Queer Your Tech: Why I’m Addicted to Fallen London!

Welcome to the forty-first installment of  Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy new tech column. Not everything we cover will be queer per se, but it will be about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology.

Header by Rory Midhani

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During the Perseids meteor shower, my nerdy friend mentioned she played a game every morning. Except it was totally unlike any other game she’d every played. You see, this nerdy game was partly a game of probability, kinda like a D&D, but also… a piece of fiction? And played through a browser?

Fallen London! is a text based game that centers around a protagonist (you) who winds up in Neath, which is basically London except one mile under the earth’s surface, in a world where death is semi-permanent, devils are accessible and corpses sometimes have tea with you. You start out in jail (and I have not yet figured out why) and you choose your own adventure, so not everyone’s story is the same from there on out. The choices you make shape your qualities and your experience, so choose wisely – there are more words in this game than War and Peace, so you’ve got a ton avenues to explore. This whole world is powered by Failbetter on their software “Story Nexus,” and there are tons more worlds on there (you can even build your own). But Fallen London! has begun to occupy a special place in my heart.

Y’all. I don’t really play computer games, but I am SO ADDICTED to this one. Here’s why.

1. The writing is really compelling.

If you normally like fiction of the sci-fi/fantasy ilk (and I’m assuming that you do, because you’re reading my nerd column), then you’re really going to like the writing here and the world they’ve created. The story lines have so far been zany and quirky. Here’s a little bit of a sampling:

Fallen London’s two colleges, Benthic and Summerset, enjoy a healthy rivalry. They play team sports with each other. They play pranks on each other. On certain days of the year, they play trumpets and French horns at each other.

There’s a zee-captain down at Wolfstack Docks who claims you can render Neath-snow into white glim on any kitchen stove. I have tried it. I have a pan of goo to show for it. Three of my cats tasted the goo when I left it unobserved a moment too long. The one that lives is locked in the cellar now. I do not expect I will ever dare to release it. I have developed a dislike of zee-captains.

2. They have a gender neutral character option.

When you’re first building your character, you have three choices for gender: male, female or neither. Each category comes with its own special set of silhouettes – the avatars that represent your face in the game. I chose female because I liked the top hat on one of the characters.

 

3. And they let you have some gay, gay relationships.

Right now, I’m having a torrid affair with a struggling artists’ model in the very bohemian “Veilgarden.” I’m also a poet by profession. Also a detective. When the opportunities for relationships or fucking come about about, you can pick who you’d like to bang. The society lady, the male jewel thief, both. Neither.

4. Even though I’m a female character, I can wear men’s clothing.

There’s no real visual representation of this in the game – it’s all text based, after all, so clothing is just something you equip. But I’m not forced to choose in the category of dresses and gowns – if I want a faded morning suit that will increase my persuasiveness by two but lower my dangerous factor by one, so be it. I can has. I identify as female but wear men’s clothing, just like real life.

5. Fortunately and unfortunately, you can only play ten turns at a time.

You are a mile underground, after all – you’re limited by your candle burning down. When your candle is out, so are you and you have to wait ten minutes for it to regenerate, one turn at a time. If you feel like chipping in 5 bucks to the developers, you can have 20 turns at once (two candles!) for the next 30 days. I did that – not because I was super addicted or anything (though I am), but because I thought this game was so inventive and so good and (clearly) so addictive that I wanted the people who made it to get paid because they’re really excellent. I say this as a both fortunately and fortunately – when there’s a story involved, I want to see what happens next and I tend to shotgun the entire thing at once. The 10/20 turn limit keeps me from doing so. It also keeps me from being completely unproductive in favor of a browser game.

The verdict: if you were ever obsessed with the 80’s/90’s choose your own adventure craze, you will love this grownup choose your own adventure game and you should join me in Neath stat.


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Geekery Editor for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

Ali has written 479 articles for us.

106 Comments

  1. 0

    commenting to say I just started playing this game becuase of this article and am SO ANGRY that I have to wait 2 minutes to continue, so, good job! XD. I ended up choosing the Watchful route to escape, but then chose to live in the Dangerous part of town? Yeah, I dunno what I’m up to either.

    • 0

      I live in Veilgarden and I’m a poet. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to become acquainted with the Sardonic Music Hall Singer. But also sometimes I solve crime on Ladybones Road. I don’t know what I’m up to, is what I’m saying. People are complicated.

