A Single Ouroboros Scale: My Postmortem, by Bez
This is another autobiographical-feeling review. I don’t want to do too many of these! But something like ASOS felt like it gave me leeway to share what I hope are important general thoughts based on my own experiences. I feel it ties in well with Stygian Dreams because of the focus on forgetting, ASOS with a more autobiographical perspective and SD more general. Of course I could just be linking up two entries I went through next to each other!
So Bez and I obviously approach our entries from very, very different perspectives. I use parsers a lot, because I enjoy not having to set up graphics, etc. I like puzzles, because figuring puzzles has been part of my growth, and I’ve often fallen back on certain puzzles and re-solving them when I am frustrated with other things, whether they have a concrete or subjective solution. If I have trouble dealing with someone, I can say–well, I remember this puzzle I solved, which isn’t the same as dealing with people, but it reminds me I’m not helpless.
Of course you can wallow in that too much, but in general this feels like good value for time for me, whether or not a puzzle lasts. Though over the years I’ve seen some parser puzzles as “been there done that” and want more. Or perhaps some parser games, I realize, could’ve been done better as Twine or choice! And so some parser stuff isn’t the good value for time they once were. In fact I’ve even switched from parser to Twine-ish with two Python entries, where it may as well have been choice except for meta-options, and I realized it’s probably best to shorten commands so they’re easy to remember.
So I’ve seen myself integrate some choice-ish conventions, so they make a whole ton of time. Yet at the same time, if something is too linear, I maybe don’t feel a sense of accomplishment working through it. I like that–it fuels me to try and risk the next thing.
That said I didn’t need to feel Accomplishment working through ASOS. Given that I’d seen the works the author mentioned, and I do think about these things, I often wonder: what if this is my last one? The probability/possibility increases with each work I write!
I can’t imagine people NOT thinking this through COVID. Certainly it rattled me enough that I was just glad to have written stuff, and I didn’t have the emotional energy left to properly test my 2020 IFComp entry. (Still glad I wrote Under They Thunder, for all its flaws. I had a much smaller and under-control sequel planned for a while. It may not get written. I feel grateful that the main reason is, I have something better to write. Well, to me, anyway.)
And I do want people to care, but I don’t want to force it on people, and I don’t want to do things for attention, and at the same time … I want to find ways to spread the word about what I found and what I enjoy, if I can! I sort of want to make sure I’ve written everything I can, and it’d suck to not get stuff written down, but it’d also suck to run out of ideas. I doubt the universe will let me hit the sweet spot between the two, and even if it did, I probably wouldn’t want to die just yet, because reasons.
These are questions that don’t go away! But fortunately they’ve never been super pressing, yet. There’s been growth, and there’s been a decline from placing in the top 10 of IFComp, but I’m glad for what I have done and, hopefully, continue to do.
And I also realized something else while going through this all. Studying and learning chess, my mood often dictates what I can do for the day. Sometimes I want a lesson with more concrete choices, even one that says “memorize these opening moves, sort of, well–not quite memorize them but organize your mind so you see which occur and why.” Other times, I want one where I’m just thrown out there and read “come up with a plan for the position.” I’m glad to have that variety and choice, and they correspond roughly to choice (tactics) and strategy (parser) – it’s not a perfect analogy, but I’m well aware of how my daily wants and needs change, and I’m glad they do, because it helps push me to a wider variety of learning than I’d have had otherwise. For the record, even though I’m a parser author, the tactics/choice puzzles I see (this also extends to games well-annotated) often push me to ask questions I’m glad I did.
This is the obligatory chess stuff that seems to creep into my reviews a lot lately. But I’ve been drawing a lot of parallels there, and maybe you can do so with your own hobbies too.
As for the parser/choice divide? This is a tricky one. I’ve seen a lot more choice games on subjects I don’t have to deal with and don’t want to. And I have a right to say that. But I’m pretty disappointed in people who go beyond that and say “DUDE NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL PROBLEMS,” as if they can’t just avoid said works themselves. (It took me so long to realize, and be comfortable with, some people have this sort of rant prepared in advance! In-person or online.) And I’ve certainly had people say “why should I have to bother with puzzles” or “what’s with all the puzzles, just write stuff, you write okay?” Or … maybe I could make the puzzles easier? I recognize hearing “well, things have passed you by, why do you write parser games like that?” is an order of magnitude less than the unsolicited slop people get, but it’s something worth fighting through for me.
I have found some answers to why beyond “why not,” as the author does for their artistic decisions. If I can’t articulate them fully (I mean, I try to have normal and hard mode) then I hope they come out in some way. But I hope I can say, hey, yes, we do have a lot of things in common, without sounding too appropriational or both-sidesy or “gosh, we both have it the same” when I’m quite aware that worrying about losing your mental faculties is far more serious than “what if I run out of inspiration in general?”
The author notes some things they hope players would have found (I feel bad I didn’t pay attention!) as well as discussions of external and internal motivation. I have my own semi-answers to all this: if I am writing a creative work, that’s time not spent spending money trying to convince myself I’m happier than I am. I realized I’d found a lot of answers, too, and many were different ones from the authors, because of how we approach our writing, but hopefully they’re equally as valid.
We should have that constant spur to write, and if we maybe didn’t say quite what we meant to the first time, we deserve another chance to step up to the plate. Again acknowledging that my problems and issues are an order of magnitude or so less than the authors, this work is the sort of thing that helps me press through things from my past. I’ve certainly had annoying power struggles with cis white males, being one myself, most of which I lost.
I’m pretty sure the worst of them would laugh at me for writing parser games instead of moving ahead greatly in my career! (Note: if I did move ahead in my career, they’d say I didn’t deserve it. Powermongers are like that.) But works that address these issues often help me see–okay, yes, that’s where so-and-so argued in bad faith or warped the truth or sometimes even seemed conciliatory but was, in fact, being a jerk. In my case it’s more about not being a militant or aggressive enough cis white male that left me skinned. Many were quite disappointed I didn’t enjoy movies with explosions and cursing and what-have-you. Or I was able to tell jokes, but sometimes I just didn’t seem motivated to make them laugh that really loud laugh I couldn’t tell them I hated. I think this is well worth writing about, even if it’s not as critical as what many people write Twines about.
And like the author, I fear my voice dying once I’m gone, so I write a lot, and I write what I can. If I don’t have a degenerative brain condition, I still have run into people that have gotten in my mind and left me frustrating, and like the author, I’ve found the healing tiring but rewarding. Perhaps I’ve already seen my own stuff maybe die in popularity. I wrote a lot of guides for old Apple and NES games, but they seem to be eclipsed by videos and such, and for stuff written more recently. I don’t think about them much, and I don’t let their quality or quantity weigh me down either way.
Overall I’m glad I did what I could. I think I’m in tune with the author that my main regrets are not bothering better, but I hope I’ve bothered well enough, and consistently enough, so I haven’t copped out for too-long stretches.
Finally, some hidden themes from my own game seem to connect with ASOS, surprisingly–the big one being a variation on hearing “hahaha why do you bother my dude” from trolls past and present. Even, or especially, some folks in the “smart classes” from high school might say, why would you find any emotional value in–well, the central puzzle of Write or Reflect? Couldn’t you have done better? I realize they don’t think about me much at all, and – this sort of death of cognition is a relief.
Maintenance note: I may taper this thread off here, since I think I’ve managed to give some signal boost to the two entries that didn’t get ribbons, or chose not to display them. They are both worthy! (Also, the number of replies should now have changes to orange-ish. Thanks to all who fave. Don’t ever feel obliged to. But it is a nice boost, one I hope I can return!)