As someone who grew up right from the very beginnings of the Internet as a part of everyday life, I can’t pretend that there aren’t certain aspects of modern online culture that concern and even frighten me a little bit. There’s the ever-present threat of NFTs, of course, but those are almost certainly a passing fad. One thing that does make me quite anxious, though is today’s “influencer culture”, particularly with regard to streamers. And that’s the subject matter tackled by new game Needy Streamer Overload — formerly known as Needy Girl Overdose.
In Needy Streamer Overload, you take on the role of “P-chan”, a nameless, faceless presence in the life of a girl named Ame-chan. At the outset of the game, you’re obviously a couple who has just moved in together, and Ame-chan decides that she wants to make a living online streaming. Committing to the bit with a full costume and wig getup, she debuts as OMGKawaiiAngel-chan (KAngel for short) and, from there, it’s up to you to help or hinder her in realising what she thinks her dreams are.
Here’s a look at the first hour and a bit of gameplay, covering the first 10 in-game days, and a major milestone in the game’s progression.
We’ll return to Needy Streamer Overload for some additional analysis once I’ve actually played it through a few times, since it seems there are a large number of endings with some drastically different outcomes. For now, though, I wanted to talk a bit about my first impressions of the game — because this really is a well-crafted piece of interactive fiction that has been released at pretty much the exact right time. It captures the hopes, fears, dreams and nightmares of a perpetually online generation — and it does so in a thought-provoking way that neither idolises nor censures.
What’s interesting about Needy Streamer Overload is that it’s by no means a hands-off visual novel. Mechanically speaking, it has more in common with classic dating sims like True Love ’95, in that the majority of your input into the game involves making a schedule for the main character. Only here, you’re not making a schedule for yourself; you are, instead, making a schedule for Ame-chan and her Internet persona — though most of the things you suggest Ame-chan does usually end up involving you in one way or another, too.
Every choice you make in Needy Streamer Overload has an impact on a number of different statistics. Some of these are explicitly detailed in the game’s “Task Manager” — here you can keep an eye on Ame’s stress level, affection for you and “mental darkness”, as well as her all-important subscriber count — while others become apparent as you take various actions. Particularly early in the game, performing various actions for the first time allows Ame to come up with ideas for streams, and by following through on those ideas she can develop her own skills, knowledge and reputation.
An interesting part of this is the fact that not all of these “skills” are positive things. If you decide to indulge her interest in conspiracy theories, for example, her “Rabbit Hole” stat starts to increase, and the higher that increases, the larger the penalty there is to the number of subscribers she gains from a stream, reflecting the fact that people online have heard about her interest in “weird” things and hesitate to check her out accordingly. On the flip side, that kind of stream tends to bring a huge increase in subscribers all at once — so you have to determine whether or not a quick increase to those all-important numbers is worth a hit to her reputation.
The same is true for doing anything sexy. The option to perform some kind of sexy stream quickly presents itself, and as you might expect this is a quick and easy way to getting lots of subscribers — but it also comes with a huge increase to Ame’s stress levels and a big hit to her affection level for you. Again, you need to consider if the potential benefits are worth it — and also, whether you should be thinking of Ame as a person rather than a resource, since although she has put herself completely in your hands, most people will probably find themselves hitting a wall with regard to their own morals at one point or another.
While the first 10 days of our playthrough seen above don’t get deep into the potentially dark subject matter, they do show that Needy Streamer Overload does a great job of picking apart the modern-day phenomenon of people turning to streaming for a variety of reasons: to meet new friends, for validation, as a means of making money, to express themselves in a way that they otherwise feel unable to, or simply to indulge their own vices.
The game doesn’t sugar-coat any of this; it realistically positions streaming as something that can work for some and not for others — and emphasises the fact that it is, by no means, a quick “fix-all” button for a life that feels like it’s been proceeding down the wrong tracks for a little while.
What it isn’t, however, is an outright scathing takedown of the whole business. It recognises that there is value in today’s streaming and VTuber culture, too — but it reminds us that it is very, very important to remember that there are people behind those VTuber avatars, or that the person you see on their webcam may not actually be quite the same person as they are in reality. It’s bitingly acidic, yes, but not at the expense of delivering a sensible and balanced message on the subject.
I’m looking forward to playing more, and already I find myself wondering if I’ve made the “right” choices in my own playthrough. Only one way to find out, though, huh?
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