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I turned 13 in late May of 1995. For the occasion, my girlfriend got me a computer game called Chop Suey (playable online for frees here now) that she said reminded her of us a little. It was an atmosphere-driven, point-and-click exploration game about a pair of sisters superbly named Lily and June Bugg and their various, Harriet the Spy-style escapades around their small, working class Midwestern town after they eat too much chop suey and fall into a daydreamy haze.

The girls explore the bedroom of their aunt Vera (who they absolutely love because she's so full of life) and try on her "glamorous" outfits and makeup, pretend they're angels and fly to New York, and discover items that tell of her past as a Rockette on Broadway (including a particularly hilarious video clip where the video quality is so bad that the various Rockette's upper and lower bodies appear to shuffle onto one-another). You meet her son Dooner, get to hear his music and read his diary about his relationship to his girlfriend Monica, explore the carnival, step in shit, and visit an awesome shop called Cupid's Treats run by a tattooed biker-looking type who has, among other things, a live human hand in a jar. You also get to clothe Mud Pup the dog, listen to a bunch of legits amazing songs (my favorite being the one sung by the trio of pickles), read fortunes, play bingo, and get stalked by a black cat who turns out to accompany a witch at the edge of town who's baking a guy. Stuff like that. It's pretty funny and clever. It's a simple, anarchic slice-of-life type game with no real sequential order of events or traditional gamey challenges, but lots of personality and loads of stuff to click upon and explore, stress-free, for the simple sake of curiosity. It dares kids...and be imaginative and take risks. That's essentially what it's about.

We spent about an hour on it that evening. We went back to it several times thereafter in 20-ish minute plays whenever we'd visit one-another's houses. Just under a month later, her family moved away. I never saw her again. That's how it is in the town where I live: over time, people tend to leave. They don't move in. The game's lead creator, Theresa Duncan, killed herself 12 years later.

That all strikes me as sort of like the mood of Chop Suey itself: bittersweet. The characters in the game, and indeed the town itself, have problems (like Aunt Vera, for example, has three ex-husbands all named Bob), but there's also an aura of joy amidst the pain. Like my real-life town, Chop Suey's is one that doesn't seem to be doing so great, but who's residents find happiness nonetheless. I love my town in that same sort of way too. Chop Suey reminds me of my first love, and of the end of that love at the same time, and helps me put my relationship to my past and to my community back in perspective a little by reminding me to find the joy that's there in the midst of the suffering that life entails, like you did when you were young. And to always stay curious about life.

Just thought I'd try and explain a little about why this game always appears near the top of my favorites lists today. Part of it's objective and part of it's personal.

Last edited by Jaicee - on 28 September 2019