Brad's Spring Thing 2023

I was not planning to play or rate any Spring Thing games, but then Viv Dunstan’s thoughts on Repeat The Ending scrolled by, using “metatextual,” “experimental” and “affecting.” Thank you for drawing attention to this work, Viv! I’d probably have missed it. We’ll see if I find time to play any others, but wanted to process aloud here a bit.

Repeat the Ending, by Drew Cook (ifdb)
I played far enough to read multiple endings and associated material, over the course of about three days. Final score 22 out of 33.

Sentiment: :onion: :people_hugging: :knot:

Spoilery Thoughts

In 1971, Jon Stone and Michael Smollin created a delightful picture-book titled The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover. If you aren’t familiar with it, go watch Grover read it (less than 3 minutes).

The book might be my earliest memory of a fourth-wall-break. On the first page, Grover notices that the title suggests there will be a monster at the end of the book. He spends the rest of the book trying to prevent us, the reader, from turning pages and advancing towards the titular monster. He barricades the pages, to no avail. The whole time he pleads with us not to advance to the end of the book. Of course we do anyway, foiling Grover’s plans. (After all, what else is there to do? Close the book and walk away?)

Upon reaching the end we discover that Grover, being a blue monster, is himself the Monster at the end of the book and all his anxiety and effort was for nothing. We have a good laugh and maybe learn a life lesson about wasted worry.

Mechanically, I think Repeat The Ending is The Monster at the End of This Book, except that we play as Grover.

(That comparison might sound condescending, but I mean it as a compliment. I adore children’s literature - see my only comp entry.)

Our protagonist, named “D,” needs to drive across town to a difficult situation. We the player are nakedly incentivized (with points and the promise of better endings!) to derail this project by every means possible. When we’ve exhausted the “bad endings” for a scene - which are often harmful to D and others - we give in and advance to the next, looking for new ways to lose the plot. And in the penultimate scene, we get a twist: D looks us in the eye and forcefully turns the page despite our resistance. And he’s right - he’s okay. We (the player) were the monster all along.

Of course RTE is a far larger and more nuanced work. It presents as an annotated, illustrated, director’s cut definitive edition of a 25-year-old IFComp game. (And from the conceit I am utterly hooked - I love annotated books.) While Monster uses only two characters - Grover and the reader - RTE features over a half-dozen voices including protagonist D; an unnamed fashionista daemon; the author’s past and present selves; and a number of critics, editors and reviewers. Together they create, praise and criticize the game’s core mechanic, through a sort of polyphonic epistolary wrapped around a parser game.

The player’s relationship to D was never entirely clear to me. D talks back to us and exerts some of his own agency. But we’re riding along in his head and he obeys most of our suggestions. My best guess is that we play as D’s fear and dysfunction, (at least part of it) lending weight to the moment when he wrests control from us in the end.

I also agree that it’s metatextual, in the sense that it derives some of its power and meaning from the history of the medium.

  • It’s an un-parody of badly designed slice-of-life IF, making something profound out of a genre I often dismiss out-of-hand. The parser game masquerades as a revision of a broken, less interesting game while actually being well-implemented and merciful, applying lessons learned by the community over the last 25 years.
  • It flips the script on a common criticism of badly designed slice-of-life IF by turning literal ludonarrative dissonance (points for derailing the plot) into ludothematic consonance (our struggle against the plot is the point).
  • The paratext invokes real people and past works and comments on how the opinions of the critical community shift over time.

The fact that the game contains reviews of itself lampshades a lot of the above, and could also come across as a defensive move by the author - what point in criticizing when the game has criticized itself? But then I found myself feeling critical of the reviews, and getting some of the same satisfaction out of the game that I usually get out of the surrounding discussion on these forums.

All that to say, RTE provides a wealth of meaning-rich moments and it’s a testament to its design and implementation that dancing back and forth through all of its material was a delight, when I think a slightly worse interface could have been a slog. What a gem.

For all of that praise, I struggled to connect with the ending about finding closure with a difficult parent before their passing. I suspect this is more of a personal limitation than anything - I’ve seen a few other folks say that they found the work deeply affecting. It addresses themes that I’m ill-suited to explore, and I hope to learn from others’ reactions here.

Is it scoreable?

I don’t know how folks do Spring Thing, but this would be an IFComp 10 on my rubric.

  • Interactive (up to 4 points)
    • +1 Novelty within the medium (did it try something new to me?)
    • +1 Interactions are fun and/or consonant with the theme
    • +1 No distracting bugs
    • +1 Polished; has quality-of-life features (including hints) that enhance the experience
  • Fiction (up to 4 points)
    • +1 Effective prose
    • +1 Well-sketched setting
    • +1 Compelling plot
    • +1 Memorable character(s)
  • Bonus (up to 2 points)
    • +1 I like this!
    • +1 I admire this

Delighted that you got to it and enjoyed!


Yeah, my parents read me that a lot when I was a kid. It was really funny, but also kind of unsettling underneath. With adult analysis, it figure it’s the combination of the really direct fourth-wall-breaking, the way Grover is trying to stop you, the reader, all the way. The suspense of turning the page. The sense of going towards some kind of unavoidable confrontation (with a monster) and being told not to on each page. And Grover’s anxiety, which is contagious.



Thanks for your thoughtful reading of Repeat the Ending, Brad. I love The Monster at the End of This Book!


I love, love, love the deep cut Grover reference. Was also a formative text in my childhood, and I am gob-smacked what a great pull that is relative RTE! Wish I’d come up with it!

Yes, it is very likely I will chime in on EVERY Repeat the Ending discussion. I can’t help myself, it lives in my brain now.