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[IFComp 2018] Bi Lines by Naomi Z

Bi Lines ended up taking 34th place out of 77 games. It average grade was a 5.81, but with an enormous standard deviation. I rated it much higher than the average and think it is a game absolutely worth playing.

The following review is very spoilery.

The author explicitly tells us that Bi Lines has to be understood in the context of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the discussions about sexual assault that were sparked by this all-too-political and yet all-too-personal spectacle. What is it, then, that the game is trying to add to these already copious discussions? The answer is formulated by the editor character, Jacobson. After reading the story that the male protagonist has written about his own experience of sexual assault by a ghost, and after the player character has claimed that it was just a fiction, Jacobson says that it's a great story -- it really "captures the female perspective." That, I think, is the challenge that Bi Lines sets itself. To take a …

[IFComp 2018] Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise

I'll be posting reviews for IFComp games, focusing mostly on games where I think my reviews can still add something to the critical consensus. A good example of that is Carter Sande's Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise, which I suspect to be the most misunderstood game of the competition.

(It probably isn't, because the most misunderstood game is presumably one that I haven't understood either.)

So Geography -- I mean, let's settle on a short name here -- presents itself as an educational tool for learning about Canadian geography by playing a trading simulation. Some reviewers took this entirely at face value and worried whether the game would work in an educational setting. Others did wonder whether Geography was serious or a joke, but nevertheless ended up concluding that it was serious. So let's be entirely clear: this game is a joke; it is satire. Satire wrapped in a perhaps unforgivably clunky user interface, but …

The interactive fiction competition is over!

The IF Competition has happened. The winner is Alias 'The Magpie' by J. J. Guest, which I unfortunately have not yet had a chance to play. My game, Terminal Interface for Models RCM301-303 placed at a respectable 16th out of 77. (Relatively speaking, that is exactly as high as Kerkerkruip placed in 2011, when it ended up being 8th out of 38.)

If you haven't checked out the competition games yet, I highly recommend that you do so. For those who are new to interactive fiction, choice-based games are probably easier to start with than parser-based games. (In choice-based games, you generally just click on links. In parser-based games, you have to type commands like "go north" and "put laptop in incinerator".) This year's numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 are all choice-based, so pick what you like!

I wrote many reviews during the competition, but posted them in secret author's forum. You can expect to see revised versions being slowly released on this blog.





The IF Comp is happening (and I'm in it)

The 2018 interactive fiction competition is happening! I participated only once as an author -- back in 2011 with Kerkerkruip -- but this year I decided to do so again. My game is called Terminal Interface for Models RCM301-303, and you can find it in the company of no fewer than 76 other new IF games of all sorts. Play and judge, my friends. Play and judge.

(Since I'm an author, I'll be doing my own reviews in the 'secret' author's forum.)

Review of "Plowing right through"

From a formal perspective, the parser based interactive fiction game Plowing right through reminded me of nothing so much as of Adam Cadre's Varicella. In that game, the player character is about to carry out a brilliant if nefarious plot that he has thought through perfectly, but the details of which are completely unknown to the player. Inevitably, the player will fail many times before finally coming to understand what the character he is playing has been wanting to do all the time.

In Plowing right through, we find ourselves in the cabin of a time machine, which has apparently already transported us back into the past. The only indication of the player character's identity is a little note in our possession that says: "Good luck Mitch!" Otherwise, we carry nothing but two extremely well-made latex masks depicting an adolescent man and a woman in her early thirties. You are otherwise given no information about the masks, and when you leave the time machine, you f…