Hello, Charlotte.

a story of junk food, gods, and teddy bears. or: how an itch.io game changed me beyond recognition.

it's late 2019, i'm in a roleplay group with a handful of other people. since it's both oc and outside-canon friendly, someone introduces an account for a character from an indie game called Hello Charlotte. i don't know what that is at the time, and i won't for another few years. the account doesn't stick with me in a meaningful way, but the earnest recommendation from the person playing the character does.

it's march 28th, 2022, 7:00 PM. i've long since separated from that roleplay group, taking with me only my partner at the time and an art friend. my life is mundane and repetitive, i find myself bored. having already played and loved games like oneshot, ib, and yume nikki, i remember the recommendation from that roleplay group. i struggle for its name for a while, then download the first episode off itch.io

to say it hooked me immediately would be an understatement. the cynical humor, the atmosphere, i become so enamored with it that it makes me sick. i played the first episode over and over before finally buying and downloading the other two on steam. and at that point it was over for me. the game wedged itself deeper and deeper into my psyche until i couldn't focus on much else.

episode 3 was when it stopped being a typical story to me. when it went from Game to Art. a lot of people didn't like episode three, apparently, but it's what made me love the series as much as i do.

i was at a strange point in my life when i played this game. friends of mine have heard this story several times now, and i do not plan to expand on it here, but i was not happy. not truly. i was confined and scared in a way i would not wish on anyone else. which i think influenced my investment in the following character quite a bit.

In the beginning, there was a voice.

puppets, feeling trapped, and live executions.

charlotte wiltshire unit q84 is a character who matters to me more than i can ever truly express. a lot of people who play find themselves connecting to one of the true realm characters, which is fair. their struggles are very real. they don't kill anyone on live tv. they matter a lot to me too.

but q84 is different, to me.

she is a character who has been beat down, again and again. forced to play a role that she wants no part in. forced into behaving a certain way based off of how she was perceived. she was charlotte wiltshire, a martyr, a good girl, submissive and innocent so that the audience can latch onto her as something to be taken care of.

eventually she becomes tired of being hurt this way, and turns against them. she becomes sardonic, cruel, nilihistic. she starts cutting out anyone who hurts her, and becomes hostile towards others as a baseline. this behavior is often misinterpreted as pure sadism, but i don't think that's the case. it is self defense taken to the extreme. she does not hate the tenants, she wants desperately for them to like her, she wants desperately to have the life that others seem to acquire so easily.

she is alone. she knows she is.

and there is nothing she can really do about it. so instead, she claws at them, she sneers and taunts until they rear back and bite. she mocks them for how dull their teeth are, ignoring her bleeding wound.

the game describes her as "defective". she is incapable of functioning by the same rules as the character she is meant to be. she is no martyr, she is no good girl, she doesn't want to be. she cannot stand to be.

yet despite everything, despite her misery, despite her hate, she becomes attached to charles. the first and only person to really, truly, try to understand her. even if he mocks her, he does so with understanding. not "you are evil" and instead "you aren't going to get what you want this way". both are harsh, yes, but one has kinder intentions.

he is there at her side when she dies. he doesn't taunt her for dying on his behalf. she yells at him when he brings her back, but stays with him in their world's final moments.

the cg for their world's end is called Freedom.png, which i think is apt.

q84 is defined by her isolation from others, and is only pacified at the end of it all by finally being understood and cared for. even if charles himself is flawed, indescribably so, they care for one another.

melancholic ending

hello charlotte is a game about connection, and the pain caused by the absence of it. it is about gods and delusions, worship and hatred, it is about black and white and the countless shades in between. without it i would not have some of my dearest friends. i would not be free from the person i was forced into being back when i first downloaded the game. i was someone different, then. and i'm someone different now.

i will remember this game for the rest of my life. i wish that was hyperbole.