TW: Child abuse, domestic abuse
Masochisia is easily one of the most disturbing games I have ever played, and it’s not just for the grim subject matter but how it explores its central themes of fate and morality. It uses metafiction (where characters in a story have awareness that they are in a story, or the work itself plays with the very structure of its given medium for one purpose or another) in a very clever way, occasionally having characters not just direct what they say to the character you control, but you yourself. It also conditions you to do rather horrific things.
The game handles choice in a very interesting way. Unlike games like Undertale or any given WRPG, you have limited control over your character’s actions. There are certain points in the story where you cannot resist doing certain vile actions, as the game will outright make you unable to select any other option besides committing a terrible act. Your main character is mentally disturbed and under the influence of voices and constructs in his head, so these moments make you assume he is not completely in control of his actions, and that choice is entirely an illusion in this game. You will end up doing horrible things, which seems to be further suggested if you decode the hexadecimal messages on the title screen and find out who the main character actually is.
This isn’t entirely true. There are certain sections where you will be forced into a situation where you have no control, but most of the game allows you to avoid doing these things. The thing is, the game is designed to make you want to do horrible acts first by making possible victims deserving of it. The main one is the main character’s father, an alcoholic who beats his children and wife, showing open content for all of them. He’s one of the most miserable and horrible characters in the game, and his reason for it is incredibly difficult to sympathize with because of how monstrous his actions are. The first character you’re tasked with killing is the father, and when I played, it never occurred to me that I could spare him, for a very simple reason – I didn’t want to.
There is only one character in the whole game you must absolutely end up killing. If you do kill a character you don’t have to, the game will let you know with txt files on your desktop from the main character himself (or at least was the case for me when I killed the dad, I avoided harming anyone else optional). The game also questions you about these decisions at certain points, and one of the most damning moments happens when you’re questioned about the horrible things you’ve done and you say it was out of your control. The character questioning you addresses the main character and the player at the same time with a cutting observation that starts to dig in the farther in the game you go, assuming you’re trying to avoid becoming a monster. They say that you always say it’s not your fault. They point out how cowardly that sounds in a carefully worded way that manages to avoiding being too confrontational, just spiteful enough that it packs some punch.
The game deals heavily in the concept of fate. The lead is told his future and how it is inevitable, and it’s supported if you have knowledge of the lead’s other name. The story told radically changes depending on if you accept this supposed fate or try to carve out your own. There is a point being made that those suffering from extreme mental illness don’t have the same ability as others to do that. Depression Quest makes a similar point with its simple mechanics meant to reflect how those with depression have trouble making normal decisions. Here, the main character is influenced by his various conditions (never stated by hinted to be mixtures of schizophrenia, sociopathy, and conditions that cause vivid hallucinations), all irritated by the abuse he’s been though. The game is through this disturbed mind’s eyes, painting a narrative that violence is ultimately unavoidable. It’s a cruel trick.
The message the game tries to depart is that, no matter what you have been through, you can take hold of who you are. This also means you are not entirely blameless for your actions, even if you are influenced heavily by something else out of your control. This is interesting, creating a message both pessimistic and hopeful, and one that can be dissected in many different ways. The way it delivers that message is the truly impressive part, though. They give you just enough rope to hang yourself. Sometimes, it is out of your hands. The rest of the time, you can be better than what the world expects from you, or what you feel you have to be. But failures in those moments are all on you.
It should be noted that the game doesn’t blame you entirely if you kill the father. He truly did deserve it. Some characters will even say this. They may not agree with your decision, and they may even understand the father’s own struggles and pain, but you are not at fault for his actions, and retaliation is understandable. It’s a nice touch that voids victim blaming a deal. But everyone else is a different story.