbacks, and the other three are the different endings. As with previous games by the same team, the sex scenes are visually in third person. I found this a little disconcerting, partly because I was unprepared for how scruffy the PC looks (the viewing angle in the first sex scene doesn't do him any favours either), but mainly because it breaks immersion by distancing the player from the character they're supposed to be identifying with.

The flashbacks are in full third-person, by which I mean that at various points the player is acting for all of the participants. That was something that I found less than satisfying in Life With Keeley, but it's arguably worse here since none of the participants are the main viewpoint character. After spending most of the game being encouraged to identify with the PC in his pursuit of Keisha, the player is forced to watch someone else do the deed first, which breaks immersion even more.

All of the sex scenes are linear, with no decisions to make, which is disappointing but consistent with the previous games from this team. I also found them to be lacking… something. I think it's the fact that Keisha's fear of uncontrolled sexuality ends up bleeding off any sense of passion or excitement. For example, the impact of the threesome scenes is undercut by the fact that they're being narrated by present day Keisha, who invests them with her guilt and anger. During the scene at Keisha's house, she demonstrates how not carried away by passion she is by calmly explaining why she is going to give the PC a handjob rather than sucking him. The bondage scene goes to great lengths to undercut her submission to the PC. Before the scene even begins she hits him in the shoulder, causing him to acknowledge her superiority by whining about how strong she is. Even when she's tied up, the PC is mainly following her orders. Just before the climax of the scene, the PC has to beg for forgiveness when he thinks he's hurt her, only for her to order him to spank her. That scene does end with Keisha having finally succumbed to passion, which is perhaps why the epilogue shows that their relationship didn't last. I have no real complaints about the other two scenes (the 'nice' anal scene and the Lindsey ending), but they didn't make any great impression on me either.
6.5/10

Technical
The author has described Coffee For Keisha as her best ever game. As you’ve probably gathered, I disagree with that assessment, but the one area where I think it’s plausible is the technical side of things. Traditionally, this has been one area where Tlaero and phreaky's games have really impressed and Coffee For Keisha is no exception.

Playing Coffee For Keisha is free from the frustration of bugs or broken links. Although I didn't particularly enjoy them, I can't deny that the implementation of the minigames is impressive. Coffee For Keisha also features sound, as far as I know the first dating game to do so. It didn't work particularly well for me (the sounds stuttered quite a bit), but I suspect that might be something to do with my set up.

There were no spelling mistakes in the text, although there was the occasional instance of questionable punctuation or word choice (‘upcoming’ instead of ‘up and coming’ for example). The author also has a habit of capitalising things that don't need to be capitalised (the word 'Dear' for example). But those are minor quibbles, and the polish of Coffee For Keisha comes as a welcome change from Chaotic's games.
8.5/10

Final Thoughts
It's interesting to compare Coffee For Keisha to the very first Keeley game, Virtual Date With Keeley. Both games have similar plots, and female leads that are ostensibly similar in terms of personality and outlook. At the time of her first appearance, Keeley was atypical of female characters in dating games in that she wanted a long-term relationship rather than a no strings attached one night stand. Where Coffee For Keisha differs for me is that it is much more heavy-handed in getting that idea across. In Keeley's first game, a relationship was presented as something that Keeley wanted because of the kind of person she was. In Coffee For Keisha it's presented as being inherently superior, and those that don’t want it (the groupies that Keisha is at such pains to distinguish herself from, and the PC is encouraged to denigrate) are therefore inferior.

In that sense Coffee For Keisha is closer to Life With Keeley. The difference is that Life With Keeley is actually a pretty good advertisement for monogamy. James and Keeley love each other, and that leads to some pretty hot sex scenes. By contrast, Keisha keeps such a tight rein on her emotions that I never felt that there was any real connection between her and the PC. Being her boyfriend feels like a role that Keisha is continuously auditioning Sam for, making him jump through various hoops. That was arguably the case in Getting To Know Christine as well, but Christine was a much more exciting character and consequently the hoops she set up were much more exciting as well. On top of that, I can see what Christine gets out of a relationship with Adrian (i.e. someone that she can trust completely), but it's not obvious why Keisha would want to be in a relationship with Sam other than the fact that he’s in a band she’s heard of and has a nice ass. I appreciate the desire to create a strong female character, but I don't think that showing that Keisha actually cares for the PC or ceding control to him for a moment would have been a sign of weakness. As it is, Sam is always the supplicant and Keisha is the goddess he must appease.

