Free Will of a Marionette -- Let's talk about Tiny Snow
A month or two ago, this game gained its fame through an unexpected way. In reply to an review criticizing the depiction being bad of how lovey dovey the duo are, the developer said: that’s because … well … I myself haven’t had a girlfriend.
Personally I feel a little sad for him. Although I might not be entitled to do so, since I am still single myself (fortunately I’m not too bothered by it). And also for his game. From now on when people talks about Tiny Snow, it will always be “that game made by the poor beta male” rather than “a kawaii game, but tries to cover some serious topics”, while the latter somehow better describe this game as a game.
If you are made into loving someone, what will you do?
The story starts with the protagonist, an assistant of the professor, how adopted him since he was young, running away to a shabby wooden house in a snowy mountain to focus on the research. However, little Rong, his clingy sister, also an adopted child of the professor, followed him into this uninhabited place. The two of them both have a feeling for each other, and this feeling grows untampered as the two live together in this sequestered small hut.
However, the protagonist knows a secret, that he and his little sister are subjects of the professor’s experiment. In this experiment, they are made into thinking the each other is the best fit. And that’s what bugs the protagonist – choosing to be with little Rong means that he succumbs to manipulation.
But the choice has to be made. To accept it, or resist it.
Are We Free?
The existence of free will has long been discussed and debated about, somehow even until today. Some argue that we have free will, others disagree.
Determinism is such a belief that everything is predetermined, and thus free will does not exist. Ideas of determinism includes Laplace’s demon, an entity keeping track of everything and thus able to predict the future. But the demon is incompatible with Copenhagen’s interpretation, so hopefully it will stay within the realm of imaginary. Einstein was unhappy with this thought, because in his view, God doesn’t throw the dice.
However, there’s super-determinism, which states that everything is predetermined since the bigbang. This, unlike the demon, cannot be disproved. And this possibility can undermine the Bell test, which gained some popularity in 2016, and that’s another story.
That kind of gives out a feeling that, our behaviors may be predetermined – when we go to eat, what we think, the thought that we have a free will – and we could do nothing to change them.
But does that really matter? What is the point in upsetting ourselves for no one’s good? As long as things are good either way, it might be better to choose to believe in the one that we desire. For example, that we have free will. It’s in a sense similar to Occam’s razor. But the objectives are different: Occam’s razor tries to make most people pleased, but this – I’d call it tiny snow principle, if I have the right to name it – favors ourselves than any other.
Your Love, or the True Love
But the dilemma in the game is a little more complicated. The protagonist and little Rong underwent medications unconsciously, which make them believe that each other is the destined.
So is our free will still free under outside manipulations?
It reminds me of a biased classifier. Assume we train a binary classifier that, given a person’s health information, decides if they are infected with disease A. Suppose only an extreme minority, say 0.01%, has infected A, we will have a lot of negative cases, and insufficient positive ones. So the trained model can display biased behavior: it simply judges everyone as healthy, which is undesired.
A deeper analysis on its cause may be seen in a textbook and I won’t cover it here, but the point is, we have remedies for such unbalanced data. We can re-sample the data set to make it more balanced, or we can modify the output of the model to offset it. As long as we know it is biased, something can be done.
When we know we are not free, we are.
Reality and Fiction
As the developer said himself, he hadn’t been in a relationship, which makes the lovey-dovey part less convincing. But there are things that based on facts.
In a part, the professor is accused of conducting this unethical experiment by her fellow professors, she reputes it by revealing that they are themselves corrupt. For example, a professor demands one of his students to call him “dad”, do daily chores for him, and witholds the student’s graduation. This may sound outrageous, but is something that actually happened. A graduate student was abused by his advisor in the mentioned way, and he committed suicide in the end.
Yes, the story is not full of sunshine, I forgot to mention. It’s more so in the small extra story “Xue” (lit. snow), where the female protagonist little Xue is assigned to a man who is psychologically disgusting, but physiologically alluring, due to the technology developed. She loathes the man so much, that when he talks, the only thing she heards is pig oinking. She tries to escape this nightmare, but the man wouldn’t let it happen. He captures her, rapes her in order to impregnate her and thus continue his lineage, which is the only thing in his mind. There is no love. If there’s anything, that would be hatred.
Back to the topic. The professor is depicted as someone who gives no shit about others’ opinion, and in a way prioritize the experiment over everything else, so it’s actually a bit hard to extrapolate her motivation to accuse her fellow workers of hypocrisy. That’s why I think this part is a bit contrived. Even if the author wants to discuss the dark side of the academia, which is a well-intended attempt to raise public attention, there may still be a better way for it to fit in the plots.
I don’t rate any games, but I would say it is a good game. Not excellent, nor perfect, but anyway I’d like to recommend it.
Admittedly a lot needs improvement. For example, a significant part of the story is devoted to the professor’s discursive preach, meanwhile the reporter is, in most times, not regarded as a real person with emotions and feelings, but only a tool to advance this preach.
These shortcomings apart, Tiny Snow’s story surrounds an interesting as well as thought-provoking topic. This material vs mental conflict brings a tinge of philosophy to the work, and that’s what I think makes this game special.