  2. 0

    I thought Neath was off junction 42 of the M4?

    Anyway, I loved choose-your-own-adventures as a kid, also text adventures! I had a serious emotional connection with Floyd the robot in Planetfall.

    Just given this a whirl, looks interesting, but then I get easily excited by anything that allows the purchase of a large variety of hats. Deffo going to use the downtime to construct a highly silly world of my own.

  3. 0

    The turn limit actually makes me really happy because when I get obsessed with something I can’t stop so I wouldn’t dare start playing this otherwise. But now I’m in Neath! Yay! Thank you for this. So cool.

    • 0

      Ok. I take it back. I don’t want to stop and it keeps making me. Which is probably good for me but I just want to find a place to live you know?

  4. 0

    Sometimes I feel everyone I know and their cat plays Fallen London, but this review has finally convinced me. Perhaps this will fill the hole in my life that Kingdom of Loathing left so many years before.

    • 0

      I am 10 minutes in and already trying to figure out how much of this is related to real-life London, and then I discovered the “mysteries” tab! This makes me so happy.

    • 0

      An adventurer is you! I still remember staying up nights to try and make ascension when it first rolled out… *off to re-look at my quite dead account*

      • 0

        Yes! And then after a while deliberately making my own life harder through the various restricted ascension paths. As a young’un I made my first few real online friends through KoL’s guild chats, and learnt to have a healthy appreciation for dry wit and humour.

        • 0

          I AM SO GLAD SOMEONE BROUGHT UP KOL

          Every so often I go and play it again for a while, and then I realize it’s taking up too much of my life (because if you’re going to play, you have to do it right, and then you have to eat and drink all the things and get all the adventures and augh)

          but it’s so fantastic.

        • 0

          Right? I stopped being able to just play it for fun ages ago, even though I am now swimming in adventures. EVERYTHING MUST BE DONE RIGHT.

  5. 0

    oh my goodness. i want this in my life.
    Also, for the record, Neath is a place in south Wales. Fucking London stealing our shit.

  6. 0

    Thanks for this!

    My childhood (and pocket money) went almost entirely to Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s FF series and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten off the choose-your-own-adventure-weekend.

    I’m incredibly excited about this but also resigning myself to an obsessed ignore-friends-invitation-to-hang-out weekend in~

  7. 0

    YAY! I’ve been playing this for three months! (Or possibly four!)

    The action limits annoy me (and a few of the storylines involve a painful amount of grinding), but I like it enough that I’ve forked over actual money to go up to 20 actions and unlock the occasional extra storyline.

    Nobody I know IRL plays, so I’m just going to drop my profile link here in case anybody wants to be my friend…

    http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Anniken

  8. 0

    I have been playing this game for two years and I love it. I’m WallofIllusion over there! Would anyone like to be friends? I can send you boxed cats or invite you to private suppers. Or help you with your nightmares if you’re close to having a psychotic break from reality.

    • 0

      How the heck do you add friends?! It’s not clear at all. There’s this little bar where it say add contacts, but it doesn’t say for sure who you’re adding.

      • 0

        I believe you have to go to your Storynexus account settings (not quite Fallen London proper) and put in the username of the person you want to add. It’s kind of confusing.

        • 0

          I did that but then in the game no one is showing up in my friends tab and also the “contacts” that I’ve entered aren’t clickable so I can’t see a profile or anything.

      • 0

        I don’t think that the friends you add can be seen on the My Friends tab.

        The only way as far as I can tell is by travelling back to your lodgings and under all options for “inviting a friend to join you in something terribly intellectual/shadowy/dangerous”, click in and you can see a list of your contacts pop up whom you can then choose to invite for a private supper, etc.

  9. 0

    i’m white salamander and just started, haven’t been in love with a text rpg like this since this harry potter one i played years ago

  10. 0

    I’m not really a gamer, I’ve wanted to be cause they are so interesting and look fun but I get frustrated playing them and just gave up. But I think I might have to try this game, it looks awesome.

  11. 0

    Hello new addiction, thy name is Fallen London. I love text-RPGs like this one, has anyone played Choice of Romance? (It’s less gushy than it sounds, promise!) I saw it on the android marketplace a while ago and this sort-of reminds me of that, finally a hole in my yearning for text-based choose your own adventure is fulfilled!