This kind of game lives and dies by its female lead. I’d hesitate to describe Christine as likeable but she was interesting and exciting (and somewhat sympathetic due to her backstory), with the result that her game was interesting and exciting as well. By contrast, Keisha is none of those things. Instead she comes across as dictatorial and so tightly controlled as to be virtually passionless. Part of the problem is that because Keisha responds in kind to the PC if he’s nice or naughty (and neutrally to everything else), it never feels as though she has a consistent personality. That leaves a gap in characterisation which is largely filled by her obsession with not being considered a slut. It doesn’t help that if you’re at all familiar with the author’s opinions (as expressed on the Shark’s Lagoon forums) there will be points during this game when both Keisha and Keeley feel more like authorial mouthpieces than actual characters.

I've little doubt that Coffee For Keisha will be popular, since it's the first game by Tlaero and phreaky to be released for more than a year and, despite my criticisms, their games are superior to anything else on the dating game market. However, in terms of character, plot, content, and simple enjoyment, I think it’s the weakest game that team has produced.
5.5/10

Overall score = 61%

12 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I've written a draft review for PAF, however I feel like I should play it more before I pass judgement on it.

      Delete
  2. Interesting review :) Whilst I didn't notice the game being heavy-handed in pushing monogamous relationships (I only played the "nice" path though), I definitely agree with your central point about it basically being a diluted cross between Keeley and Christine. Wooing Keisha didn't feel as genuine as going after Keeley, nor as exciting and challenging as Christine. And I certainly felt that the way Keeley was depicted clashed with the way she behaves in her own titles, which slightly damaged the consistency of the series as a whole.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On reflection, I think that describing CwK as pushing monogamy was a poor choice of words on my part, and I'll probably change that section if I revise the review. However, I do still think that CwK approves of certain behaviours (ie. the restraint with which Keisha exercises her sexuality) and disapprove of others (ie. 'the groupies') in a way that feels heavy-handed to me (and a bit inappropriate to an adult game). I'd be interested to know what you think of the differences in the epilogues once you've played through both paths.

      Re Keeley, word of God is that she didn't mean the threat seriously (which, if true, is something that could have been conveyed much much better). It's also since crossed my mind that Keeley's surprising readiness to discuss her sex life might have been intended to make it seem more believable that she would reveal Keisha's dark secret (although personally I didn't find either very believable).

      Delete
  3. Also re: "I'm not sure why, especially since it's not entirely clear whether both of the threesomes described in the game happened or only one of them."

    I was under the impression they both happened(deep breath) - the FFM occurs, followed by the breakup, which sends Keisha into a depression, which directly results in the MMF, which results in Keeley's breakup...which results in the "kinda group sex but not" situation with K/K and Randal/Ken. :confused:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was thinking about posting that question on the Lagoon, but then I realised that LwK independently confirms that Joey/Keeley definitely happened. So I agree that both happening is the most likely situation. However, from the point of view of the PC only one has happened, because Keisha chooses to only tell him about one (when describing Ken/Randal, she mentions that her boyfriend dumped her for Keeley, but not the exact circumstances; when describing Joey/Keeley, she doesn't mention Ken/Randal at all).

      Despite the attempt to shift all of the blame to Joey, Keeley comes out of the whole affair looking pretty bad in my opinion. However, her attitude to it seems a lot healthier than Keisha's, ie. it's not something that she's proud of and not something she wants to ever repeat, but it's in the past and she doesn't dwell on it (come to think of it, that was also Keisha's attitude when they discussed it in LwK). Given how angry Keisha still is after all this time, I'm astonished that she's remained friends with Keeley, who must be a constant reminder that it happened.

      That begs the question of what Keisha's reaction was intended to achieve in terms of characterisation and plot? The most obvious thing is that it emphasises that Keisha is never going to repeat her college experiences in the 'real world', no matter how much the player might want her to. That's similar to the dream sequence in LwK and I think comes down to the preferences of the writer. Those preferences are certainly valid, but rather out of place in this genre that's largely about sexual fantasy.

      Delete
    2. I'd venture that CwK is leaning a little towards the Visual Novel genre in that that you need to play different paths to get a more "complete" sense of the plot or characters. In Christine & LwK, there's basically one "perfect" route through the game which involves uncovering (virtually) all relevant content - once you've got that, there's no particular reason to replay. Daydream has multiple exclusive paths, but they're only sex scenes and don't count as part of the overall story. The original Keeley was sorta half-and-half, with information and characters from different paths becoming canonical to the sequels. So my gut feeling is that if there were a sequel, everything Keisha revealed across the different paths would be taken into account.

      re: the conflicting characterization in Keisha, I guess a lot of it is just the result of trying to simultaneously cater to:

      A: Keeley fans, who generally want to see protagonists in monogamous relationships with no group sex etc.
      B: Christine fans, who want edgier or more adventurous sexual content
      C: The wider "sex games" audience (through which I personally found the Keeley games), who as you've written before are usually straight white males looking for lots of M/F, F/F, M/F/F and to a lesser extent M/M/F scenes.
      D: Tlaero herself, who's written on the Lagoon that - to a limited extent and if I'm reading her right - Keeley is roughly representative of her as an ideal and Keisha is more of a "what-if" fantasy.

