Tilde is a playable character in my visual novel code named Sea Hears Project. Patrons can currently play through her prologue, and will have access to chapter one during the beginning of September.
Tilde’s story begins in a country called Edgard, which has strict laws on magic users called magi. All magi must leave the country before the age of 12, to study for an exam 6 years later. The exam only allows for one attempt, and is taken during their last academic year.
If the students pass, they may return to their home country. If they fail, they may never return to Edgard, due to ‘safety’ issues. This brings a great deal of pressure onto the students.
As the player, you can choose how much Tilde studies and prioritises her grades. It is not possible to explore the main arc, the character arc, friendships, social clubs and achieve high grades in all subjects. Your choices make a big impact!
The Reality of Student Pressure
I was a kindergarten teacher for more than five years in China, and I witnessed children as young as three be under huge pressure from their parents. I taught various subjects through the immersion method which included play and exploration, but some students were disciplined at home for not remembering key words or being able to talk English in front of their parents despite being fluent at school. It was difficult to explain the natural learning method of children, and why it was common that children may not recollect everything they learned in the school day. Regardless, after kindergarten, many students would leave for additional classes in evening schools. Children would attend kindergarten exhausted, after sleeping at 10 or 11pm each night.
But it is not just pressure from parents that students suffer from. Students suffer pressure from teachers, institutions (school discipline, exams), society expectations, media (think all those tabloid articles complaining exams are getting easier?) and future employment (increasing demands for high grades for internships!). I believe that student pressure is a global problem, and that students are under huge pressure.
All that pressure piles up. We know that student pressure can cause anxiety, depression, and other mental and physical health problems. A lack of sleep and poor diet can also affect the development of the brain and the rest of the body. Without learning how to relax or take a break, students may grow to suffer burnout, without learning the tools to help them address it.
61% of teens 13-17 years old say they are under a lot of pressure to produce good grades. This percentage is twice as high as those pressured to look good or fit in socially.Pew Research Center, 2019
I feel very passionate to write about this, and I hope that by including this story point in Sea Hears, I can help encourage thinking on this topic.
75% of high schoolers and 50% of middle schoolers described themselves as “often or always feeling stressed” by schoolwork.The Washington Post, 2019
The reason why students have so much pressure is no simple answer, nor is how to make change in our own societies. We know that the pressure comes from a variety of sources. These sources often aggregate each other, for example, parents may amplify pressure on their children due to fear that without high enough grades, their children may never have a high quality of life.
“Why don’t you go to school anymore?”
“I realised I was never going to be able to compete with everyone else. I am just another caged rat.”
“But you’re smart, Tieran.”
“Not smart enough. And I hate that competing in exams is the only way our society evaluates our worth. It’s too easy to be called a failure. There’s too much pressure. I couldn’t take it anymore.”Tilde Chapter 1 – Sea Hears Project
Tieran is Tilde’s brother. During Tilde’s prologue, and possibly during chapter one depending on your prologue choices, Tieran will play a prominent role. In virtual reality, Tieran appears confident and blunt, but face to face he becomes awkward and unreliable.
“I don’t want to be another fixed link, I’m scared of that reality too.”Tilde Chapter 1 – Sea Hears Project
Fixed Link is a condition in Sea Hears that many Edgardians suffer from, where they cannot, or refuse to disconnect regularly from virtual reality or Holo (similar to VR, but using holograms). Tieran doesn’t want to gain this condition, but also does not know how to relate or participate in a society so focused on passing exams, working long hours towards burn out and producing children to go through the same process.
Preserving the Nuclear Family
As with many societies around the world, Edgard promotes the nuclear family which features two parents with children. Single parent families are frowned upon in Edgard, as are childless households. Divorce is uncommon and expensive, with the parents facing severe social stigma for doing so.
I wanted to write a diverse cast of characters, with diverse family backgrounds. Tilde’s parents are unhappy, but are also struggling with long hours and children who have not met their expectations. Tilde’s route to education and to work has been completely turned around since the family discovered she was a magi, and Tieran refuses to attend school. Among other things, Tilde’s parents may be afraid that the children will not be able to provide for themselves, and of course, if Tilde fails her exams she may never return to Edgard.
The cost of divorce and the attached social stigma can cause a great deal of hurt and pain. So can poor communication between parents, along with the parents refusing to reconcile with their own children or seeking therapy. Instead, the household is stuck in a heavy atmosphere.
Tilde’s Chapter One Patreon Release and Twitch Let’s Play
I am delighted to share that I have finished coding Tilde’s Chapter One, and patrons will be able to receive a new updated game with the chapter and general bug fixes and improvements in early September. Non-Patreon supporters can participate in the Twitch Let’s Play, by voting for the choices during the stream.
Until next time, sail on~!