Senior year of high school is different for just about everybody, but there are certain experiences and relationships that seem to have through lines for us all. Returning to a world where away messages were just replaced by statuses, Emily Is Away 3 is a branching narrative game set on a familiar social platform called Facenook, where your choices matter and every response feels crucial. Building upon the foundation set by the first two games, Kyle Seeley is looking to not only make you fall in love with his game but make it Facenook official.
Similar to the previous games, Emily is Away and Emily is Away Too, the third installment begins with you creating your profile but this time you’re ditching AIM for the new Facenook which functions similarly to the way its real world counterpart did back in 2008. Clicking your way through dialogue options, creeping on your confidants’ profiles, and taking detours on websites like YooTube to check out the latest playlist from one of your friends– Emily Is Away 3 runs with the same formula for concocting its gameplay and narrative while expanding on the core elements of the experience by implementing things you’d find on Facenook that you wouldn’t find on AIM.
Navigating an internet landscape that’s supposed to represent the world in 2008 is an interesting nostalgia trip of its own, but building and breaking faux relationships on Facenook that’s accented by ads on the side for movies and music that would’ve been out at that time helps resurrect real emotions from my younger days. When someone in Emily Is Away 3 shares a link for something off of Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreaks, it’s impossible for me to not immediately connect what I am doing in-game to where I was myself during the release of that album. My own internal turmoil and lament while cruising the rainy streets of Boston and Allston at night listening to Say You Will for the first time sophomore year of college are inescapable feelings. These moments of interpolation between the game and my own life experience is something rarely found in other gaming experiences for me, at least in this exact same way.
The narrative itself in Emily Is Away 3 is engaging and believable, with branching paths that warrant multiple playthroughs if you’d like to see the other outcomes of your choices. Choosing a dialogue option and mock typing on the keyboard to have your character respond to your friends is engaging and further immerses you into the game. Even though the gameplay and visual style of Emily Is Away 3 is exactly what it needs to be, capturing the feel of having these conversations and interactions while existing in this virtual place that feels so familiar, the thing that I enjoy the most about Emily Is Away 3 is how the game makes me analyze myself through different lenses.
To preserve the experience for those of you reading this who may have not played, I will avoid any plot points or potential spoilers. Emily Is Away 3 shines in how it connects itself and supplants you as the main character. Often I’d find myself in dialogue options where I could see a past me responding one way, while present me may handle the social link with more hindsight having been in versions of these scenarios before. There is a core cast of well written and genuine characters who are a piece of the journey through senior year, but for me Emily and Evelyn feel like the most crucial characters in the game. Personally, they also represent an amalgamation of people in my life and with that comes an interesting journey through these characters stories that also mirrors and highlights augmented versions of my own pages.
I felt like I’ve been in similar situations and conversations where the next stroke of keys could send ripples through my own friend groups and alter my public perception in high school or early college days. Choosing to do one thing and then the next day seeing characters in-game post pictures from events they attended or other social gatherings told stories that maybe you as the player aren’t privy to and with that comes a bevy of potential changes to relationships you may not have been expecting to reckon with and just maybe delivering that bit of FOMO we all dread. Regardless of how my relationships with Emily, Evelyn, and the other characters panned out though, the intrigue and entertainment to me lies beyond the senior year drama and within the self diagnosis of Brenden in 2008 grappling with relationships and the evolving social media landscape.
Emily Is Away 3 treads familiar territory setup by its predecessors in the series, but also reaches new levels of immersion while tackling a new social media platform. Capturing the essence of the internet in 2008 and creating a friend group that contains threads I think many people could relate to, Emily Is Away 3 strums on emotional notes while making you relive your formative years. It may not be for everyone, but for those looking to indulge in poke wars, social snooping, and budding relationships may find the profiles on Facenook as endearing and introspective as I did. AIM may be dead, but Kyle Seeley doesn’t miss.
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