Video game is an ‘episode’ of trouble November 14, 2018 — by Isaac Le and Andrew Li Permalink As we played Surviv.io, a simple but addicting game, an ad featuring virtual characters popped up on our phone screens. “Should we kiss?” a man asks a girl while hugging another girl. “Yeah, go for it,” the first girl responds. Every day, we view this and similar pop up ads for the game “Episode: Choose Your Story” on our phones, and proceed to rapidly click the top right corner of our screens in order to close the disturbing ads. “Episode: Choose Your Story” is a free mobile life simulation game that allows its players to take on the lives of multiple customizable characters. The game features hundreds of preset stories for players to experience, such as “Loving Bad” and “Troublemaker.” After seeing Episode ads come up almost as much as TikTok ads do, we finally decided to give Episode a shot. But since most of Episode’s ads, including some that portray the characters half-clothed, are very disturbing, we immediately had suspicions that this game was going to be just as disturbing. Our fears were only confirmed as we played through the game. We chose to play the story “Troublemaker” and, upon starting the game, we were asked to customize our character, who could only be female. When we were picking out her dress, there were three choices, only one of which could be accessed without spending real money for in game currency. After finishing our character, whom we named “Isaac,” we then had to compete with another girl in a high school setting to win over a “bad boy” named Brody to complete “Troublemaker.” In the story, Brody smokes a lot with his friends, and the other girl bullies the in-game Isaac. The game is targeted toward children ages 12 and up, but many of the topics, including drug use and sexual content, presented in the game are more mature and not suitable for 12-year-olds. Even as 15-year-olds, we felt uncomfortable playing the game. At one point in the story, our character attended a party with her friends, whose ages are unknown, one of which appeared to be smoking a cigarette. Shocked by this character’s behavior, we asked ourselves, “How can 12-year-olds possibly be playing this game?” Throughout the course of the story, we were also unable to proceed without multiple pop-ups advertising a special promotion that was occurring for additional stories. At this point, we decided that this game was awful and uninstalled it from our phones. “Episode: Choose Your Story” is completely inappropriate and not suitable for young children, whose minds could easily be polluted by the game’s content. In addition, the game encourages microtransactions, effectively forcing players to pay money to obtain different outfits and stories. The game received 4.7 out of 5 stars on the App Store, which we highly disagree with. Despite its positive reviews on the App Store, Episode was criticized on Common Sense Media’s website. As said by one reviewer on Common Sense Media, who gave Episode a one out of five stars, “What makes these people think that it's okay to create a game that consists of ‘adult’ choices like getting ‘pregnant,’ a serious life decision, and decide that the context is fit for a young adult as young as 13?” Playing only a couple of minutes of “Troublemaker” offered us a glimpse into the true nature of the game, and we are happy that we stopped playing. We would be fine with the game if the game was explicitly targeted at an audience aged 18 and above, but the fact that the targeted age is 12 and above is ridiculous. Our advice is to not play the game at all because of its uninteresting and repetitive plots in addition to the tasteless content. Overall, we give Episode a well-deserved one quarter out of five stars.