Here’s a game that recreates the futility of finding love online

There are those out there that love to code, but can they code to love? Let’s put that question another way: is it possible to manipulate machine code in such a way that the complicated organic process of falling in love is replicated?

This is one of those perpetual questions sometimes entertained in sci-fi “what ifs,” and otherwise used as a thought exercise for, perhaps, students of philosophy. Its attraction is its profound possibility space—we often consider the ability to fall in love to be exclusively biological, so what would it say about humanity if it became possible to manufacture love? Maybe we’re not as special and unique as we often like to think we are.

a spiral of love and hate, uplifting one-liners and crashing revelations. 

On the other hand, if we can inject love like Cupid’s arrow into mechanical beings, doesn’t that give us a fantastically magical power? Couldn’t we use this knowledge to eventually create a formula that would make the lonely happier—to make people fall in love with each other?

Alas, all of this wondrous speak and its ideas of coded love is more than likely a million light years away from our reality, and Stephen Lavelle’s (aka Increpare) latest freeware game is telling of that. Click click click is a text-based series of abstract vignettes that evoke the unpredictable nature of a loving relationship.

It starts with a statement: “I love you.” Below this is a number of lines of mostly incomprehensible equations stuffed with numbers, letters, and mathematical functions. Each of these can be interacted with upon clicking on them, leading you into a spiral of love and hate, uplifting one-liners and crashing revelations. Each time you click on one of the equations, you’re taken to another statement—perhaps “I could love you” or maybe “Please don’t leave me”—that gives the impression of time having moved on along with the relationship, and another set of equations lies underneath it.

It’s deliberately arbitrary, but being a human that experiences emotions, you’ll probably latch on a narrative between each of these statements. If you do, you’ll pull yourself through a rough ride, from being “just friends” to shared infatuation, and then back to a heart-wrenching “I could never love you.” It’s never-ending, always looping back on itself, but you can at least see the equations you’ve clicked on before as they’re colored grey upon following visits.

I met Lavelle for the first time just over a week ago at the Wild Rumpus event in London. The conversation, had between four of us, was telling of how Lavelle’s mind works—always trying to figure out the designs of everything around him, backwards engineering silly ideas in order to make them real. Led by Lavelle’s curious mind we spent five minutes figuring out how a ball pool could be made into a jacuzzi (you’d need a ball launcher and safety gear). By just talking to him, I could see how he is able to create so many small but genius puzzle games.

When playing Click click click, I imagine Lavelle trying to work out the mechanical process of love and turning it into code. The game’s equations are as if his workings out, and you’re leafing through his progress so far; his attempt at a mechanical recreation of love’s process.

It turns finding love into this cold, uninspiring data crunching activity 

That isn’t what Click click click is, though: this is Lavelle acknowledging that love is beyond artificial intelligence, out of the reach of even his problem solving mind. Its message is something much simpler: love is complicated. It’s so tangled in human emotion, connected to every one of our experiences, affected by changes in the weather and what we ate for dinner last night, that it’s impossible to enclose it under a definition—we feel love, but we can’t describe what it is or how it works.

The attention that the game’s title draws to the act of clicking resonated with me, too. In the game, you keep clicking on new equations, hoping that the relationship will stabilize and stay loving, always. But it doesn’t come; it’s always up and down. As someone who recently decided to give online dating a shot, I’ve become aware of a similar act of clicking in hope of finding love against the odds.

It’s part of the strange step-by-step process that dating sites assign to love searching between human beings. You answer general questions about your personality, your life, politics, habits, fashion sense—all sorts. This data is then spun around inside what is, I presume, a highly scientific set of code that matches you up with people of similar tastes and desires. You then click through profiles of people, judging them on three high-angled selfies they took in their bathroom mirror, bypassing anyone that has a typo in their description of themselves.

It’s a load of bollocks. This mechanical crunching of numbers and answers only matches you up with people that answered the questions close to how you answered them. It has the absurd suggestion that our one true love would actually be a clone of ourselves, but that doesn’t exist yet so here you go: a handful of people in your area that might be into walking on beaches, playing videogames, and wouldn’t date Hitler. And then you click through them forever, getting more hopeless with each press of the finger. Click click click, cry cry cry.

Maybe it’s just me—I know others have found love online. Currently, I’ve given up on the idea of online dating for now, as I found getting to know someone through a computer went from exciting to boring at an irrationally fast pace. I couldn’t make a connection with anyone. It turns finding love into this cold, uninspiring data crunching activity. Mind you, the online dating world isn’t the only one to blame, as movies, books, and agony aunts have introduced a widely followed rationality to love, such as buying someone flowers or putting an ‘X’ on the end of a text message to improve the chances of someone loving us.

So, maybe I’ve decided: I prefer Lavelle’s admission to love being too complicated to simply output in code. I’ll continue to let love be mysterious and let it happen, to be alive rather than forced through artificial means. No longer will I actively try to chase down an indescribable creature, maybe that will work. Or is that just another piece of advice I read and I’m now following? Whatever.

You can play Click click click in your browser right here.