      I'd say that Keisha's college flashbacks allow P & T to cater to C and give her a little edge for the benefit of B, whilst her embarrassment and unwillingess to consider engaging in it again make her seem less slutty to D and a bit more vulnerable/approachable to A. I suppose they also give her a bit of sexual parity with the protagonist, who cheerfully admits to sleeping with plenty of the band's groupies before hooking up with Keisha.

      But at the end of the day, as someone who's mainly in camp A, I was disappointed at how Keeley came out in this one. I guess the scene just outside the dorm room - where Joey pressures her into the FFM via playing on her insecurities & falsely implying Keisha's acquiescence - are meant to make us sympathize.

      Delete
    3. "Tlaero herself, who's written on the Lagoon that..."

      If we're thinking of the same post, that's pretty much exactly what she said. It's reflected in this game when Keisha gets the more aggressive and experienced Randal, while Keeley end up with the unthreatening Ken.

      I actually think it's dangerous for a writer to identify with a character too closely, as they become reluctant to put that character in difficult (ie dramatic) situations. I'm thinking particularly of Tlaero's refusal to provide any evidence that Keeley's marriage was in actual jeopardy in LwK as that would have threatened her conception of Keeley and James.

      Perversely though, I think Keeley might as well have been a different character in this game. There were so many little things she said and did that didn't fit how she's been portrayed previously. Threatening the PC, discussing her sex life with a stranger, condemning other women as sluts out of hand, etc. I'm not quite as bothered by her college behaviour, since college is a time for doing stupid things (and there's no argument that Keeley was very stupid). I agree that the MFF scene tries to make her less culpable, but I felt that Keisha's continued anger undercut that. Who is she angry at, if not Keeley?

      It's good to remind ourselves that people play AIF for different reasons, although I'd add that there's a lot of crossover. Personally, I've been part of A, B & C at various times (speaking of straight white males, it was nice to see that Randal wasn't. AIF is way too vanilla in that regard). Anyhow, Tlaero has pretty much said that LwK was aimed squarely at A/D. That game was comparatively unsuccessful (which might just come down to having a female protagonist), so now we have this game, which gestures in the direction of B & C as well.

      I don't think Keisha's attempts to disavow the threesome would have endeared her to camp B though. Part of the attraction of Christine's character (to me anyway) is that she does what *she* wants and has sex with who *she* wants, without worrying what other people think. In that sense she's a stronger character than either Keeley or Keisha, who are willingly bound by conventional sexual mores and who would classify Christine as a slut on the evidence of CwK. More than that, I have the sense in this game that Keisha is trying to 'domesticate' the PC and make him buy into her way of thinking. On the naughty path that doesn't take, hence the relationship doesn't last.

      Delete
    4. Whilst I take your point about the pitfalls of an author-avatar/insertion etc. I think those particular issues would've arisen even if Tlaero was mentally distancing herself from the characters - Keeley can't be too "loose" or (as you observed in another post) sexually aggressive (even in a monogamous relationship) for people in group A (or even C) becase she's at risk of showing sexual interest in characters other than themselves (PCs like James exist in a weird state between player-avatar and separate characters altogether), which raises the spectre of infidelity and risks ruining the fantasy for them. So whilst I agree with your LwK criticism that there was never any real danger to K/J's marriage, I can also imagine the potential for ruining group A's perception of Keeley by making her seem borderline unfaithful to James. As you said, CwK seems like it was meant as Christine fans' "turn" after the comforting mundanity of LwK, but ended up a bit muddled.

      Having thought about Christine, the group sex issue etc. a bit more, I can now see your point from earlier about the portrayal of group and/or casual sex. Even if these scenes aren't explicitly portrayed as negative experiences, there's always something overshadowing them - Keeley engages in the threesome because she's insecure, Keisha does it to please her bf, and both regret it. Keisha initiates an MMF out of a mix of depression/anger/revenge, and even though she enjoys it, she swears off it after that. The scenes in Christine are just means-to-an-end for Christine and Adrian in securing their relationship, and appear to be absent from it by the time we've reached LwK. And the groupies in CwK are associated with immaturity & the PC's (at that time) listless, dead-end rock career. So I definitely see your point that - in the Keeley universe - alternative and adventurous relationships all seem to inevitably evolve towards more traditional, domesticated pairings.

