Detention is set in Taiwan during the 1950s and 1960s. It portrays a period known as the White Terror, which occurred during the martial law era in Taiwan. The Kuomintang (KMT) government, reflecting on its defeat in the Chinese Civil War and its plan to retake mainland China, implemented a series of martial law regulations. During this time, the government’s power was greatly abused, basic rights of the people were not protected, and any activities contrary to the government’s ideology were deemed subversive. Any interaction with mainland China was also seen as collaborating with the enemy. Many pro-democracy activists faced political persecution, and being labeled as a “communist spy” was the most terrifying accusation, leading to severe punishment by the government.

The game’s story is divided into five chapters. In the prologue, the player controls a student named WeiZhongting. He falls asleep in class and wakes up to find that the students and teachers have left the school due to an approaching typhoon. While exploring the school, he encounters a fellow student named Fang Ruixin. After a conversation with a teacher, WeiZhongting notices drastic changes in his surroundings. As he runs, the scene fades, and a series of old photos depicting persecution and murder appear.

The scene returns to the game’s present in the school’s auditorium, where FangRuixin wakes up in the middle seat while Wei, previously controlled by the player, is found hanging above. This marks the official beginning of the game, with the player now controlling FangRuixin.

The subsequent four chapters can be divided into two parts. The first two chapters focus on exploring the terrifying campus and finding a way to escape. The following two chapters predominantly use reenactments to narrate FangRuixin’s experiences and explain the reasons behind the political persecution of numerous teachers and students in the school. In my opinion, the first two chapters are more gameplay-oriented and scarier, with several moments that startled me while playing. The latter two chapters lean more towards expression, resembling a movie experience within the game. These latter chapters also contain many stylistic scenes, which I greatly enjoyed.

The game aims to showcase a story where FangRuixin’s family undergoes changes, with her previously loving parents constantly arguing, and she discovers her father’s extramarital affair. Feeling a lack of warmth in her family, she yearns for someone to rely on. Her teacher, ZhangMinghui, appreciates her talent and offers private tutoring. After watching a movie together, FangRuixin and ZhangMinghui become intimate. However, their relationship takes a cold turn. By chance, FangRuixin overhears a conversation between YinCuihan and ZhangMinghui near his office. She discovers that Yin knows about her relationship with Zhang and tells him to stay away from Fang, while also being aware of their secret book club that reads banned books from mainland China.

Yin’s actions were undoubtedly motivated by protecting the students, but in FangRuixin’s eyes, her actions were akin to stealing her love. Perhaps out of love turned to hatred or out of revenge, FangRuixin obtains the booklist from her relationship with WeiZhongting (who is a key member of the book club) and uses it as evidence to expose ZhangMinghui and others. FangRuixin sees her actions as a way to reclaim what was taken from her, but her actions subject many people to unimaginable persecution.

In the fourth chapter of the game, there are four choices that lead to two different endings. In the first ending, FangRuixin commits suicide in the school auditorium, while in the second ending, the player controls WeiZhongting, who was just released from prison, and returns to the school that has drastically changed. Clearly, from the title Detention the second ending is the true conclusion.

In my opinion, the entire game can be seen as a trial or a criminal’s self-redemption. After causing chaos and destruction throughout the campus for her own selfish desires, Fang Ruixin’s life becomes irreparable, and her soul is trapped in the school, constantly reliving the past and enduring inner torment. Fifteen years later, when WeiZhongting returns to school after being released, FangRuixin finally has a chance for self-redemption. The entire game represents this process, and the player’s choices determine whether FangRuixin can escape from this endless hell and achieve self-redemption. These themes are strongly hinted at during the conversation between FangRuixin and her past self in the final chapter of the game.

There are two prominent symbols in the game: a chair and a paper airplane. The chair appears from the game’s menu screen and reappears countless times throughout the game. I believe the chair symbolizes judgment. The game repeatedly suggests FangRuixin’s criminal actions, from slashing WeiZhongting’s throat in the school auditorium to shooting Teacher Yin in front of numerous mirrors, constantly reminding the player that FangRuixin is a sinner. The final chapter of the game is undoubtedly the process of confession. The player faces four choices, and only by making the correct choices all four times can they witness the good ending. In other words, only when the player confronts their own sins and bravely admits to everything can FangRuixin complete her atonement and achieve liberation. Conversely, if the player’s choices deviate from the truth, FangRuixin will once again stand on the gallows and face another judgment on the chair in the auditorium.

The paper airplane also appears repeatedly in the game. In my interpretation, the paper airplane symbolizes freedom. On the rooftop after FangRuixin’s betrayal, there is a scene where countless paper airplanes rain down like drops of rain. These paper airplanes symbolize persecuted democracy advocates who have lost their freedom under government oppression. In the end, a yellowed paper airplane becomes the key to the good ending, granting FangRuixin’s imprisoned soul freedom. This is precisely the significance of the paper airplane’s appearance here. Of course, there may be other interpretations of this symbol, and the above is just my personal understanding.

The game uses a story to reflect a period of Taiwanese history, allowing criminals who have consciously or unconsciously become tools of murder to reflect on their crimes and allowing those who have not experienced that era to understand the horrors of the “White Terror”. It encourages people to persist in pursuing democracy and freedom. These are perhaps the messages that the game developers wanted to convey to players through the game.

When reading this section about the “White Terror” history, many people will likely be reminded of the “Red Terror” in China in the 1970s. In fact, for such extraordinary history, there have been many works that reflect upon it. For example, films like Farewell My Concubine and To Live provide detailed depictions of that period. History will not change, nor will it have multiple endings like a game, so we need to learn from history.