Emily is away is an interactive, branching visual novel set in MSN-inspired chat client. Its visuals and sound effects, from the classic Windows XP start sound to the low rumbling of a desktop computer, will be instantly familiar to those who grew up using Microsoft’s iconic communication software.

Set over a number of years, you chat with your friend Emily from before the start of college all the way to your senior year (and its heardbreaking ending).

Early on, Emily asks you where you want to go to college (which affects future narrative choices): an engineering, arts or business school? But rather than reflecting my own past I chose to attend art school. If given the option to go back and make that decision in my real life again, would I have done the same? I’m not sure, but for a brief moment emily is away pushed me to reflect on my past decisions via the most simple of game mechanics.

Even though you’ve only been chatting for emily for a few minutes, it’s not long before you feeling like you’re talking with a real person. Emily is away reminds us of more innocent times capturing an era of and period in our teenage years and early adulthood that is hard to forget.

It’s a game for the generation who lost themselves in awkward MSN flirting; before the rise of the aubergine emoji, Netflix and chill, and sliding into DMs.

emily is away is out now on itch.io