Relive the horrible experience of getting ready in the morning as a teen

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – E. E. Cummings

Looking in the mirror can feel like an assault as a teenager. Your reflection—something that used to be dependable—only brings new horrors with each morning. Some days, it’s an eruption of pustules. Others, its straggly, non-cooperative hair. Most times, your face is running on a couple hours sleep. You might as well be classified a zombie, who must somehow make all this rotting, festering flesh look presentable to the outside world. Because right at the moment that your body is betraying you and changing in unpredictable ways, you’re also becoming more and more aware of what people are “supposed” to look like. It’s the uncomfortable, painful experience of slowly becoming self aware, and realizing you are a monster.

Mike Mezhenin captures the pressure and impossible task of being satisfied with your reflection from the age of 14 to 18. Mixing hidden object-style challenges with the classic customization conceit of a dress-em-up, Mornings of a Seventeen-Year Old Girl explores the panic and self-loathing of the average American high school and middle school student’s daily routine. Armed with an entire cabinet-full of merchandise to correct, conform, and mask your face into acceptability, you are given a time limit and told to do your best. You will never get everything done in time. At best, you manage to disguise the repulsiveness of your natural state. And whatever you run out of time to mask, you apologize for with a quick selfie-polaroid and a self-deprecating or ironic caption that is your last layer of defense.

disguise the repulsiveness of your natural state 

There’s an interesting distinction between the classic customization options (like changing clothes) and touch-up mode (like fixing pimples, black heads, hair kinks, under-eye bags). Hovering over the touch-up options causes visible targets to appear on your face, highlighting what’s wrong and how you can attempt to fix it. For the first few rounds, the flaws are all you see. Racing against the clock, you pick and prod at your blemishes, without ever realizing you could spend your time coloring your hair wacky colors instead. As with life, the better you get at the game, the more you come to realize that it’s less about focusing on flaws, and more about reclaiming whatever you can with a personal touch. So let that cold sore fly free, and cover up your whole face with some high-fashion shades instead. Leave the dandruff in your hair, and alternatively opt for a nice shade of blue for those locks.

Though Mornings of a Seventeen-Year Old Girl—created in 48 hours for the 33rd Ludum Dare—follows the jam theme of showing how “you are the monster,” there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. After completing the routine enough times, you begin to worry less about the clock or the blemishes, and more about discovering new ways to express yourself. What was at first a nightmare that cast you as the monster turns into a daily affirmation, casting you as the cool kid who doesn’t care what everyone else thinks.

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