We’ve finally entered the new year! Congrats to all of you for making it this far, and thank you for your continued support of our blog, whether it be by leaving comments or simply lurking. I don’t know about you, but one of the New Year’s traditions that I find particularly hard to keep up with is resolution-making. It’s great in theory, and gets me pumped for about the first three days of January, but then whatever resolution I made ends up getting pushed to the wayside. So this year, I just decided to not make any. However, I did make the promise to myself that I would try to consume much more diverse media this year. If you, too, have always found yourself wanting to support more diverse creators and diverse casts, but likewise found yourself having no idea where to start, today’s web crush may be just what you’re looking for!
Now that this semester of grad school has ended, I finally have time to write a post! It just so happens to be our last post before our holiday break, too, which tells you a bit about the craziness of my schedule…. You see, I’m a PhD student studying Learning Sciences, which is all about researching how people learn and how we can use those findings to reform the educational system. Trying to balance my online fandom life with my grad school life has been an ongoing struggle, but surprisingly, one of the things I’ve learned in my program is that many researchers in and around this field study the educational implications of fandom. Well, now I’m here to cross over between my offline and online life by sharing some of that work with you, as well as some findings from my own research!
It may come as no surprise to you that fans learn a great deal from engaging in fandom, whether they’re writing fanfics, composing meta, creating fanart, making cosplays, or heck, even writing essays from a critical lens like on this blog! But fandom still tends to be viewed dismissively by mainstream culture, and even we fans sometimes devalue our engagement as a mere “hobby”. Modern learning theorists now acknowledge the importance of learning outside of school, and are calling for in-school learning to be more like the interest- and peer-driven realm of outside-of-school learning, including hobbies like fandom. There are so many ways that fan engagement is related to the kinds of subjects people learn in school and to skills that are generally useful in life. And better yet, it’s in a context that people really care about, rather than the decontextualized content conventionally presented in schools, which can seem random and unconnected to students’ lives.
So, this fandom thing you’re doing right now? It’s totally legitimate, important, and socially responsible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
You may recall earlier this year when I spoke of Mystic Messenger, the mobile dating sim game created by Korean company Cheritz that blew up in certain circles on the internet. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the game, I lamented that Jaehee’s route—the only woman on the datable cast—left off on a wholly unsatisfying note. To that effect, not too much later I recommended a fic that I hoped would soothe the pangs left by Cheritz. This time, I aim to do the same, but through a different medium. Though the fandom has quieted, if you’re like me and still eagerly, but silently, waiting for more Mystic Messenger content, I bring to you this fan-made game starring none other than the queen of the RFA: Jaehee Kang.
Video games are great. Over the years the medium has flourished into a bountiful crop of entertainment; if you’re looking for a specific story or method of gameplay, it’s sure to be out there somewhere. As the game catalog continues to expand, however, sometimes it gets a little difficult, or appears incredibly daunting, to find that specific something you’re looking for. This is especially true when searching for queer representation through the swathes of games that would just rather not explore this aspect of their audience. Today’s web crush hopes to make this search a little easier on those wanting a little more LGBTQ+ representation in their gaming experience.
A few days ago the staff of Tumblr (you still have a Tumblr, right? We do.) promoted a post announcing “emoji spells” were “having a moment”. I couldn’t help but think about how unique this idea is, and at the same time, really isn’t. Emoji spells are a series of emojis put together with a similar intent to that of casting traditional spells. They’re popular with technopagans and operate under principles similar to traditional spellcraft, combining specific intentions with sending the spell out into the world multiple times. Instead of saying the words aloud thrice, likes and reblogs (or other forms of sharing specific to a digital platform) charge and cast the spell. Witches have used sigils, or symbols, that are experimental and unique to a specific spell. They turn an intention into a magic image, so emojis are the perfect vehicle for digital witchcraft. The more the emojis are shared, the greater charge they get and the more powerful they become, just as many voices are more powerful than one.
The reason emoji spells get so many reblogs and likes isn’t because there are an overwhelming number of Wiccans and magic-users on Tumblr (although there is a thriving community). It’s because people hope they work, it takes next to no effort to pass on today’s version of the chain letter, and if they don’t work, no one actually thinks any harm will come of it. That’s the key: we aren’t really sure if digital manifestations of religion really count in the same way “real-world” religious rituals and practice do. Even in the Wiccan, witchcraft, and pagan communities, practitioners of techno magic are looked down on. One way to start this conversation is to look at geek culture, and the way geeks have been encountering some of the most important fundamental elements of religion since the dawn of the internet.
Though I tend to stay away from actually playing them, I have a soft spot in my heart for horror games. Whereas controlling the games myself makes me too anxious to enjoy the experience, watching at the digital side of various Let’s Players allows me the freedom to appreciate these games at my own pace. During one such viewing, I felt like I was doing more than sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for an inevitable screamer—I became enthralled by the game’s atmosphere. The game was ANATOMY, and by the end of the unsettling romp I knew that I had to look up the game’s creator, Kitty Horrorshow. What I found did not leave me disappointed.
Minor spoilers for Jaehee’s route and after end in Mystic Messenger.
After months of playing, I’ve gotten to a point where I can say I’ve “beaten” Mystic Messenger in its current state. Through secret stories and after ends, I’ve seen the highs and lows of all the characters, cried legitimate tears worrying about these assholes, and stubbornly ignored Cheritz’s canon of 707 being in love with you in every route (because if there’s anything I love, it’s being made to feel guilty when I don’t do a specific route). Through all of this, I’ve come to one very strong conclusion: Jaehee deserves better.
I can’t say that this is a particularly startling revelation. As the only woman in a cast of hot guys—in a dating sim—it’s par for the course that she gets ignored or only briefly mentioned in a portion of fan meta, and her canon relationship with the main character (or, as canon as any other character’s) is seemingly way less popular than non-canon relationships between the male characters. And, well, I would be lying if I said that Cheritz didn’t have their own hands in this. Jaehee’s route, after all, is “Gal Pals: the route”, leaving off an ending that is just ambiguous enough to maybe ignore that it was hella romantic, and in her own damned after ending (the “happy ending” some number of months later) she shows up for only one line at the very end. I and many other fans remain disappointed with this—frankly—bullshit, so today I bring you the gayest of gay Jaehee fic to fill the hole left by Cheritz.