I've come to the conclusion thatThe Yawhg, in many ways, is like a good hug. I'll explain this a little later, but for now let's talk about the actual game.
The Yawhg is the story of a medieval city that, in six weeks, will be ravaged by a cataclysmic disaster (called The Yawhg). The exact nature of the disaster is never fully explained. (I've spoken about my love of this kind of mystery numerous times before, so I won't bore you with that nonsense again.)
You choose two (or more) of four available characters and spend the game making choices about how you will occupy your time in the six weeks preceding the disaster. Depending on where you choose to spend these precious hours of preparation, certain stats will be upgraded. A week of brewing potions in the alchemy lab will increase your magic and mind stats, whereas a week of brawling in the arena will increase your physique stats.
At the end of the six weeks, each character must choose a role in the rebuilding of the freshly ravaged town. The character's individual stats will determine how successful they are in these roles. Pick the right role for your characters and the town will be rebuilt successfully and begin to prosper again. Pick the wrong role for your characters and....well....you'll see...
That's right. The Yawhg is one of those games that has one hundred billion different endings. I once heard them called divergent games; so that's what I'll call them for the rest of the blog.
The awesome thing about The Yawhg, as with many divergent games, is that it's able to tell many different stories at once. What's more, each player is able to craft a story that appeals and makes sense to them. Or, if they're so inclined, a story that doesn't appeal and doesn't make sense to them.
They can role-play. They can dictate where the story goes and can ultimately decide how the story ends. Then they can replay the game and experience something completely different. This higher level of agency means that they have a very unusual relationship with the game's creator.
Unlike a movie/book in which the audience watches/reads the creator convey an idea; a divergent game sees the player work together with the creator (sometimes more than once) to convey an idea.
It's a really complicated concept that - frankly - I'm doing a piss-poor job of explaining. I tried drawing a diagram to help myself make sense of it, but it ended up looking like an incredibly sexual Picasso painting.
So. Instead. I decided to use a hugging analogy. It made much more sense, so I rolled with it.
In a book or movie, it's a one way hug. The author/director is hugging me and I'm not hugging back. I still have to think about why the hug is awesome, but they are providing everything I need in order to appreciate the hug.
In a divergent video game, it's a mutual hug. The developer is hugging me, and I'm hugging back. They ultimately have control of the hug, but we have to work (and think) together to fully appreciate the beauty and splendour of the hug.
Let's get a few things straight. Both types of hug are fun. Both types of hug are awesome. And most importantly of all, both types of hug are valid.
But in a clever game, all the special qualities of a mutual hug are taken advantage of. And in an incredibly clever game like The Yawhg, it feels like the story/stories would only work as a mutual hug.
No other game I've played has demonstrated the power and allure of a mutual hug as successfully as The Yawhg. It can be fully hugged in about 10 minutes, but I found the prospect of re-hugging it almost impossible to resist. I hugged it so many times that I experienced all of the possible hug-clusions. All these radically different hugs came together into one big hug that I found HUG-ely absorbing.
In conclusion: If you like hugging, you'll love The Yawhg.