Sacrilege (Cara Ellison)


…I really wanted to make a ‘dating sim’ for the Pulse Pounding Heart Stopping Dating Sim Jam and instead of making it about weird and wonderful sexual experiences I wanted to make it about the heart stopping drudgery of being heterosexual in a world where heterosexuals are conditioned not to talk to each other, or listen to each other, or really have any idea what they are doing.

Oh, yes, and turn your volume up, there is music at a certain point.[Author’s description]

[Play Online]


  1. God I’m glad I’m in a committed relationship. This shit would bore me to death. Maybe that makes me weird, but I find the idea of having sex with new people to be a chore more than anything. Guess I’m boring.

  2. This is really good. I pretty much played through in order, but for Luke’s thread (the fourth) picked “a guy who is going to hurt you” first. If you (anonymous reader) do the same, it’s worth going back to pick “a guy who you are going to hurt” once through with the whole thing. It’s maybe the most touching bit (apart, perhaps from the pamphlet).

    • [Uh, that missing comma at the end almost suggests an opposite reading. Corrected parenthetical: “(apart, perhaps, from the pamphlet).”]

  3. As a straight man (ugh, I did an ‘As a…’), this game really struck a chord. Very moving and thoughtful.

    “know who you are and why you do everything” — the older I get, the less able I am to answer these questions.

  4. This was very compelling — I played it through a couple of times, and as a snapshot of being young and horny in your 20’s, I found it very honest. But I think this is the rare case where a problem with the structure of a game mirrors a problem with the content. My protagonist, fuckmistress though she may be, has an awful habit of grabbing men in clubs and shouting at them, “hey do you want to go home with me,” and then wondering why things go wrong.

    But as most of us have found as we get older, successful seduction isn’t about exposing yourself — rather, it’s a dance of veils. It’s a game, in which participants test the limits of each other’s systems and attempt to achieve mastery. It’s not just fun — it’s an essential part of desire.

    In the same way, I found it frustrating as a player that my only choice upon meeting a man was to “initiate fuckplan” or find someone else. I suppose we’re not going to have much a conversation in a club, but what about body language? What about fleeting contact? What about making him chase me? This is all part of the feedback loop we call flirtation.

    Based on the choices that I was allowed to make, I didn’t find the manifesto that ends the game convincing. To be frank, it seems like the only heterosexual who is “conditioned not to talk to each other, or listen to each other, or really have any idea what they are doing” in this game is the protagonist.

    • I think that the overall tone is self-conscious enough to recognize that the protagonist is part of “the problem”. Altering the behaviors that the story depicts would be a long-term, complicated process that couldn’t be solved over a night of drinking, and I think the work acknowledges that.

      The contents of the “secret book” serve as a perfect lucid counterpoint to the events that preceded, I think, and make the piece feel even more complete in its grasp of the subject.

      • Sure, but what exactly is “the problem,” if you had to articulate it precisely? My point is that, based on the interactions depicted and choices permitted, the game doesn’t really make a successful case that a problem even exists.

        This story works best when it focuses on a character’s personal dilemma: to hurt or to be hurt? But when it attempts to go on and deconstruct heterosexual mating rituals in general, I don’t think it’s particularly effective. (For that, try Martian Middle School Dance.)

        • A very good point, I think I had misunderstood your initial comment. I would have to go back and pay closer attention to the words used to describe each of the “mates”, but I still feel that they are not meant to be viewed as separate from the tension evoked by the piece. By merely being present in this setting, either as married men seeking more validation or as nice guys lacking in self-esteem, each of them contributes to some extent to the confusing culture of the NEED to hook up and seeking out fresh pleasures. We just don’t get nearly as much insight on their thinking as we do the narrator’s, and so perhaps feel like they do not have as much responsibility in it.

          I’ll keep your perspective in mind if I do a second read.

          (I also agree that MMSD is good at evoking certain tensions that Sacrilege might be a bit too brash about : )

  5. Really goddamn strong. Loved how the branches looped back and unfolded in unpredictable ways. Regarding the writing, just so much truth packed in there. Plunges straight to that certain dread of being young and confused and overwhelmed with choice. Completely worked for me.

  6. Played it through a couple times, now, taking different branches.

    I like it a lot. I like the way it uses the rhythm of clicking links. I like the advice in the optional book. My only real complaint is that I had to go Google the lyrics to find the song (it’s “Sacrilege” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs).

  7. I loved the structure and the content of this piece, as I do with the majority of Cara’s writing. The main part felt believable and grounded in the desires and motivations of the protagonist.

    However, I recoiled somewhat when told how “men are” in the “secret” book. While the statements probably read true for a large number of men in their 20’s, it felt to me like more of an indication of the type of men to whom the protagonist finds herself drawn. It’s certainly not true for all of us.

    I know the book is presented as an option but equal weight is not given to skipping it: read the secret thing or bugger off.

    Having said that, I appreciate the desire to be clear about the importance of honesty with ourselves and our prospective partners. And even my mixed feelings about the content of the book don’t detract from my very positive feelings about the poetry and truth of the main narrative.

  8. You’ve done a brilliant job! Unfortunately, this whole situation doesn’t get fixed by the time everyone hits their mid 30s. It’s better, but nothing like fixed…

  9. I really enjoyed this. Thank you for writing it. It’s made me feel better about a few things about myself.