If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to get unwanted physical attention, Nina Freeman’s game Freshman Year takes you there.
Freeman, a game developer who is also behind other games involving the love and sex, takes users on an autobiographical journey through emotionally distressing harassment scenarios she encountered just a month into her first year in college in New York City.
Through a series of choose-your-own adventure through conversation bubbles mainly as texts between friends, Freshman Year lets users can set the tone of a night out at a bar through two mood lenses. There’s fun-loving Nina, who dons makeup and short skirts with the utmost confidence with her best friend Jenna at her side, and a more awkward and unsure Nina who reluctantly goes out in all black and jeans.
The moods are subtle but distinct from one another. Fun-loving Nina is ready for a sequel to the fun she and Jenna had the previous weekend that led to week-long hangovers. Instead of jumping at the chance of a repeat, self-conscious Nina looks through Facebook pictures taken of she and Jenna that weekend with regret, questioning her decisions and comparing her body to Jenna’s.
No matter the mindset, Nina winds up alone at the bar waiting on Jenna to meet her. Users only have control of the conversation until Nina goes outside the bar to see if Jenna shows up. Afterwards, things get awkward fast when the bar’s bouncer — who doesn’t card the underage freshman trying to get in — goes from friendly to creepy.
He tells her she’s pretty and she “looked like she was having a good time” dancing. He introduces himself formally as Clark. But when Nina tries to go back inside, he cuts her off, grabbing her waist and starts forcefully groping and making out with her until Jenna appears and takes her inside.
Freshman Year is an eerie look at sexual harassment encounters, and shows how quickly things can escalate from awkward conversation and getting hit on to unwanted physical contact. Activists have been trying to raise awareness around harassment, including gaining success with a viral video that followed a woman around New York City as she got harassed.
One of the groups that works on harassment issues, Hollaback!, told ThinkProgress the video is designed to target “a group of people looking at it and thinking, oh my god, is this really what women experience? And it’s eye-opening for them.”