Love Me, Love Me Not - a Visual Novel, Gardening Game

Michelle Tu
Michelle Tu
Michelle Tu is a 4th year Design & Technology student at Parsons School of Design. She loves creating unique narratives, building worlds, drawing characters and, all in all, making (mostly) wholesome experiences in games. But when she's not busy, she's (doing her best in) clicking heads in Valorant.
Thesis Faculty
Ayodamola Okuseinde
Ernesto Klar
Melanie Crean

'Love Me, Love Me Not' is a garden simulation experience in which the gameplay revolves around caring for orchids and sentient beings manifested from said orchids. While also being a visual novel, an interatice fiction genre, the game is quite heavy on reading.

My goal is to have the player become more aware about nature, the changes in the color of leaves and the ripening of strawberries in the spring, in order to affirm their state in the world and its consistent seasons. I understand that time feels like it's constantly fleeting and something out of our control. But it’s because of this that I feel we should grasp more tightly on the memories we make with our loved ones. So the player will water and converse with their plant until it is finally time to write a poem, a haiku of sorts, to awaken the consciousness of the orchid. The player's feelings will reach the orchid, spiritualizing and actualizing into a newborn orchid fairy.

Although I have not developed the gardening stage of the baby orchid fairy, the player is left with the possibility of it blooming in the near future. Perhaps they will take it into their own hands to garden in real life! I want this experience to encourage and guide others. Just like in horticulture therapy, the player will acquire hopefulness. Hope for the fairy’s growth, the characters in my story, and maybe even gain hope for themselves in these bleak times of the pandemic.

Originally, my reasons for making this game stemmed from a precious memory of my mother watering and talking to her plants, urging them to grow well, in addition to my own ideals of wanting to create a heartwarming experience for those who are depressed or have any negative feelings. I want the gameplay and the story of my game to reflect my vision of inspiring players to better themselves, through forms of media (may it be games, novels, or animated shows) and my own experiences, because that’s how I’ve learned to do so. As someone who is prone to being emotional, I am always inspired by other stories that showcase a great cast of characters and each of their character development as they encounter conflicts in their life - may it be realistic, fiction, or fantastical.

I am inspired by the bonds that hold people together, which is part of the reason why I chose to be a game designer and also why I’m so grateful for my friends being so closely knit in my life. Especially during this time where everyone is secluded in their homes because of the pandemic and may not even have the means to interact with those who were normally in their daily lives. This, once again, sheds light on how important these seemingly little, everyday things are in our lives and how much we take them for granted. And so, I wish to portray this meaningfulness in my game through the simple act of gardening, showing how it can bring people together and showing how life is precious.

However, in the advent of the Covid pandemic, I won’t hide that I’ve been in a miserable state. It was a number of things that caused this. Stress from finishing my thesis and stress from schoolwork, the lack of social interaction and physical touch from my friends that I missed so very much even though we were keeping in touch everyday. The loss of motivation that came out of nowhere had disabled me for two weeks. It was only when I started reading comics those dreadful weeks that I was reminded why I loved storytelling. Somehow seeing a world of fictional characters do their best can be so emotionally-riveting and inspiring. Thus, I was filled with determination to trudge on. And I think it’s normal to feel slumped sometimes. We’re only human after all. But what’s important is that we don’t give up no matter the circumstances. That we brush off the dirt on our pants and get back up on our two feet. Just like the main characters in a story, it will continue to be written.

So don't you ever give up!