“No” is such an instinctive and powerful expression of our desires and boundaries, that it has been said that we can understand its implications at the youngest, most tender age of nine months old. Is your wee tot tearing your hair and scalp off? Is your little bundle of joy clobbering your family dog’s with their small fists? Is your adorable offspring about to lay their tiny palm on the tantalising surface of a scalding hot stove? A gentle but very firm “No!” usually does the trick, as well as remind them that this world isn’t ready for their infinite potential yet.
It’s a curious thing, then, that we have somehow forgotten the real meaning of ”No!” as we age. Your boss is displeased when you refuse to work late into the night. Your colleagues frown when you turn down another invitation for late night drinks that gets you too drunk to function the next morning. Your best friend looks dejected when you can’t hang out with them at night. With these in mind, Say No! More attempts to ease you back into the habit of, well, saying no more, especially in circumstances when you feel particularly powerless to do so.
But here’s the thing: rather than serving as an empowering power fantasy for the yes-inclined, the game’s main conceit, while stupendously hilarious at times, doesn’t quite sustain its momentum beyond the first hour.
SAYING NO WITH CONVICTION
As one of three interns in a large company, you’ve been told, in less explicit terms, that “no” has been outlawed in this universe, before having your meticulously prepared lunch whisked away by your manager. This place is full of jerks, but your fellow interns are only too happy to keep their heads down to avoid getting into trouble. Then you discover a hidden cassette tape, not-so-discreetly labelled “NO”, with which you gradually discover the inner strength to say the word to people.
Have a colleague who’s always asking you to brew coffee? Say no! Another colleague who just wants to talk your ear off about their absolutely dreadful vacation? Say no! Someone else wants you to make copies of a document they can’t seem to muster the measly energy to do it themself? Throw your head back for a good, hearty laugh—and then holler no! That’s right; you can even employ different techniques to proudly declare your reluctance to do something—for someone else. Utter “no” in a soft, bored whisper. Yodel the word from the rooftop with a little jig. Nod a little to lull your target into a false sense of security… before spitting the dreaded word right into their entitled face. Soon you’ll be rampaging down the corridors of the office, yelling the command over and over again, with the enthusiasm of a toddler exerting their dominance on their frustrated parents.
This can become absurdly liberating, particularly as Say No! More puts you in situations you would find yourself in real life. Behind the wackiness of shouting “no”s is a thoughtful attempt to impart to players the power of “no”-ing the hell out of someone, be it towards a hopelessly incompetent manager, or colleagues who don’t seem to understand boundaries. More than that, however, is that it’s simply too much fun to tell everyone that you won’t want to do things their way, and watch as they crumble under the weight of your audacity and defiance.
SAYING NO WITH SOME HESITANCE
Yet it doesn’t take long for the punchline to wear thin. For a game that’s about standing your ground, Say No! More doesn’t actually offer the flexibility to say no to the often limiting and prohibitive framework the game plonks you in. Its freedom is conditional: there actually isn’t anything else to do other than to screech “no” repeatedly to everyone. Hell, you can’t even walk around the office without supervision; your legs will just carry you through the rows of cubicles so you can randomly snap at your colleagues by tapping your spacebar. You begin to wonder when all these mayhem will end, and if you can simply conclude it just by turning the game off.
In some ways, Say No! More still grants you some small catharsis as you undermine your managers’ efforts to curb your no-ing spree. For one, it makes a salient point about the importance of unions, a conversation that’s absolutely pivotal for the games industry to have. It’s not to say that the approach is completely ineffectual, but the topics tackled sometimes feel incongruent to the comedic tone the game tries so hard to keep up with. At its heart, Say No! More just wants everyone to get along with one another—a seemingly contradictory but fascinating sentiment to its gimmick that could have been explored further, but doesn’t always reinforce the message it wishes to impart.
If Say No! More is a rallying call for anxiety-wrecked individuals who don’t know how to say no, it’s an amusing one, even if it’s not always memorable. It serves its purpose best as a comical and occasional reminder that we all have the courage and tenacity to tell someone we won’t always be at their beck and call. Turn to your nearest two-year-old for more advice on this front.