    • 0

      I WAS LITERALLY JUST ABOUT TO MENTION CHOICE OF ROMANCE. Have you played Choice of the Vampire? My favourite is Heroes Rise though because I get to be a superhero and Black Magic sounds ridiculously hot and okay, I’m going on a bit!

      Oh and I’m signing up RIGHT THIS SECOND. Excitement!

      • 0

        I only wished the writing in Choice of the Vampire was better, I thought it was going to be glorious but I found it to be the weaker of the “Choice of” games; I absolutely adored being a dragon! It seems I’m going to have to try Heroes Rise now! (Oh and my Fallen London ID is: LexiTheSwift)

        • 0

          I also invited people (I think? I kept getting error messages) to The Dapper Contingent (happy to take suggestions for alternative names should this one not be to peoples liking), which I hope will serve as the Flannel Brigades sister-clique (with your blessing of course), seeing as how cliques are currently limited 6-members.

    • 0

      I LUUURVE the “Choice of” games. I haven’t caved and bought the full version of any of them yet, but I’m pretty close.

  12. 0

    Sounds so awesome, particularly the high-quality writing and gender-neutral character option. And the possibility for same-sex relationships, of course.

    Thank you so much for the recommendation. I have a feeling I’m going to get really into this game. I shouldn’t. I don’t have time to. But I will.

  13. 0

    Today I seduced a lady artist’s model and bought a suit to wear, so I can attest to the delightful queerness one can bring to the game.

    (P.S. Alice Drearington here. Gonna go add all the people now.)

  14. 0

    This reminds me a bit of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (under-London world). I am finally going to make an account because I can’t stay away from the amazing.

  15. 0

    In the last 36 hours I have gone from no contacts to 28. This is impressive. Now I just have to sail back to London so I can invite you all to private dinners and such.

  16. 0

    I have also taken the liberty of adding everyone I could find on here – if you want to add me as a contact, I’m frankncents on Fallen London. Been playing for a couple of years, but haven’t had many friends IRL on there. Glad to have company exploring!

  17. 0

    Sooo… I’m 2 days in and hopelessly addicted. Even though I have no idea what I’m doing or what I’m trying to accomplish!

    Also, thanks to you Autostraddlers I have 4 pages of contacts and counting. I don’t think I have that many IRL…

  18. 0

    This is fantastic. As someone who has occasionally had clients who will exclaim the equivalent of “writing is unimportant people just want instant gratification I mean no one even reads anymore hwar hwurmp blah blah!”at the sky until their lungs give out, this more proof that that simply isn’t true.

    (I also admit that when I started playing my instinct was to go to the game devs/writers and yell “TAKE MY MONEY PLEASE”. So yes. If y’all like this sort of thing, chip in–sometimes it’s worth it to make free games so you don’t have people standing over your shoulder going “You can’t put that in there, that’s too gay!”, but it’s also, you know. Easy to go broke that way.)

    tl;dr I signed up and love this, I’m “FrogStew” on there, and throw money at these people if you can for doing a Good Thing.

    • 0

      Ah, after playing through a bit…
      1) I have hit some paywalls. Blerh.
      2) It turns out this is not as indie as I thought it was? It actually appears to be quite a big thing.

      Still I stand by that this is fun. But so many paywalls. 🙁

  19. 0

    haha a year later and I’m just now playing this thanks to the post about Sunless Sea! I’m Elora Danan on FL if anyone wants to get into some hijinks together

  20. 0

    So this game won you over hard for the most part because it doesn’t react in any significant way to a player declaring ANY kind of gender identity? Like, it’s not a plot point mentioned as a serious choice or personality factor etc, in any way, but three of your five glowing points are based on it literally not noticing or giving ANY kind of feedback to the fact that you’ve declared yourself it female, male, or neither. Well, wowwwww….how progressive and advanced and not in any way just a giant cop out. Next up: a cutting-edge game that breaks down racial barriers by asking you how you identify yourself and then not having any sort of meaningful reference to that for the entire game! WOW!

    But seriously, this game is just boring and a time suck once you get into it. Same stories again and again. Grind up attributes for no particular reason. Some decent gothic-influenced writing, but not really a game in any way and absolutely not gender bending at all, just lazy about the whole deal. Yawn.

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