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Dinner Date: Food For Afterthought

Post-mortem on Dinner Date's main character Julian Luxemburg. Potentially sprinkled with the slight hint of spoiler but not enough to jeopardize a newbie's experience.

Crossposted from TK-Nation. TK-Nation's a South-East Asian gaming site that plays home to news about quality underdogs from the gaming world, indie cosplay and video game collectibles. 

Fair warning. This post-mortem is long, windy, slightly pensive and speckled with the occasional hint of spoilers. Read at your own discretion. Probably be quite irrelevant if you don't follow the indie scene either. 

I don't normally write about what I think. Most of the time, that usually degenerates into a stream of vitrolic drivel, occasional cursing and reminiscing about the good old days. But sometimes, it's hard not to want to do so. 

There's this guy that keeps flitting to my thoughts. I only met him once. We had dinner. I wasn't particularly impressed with his views of the opposite gender nor was I particularly entranced by his neurotic behavior. I haven't thought about him in a month but commentary over at Gamasutra made me ponder things again. And no, he's not a real person, the chap in question is one Julian Luxemburg; he's the protagonist of Dinner Date in case you didn't know that. 

Or the antagonist, depending on how you look at him. 

When I wrote my review on Dinner Date, I was somewhat caustic about Julian's personality. Don't get me wrong, I found the game itself pretty brilliant. It was Julian I didn't like.
After I was done with the article, I chatted a fair bit with the creator. Jeroen wanted to know why I didn't like his character and I told him. There was a whole mess of issues: gender, culture, past experiences and simple prejudice. In the beginning, I was more than prepared to write off Julian as one of my most despised protoganists yet. Now that I've had time to think about it, I don't know. He might actually be my favorite. 
Julian feels real. 

My biggest complaint with his behavior was the fact he was a little too stupid to call his missing date. For all we knew, she could have been raped, murdered, diced up into little pieces and fed to a cat somewhere. Wasn't he concerned? But then again, we've all been there. You're suddenly going out with someone beyond your league. You know you don't deserve their time of day. If you get stood up, do you immediately march up to them and trumpet your disapproval or do you still there in wallow? 

While it might be wild conjecture on my part, I can see the logic. Julian's twenty-seven and completely uncertain about his position in life. He's had a bit of a dry spell and his penchant for poetry implies that he probably doesn't get along with the alpha males that surround him. Let's face it, nice guys tend to get stomped on a lot. On the other hand, the girl he's waiting for is purportedly seven years his junior, long-legged and an exotic Japanese creature. Realistically speaking, I don't see a guy like Julian being terribly gung-ho about his situation. Do you? 

Were she Caucasian, I imagine things might have been a little less panic-inducing for Julian but she isn't. It isn't an unknown phenomenon. Down here in South-East Asia, things happen in reverse. There was droves of women here who find themselves hopelessly attracted to foreigners. Though a few claim that it is purely coincidental that all the men they like are white, most are quick to admit that the unfamiliar is a seductive thing. With all the anime and the Japanese gravure idols around, I don't see how it couldn't work the other way around. 

Again, though, I'd like to stress that Julian is a bit of a fish out of water. There is a sweetness to him that is out of place in the brutal corporate world. He seems shy, hesitant. Those are qualities that do not belong in the break-neck society we live in. Seeing as how he's not the denizen of a fantasy world, I imagine he adheres to the same rules. There are going to be problems. There'd be problems for anyone. Mix those qualities with years of exposure to more dominant people and you'd get neuroses. Self-doubt. All the things that I didn't like in Julian, all the things that made me hate him. 

I still hate him. I doubt I'd stop. But that, really, is the beauty of Dinner Date. Whatever time someone else might have spent crafting sweeping plotlines and complicated puzzles, Jeroen apparently invested into the development of Julian Luxemburg. Many have shown disdain for the fact that Julian's a bit of a whiner but hey, why can't he be? There are only so many heroes in the world. Someone has to play the bit role. 

During my conversation with Jeroen Stout, he told me that a lot of Julian's problems lie within the emptiness that sits at his core. I can see that now. Strength is dependant on one's foundation. If that is missing, you can only do so much. Regardless of how I see his character's disposition, I have to applaud Jeroen for choosing to make someone so flawed. It's easy to make a hero. Good looks, melodramatic stance, troubled past, possible ties to the mob - those form the backbone of a successful lead these days. 

It's not quite as easy to make someone that might be a little bit too much like you.

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