      Delete
  4. what does pc mean

    ReplyDelete
  5. I found Keisha be a particularly unlikeable.

    The game presents Keisha an empowered modern woman who is comfortable being the bread winner, but something about Keisha's attitude bothers me. It seems pretty clear that equality in her mind is conditional upon Sam matching her own perceived level of awesomeness. Sam measures up because he's a handsome rock singer. She's more interested in what Sam represents in terms of status than in Sam himself. She seems overly concerned with social status to me. Equality for her seems not to mean equal partners in a relationship, but rather "I'm a hot chick with a high income, so I can't settle for less than a fledgling rock star". Keisha never seems to take the relationship any deeper.

    Then there's the slut shaming. There are constant references to sluts, and how the groupies are sluts, and how Keisha is sexy but not a slut, and how kissing her is more exciting than making out with sluts because she's not a slut, and she won't blow Sam because that's what a slut would do, but she'll jerk him off because that's not as slutty. The game beats you over the head with slut hatred and it never lets up.

    So let's examine what being a slut means to Keisha. Keisha is sexually provocative, and occasionally raunchy, so that can't be the defining characteristic of a slut. How about sexual aggressiveness towards men? She tells Sam he has a nice ass when she just him, so I guess lasciviousness isn't slutty. How about flaunting her body? There's nothing "slutty" about her clothes, but she certainly invites Sam's eyes to linger on her tits and ass and appreciates his lewd comments. Nope, can't be that either. Sexual promiscuity maybe? She had 2 threesomes in college, and she fucks Sam on the second date. That doesn't seem to be it. What then?

    The game offers Lindsey as the example slut. Keisha and Lindsey both want Sam. The difference seems to be that Lindsey is willing to use sex as an exchange for Sam's attention, while Keisha uses sex as bait. I don't see any real difference there. As far as I can tell, Keisha is not a "slut" for no other reason than that she constantly tells us she isn't.

    Her contempt for "sluts" rings a little hollow for a woman who once all but begged two strangers to fuck her and then cum on her face. Lindsey just wants to have sex with a guy she has a fan-crush on. I think that's far less slutty.

    The review compares Keisha to Christine in that they're both controlling, but their motives seem very different to me. Christine seems to take her controlling behavior to such white knuckle extremes because she's afraid that if she loosens her grip by even 1%, Adrian will slip through her fingers. She longs for intimacy, but she's terrified of getting burned. Her antics are pathological, but they come from a place of deep insecurity, which makes her character oddly vulnerable and I feel some sympathy for her.

    Keisha's controlling behavior is quite different. She seems to think she's entitled to Sam's attention and keeps him jumping through hoops not because she wants him per se, but to satisfy herself that he's worthy of being kept on her leash.

    Which begs the question, what does Sam get out of this? Sex seems to be his only motivation, which he gets a lot of as it is, so why is he so interested in Keisha? The answer seems to be that fucking women who tell you "I'm not a slut" is more exciting than fucking women who don't.

    I don't see anything appealing or even redeemable in Keisha. She's shallow, controlling, self absorbed, and has an unreasonably high opinion of herself. She condemns women as "sluts" for doing less than she herself has done, which shows a shocking lack of self awareness. She seems not to care about Sam beneath his veneer of glamor. It's like Tlaero did her best to make Keisha a perfect representation of a narcissist.

    Keisha? No thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "It's like Tlaero did her best to make Keisha a perfect representation of a narcissist."

      It's interesting that you mention that because during the discussion of this game on the Shark's Lagoon forums I think Tlaero said something along the lines of "Keisha is an idealised version of me" or "Keisha is who I would be if I was braver". I might be misremembering that, but Keisha does read like a wish-fulfillment character in a lot of ways (high-paying job, speaks seven languages, etc).

      Anyhow, I think you could make an argument that Keisha's pathological dislike of 'sluts' is due to her sublimating the anger she feels towards Keeley for stealing her boyfriend (as well as possibly guilt over her own threesome). That would be similar to Christine's issues, although it doesn't make Keisha any more sympathetic (also, disliking sex is a rather questionable trait for a character in an adult game to have). However, it could just as easily be the result of Tlaero hammering the player over the head with her views.

      Delete