I’m a rebel, so I read this without playing the original work.
A nonfiction entry, basically an essay in Twine, reflecting on the author’s reasons for writing A Single Orouboros Scale last year for Spring Thing. Some of it is about their relationship with the IF Community, and about confronting their own mortality (the author wrote it while they were going through some health issues and thought they were about to lose cognitive functionality). Other potent ideas include the idea of seeking validation and self-confirmation through creative work, and the human desire to leave some sort of mark on the world to signify that you ever existed. This is stuff that I think most people are afraid to come out and directly express. Even in confessional IF works, you cloak it in fiction. (Then reviewers can come and safely poke holes in that cloak, and try to miss any vital organs. Oh except for the HEART of the thing wait uh this metaphor isn’t working–
No graphics (I remember the Mouse had graphics), no music. Choices are reflective and I, as the player, mostly get to choose to either keep reading or to skip chapters. Very readable, propulsive, a bit rambley; interactivity is low; grammar is solid; the punctuation is immersive and compelling; choices do not matter, why don’t they matter?? the player should always matter (I should always matter)
I’d say this is worse than Wizard Sniffer, better than Pick Up the Phone Booth and Die, .5 percentage points better than Even Cowgirls Bleed, and exactly the same as Pong.
I give this 3.41/5 stars // In a theoretical IFComp I would place this 11th place out of 97
Okay so obviously “reviewing” this isn’t the point.
I guess I have two trains of thought.
The couple games I’ve made, I’ve really tried to have internally validating goals for them. I wanted to finish a game, I wanted to try to finish a conventional parser puzzler, I wanted to make a slightly alienating game and see if at least one or two people would “get” it, I wanted to play around with Ink and figure out what it could be used for. I’ve tried to keep expectations from getting too high. I’ve placed slightly lower than I hoped.
I’ve also thought about whether I should focus less on reviewing first-time authors, maybe more on people that signed up for the forum at least. I’ve tried to avoid reviewing people more than once, before, in favor of new people. What would be better for the community, I’ve wondered?
I wonder how much the “IF community” can really provide external validation. More and more people are entering the major competitions each year and I don’t think we’re seeing that same growth in the people reviewing. More people making IF games is great! Dev tools are more readily available, so more people are trying their hand at creative expression. But making IF games to get recognition? To get discovered? (To get acknowledged?) I guess it depends on your expectations. But then, that’s a large part of what the ASOS Postmortem talks about, coming to terms with that. It’s all a part of sharing your work with the world.
And actually that’s not as true as before. A thing I find nice is that there seem to be more reviewers posting that are coming in more from the choice-based side of things now, or a mix. There’s more voices, I feel. Like for this Spring Thing! Thanks to everyone who’s reviewing, or playing. And actually it also looks like the IFComp entrant numbers did level out a bit these past couple years. So ignore everything I said!
A thing I’ve sort of idly wondered about before: why didn’t there seem to develop more of a Twine community SPACE? I’m not saying it has to be separate from here or they’re not a part of this “IF Community.” Circles can overlap, and I want them to. But certainly a lot (the vast majority) of Twine stuff is created by people that have never heard of intfiction.org or even IFComp, and all that stuff seems oddly ethereal. I remember looking at the twinery forums, and it seemed like mostly tech questions. What are the big Twine games of each year outside of what gets entered in “IF Community” competitions? Where’s that history, that recollection of the shared alt-spaces that Twine created? I remember trying to look for it before, and finding it elusive. Is it because Twine was a vital tool that a lot of burgeoning game developers and writers used, but it’s a tool and not a shared interest? Like it’s just game developers using that tool, sometimes marginalized developers using that tool, but the tool didn’t matter so much? I’ve seen the influences from Porpentine, and Depression Quest maybe, reverberating through the years. Choice of Games has their own little community, right? There’s an adventure games community. I can point to them, point to where they live. Or maybe because Twine came up in a post-web 2.0 world, it’s just as ethereal as all of social media is. The Twine Revolution was a whole, real, living thing. But maybe it all got disseminated on Tumblr, Twitter, Discord now, and those are third party platforms built to promote immediacy and not permanence. Or maybe I just looked in the wrong places. Shrug. Should I delete this part?
I think we’re in The Dead Account and ASOS territory now, about social media impermanence and who gets to decide what gets remembered. I think… I’m always a bit scared about having a life on the internet, in the age of Big Data and doxxing. I can’t choose to just be a scale on a snake (that was the metaphor in ASOS) if the snake is the IF community, because the snake is constantly being consumed by other bigger snakes, with their armies of crawlers. That’s Google, and then that’s also people who might disagree with you, or even just your existence, and who might do so in violent and invasive ways. You can’t control the scale you grow online, as in how big or how small you get or how seen you are, or how you are remembered in an Amazon data server. Google+ Circles didn’t work, doesn’t even exist anymore. And being seen by the wrong person can be dangerous, someone who you might never even have directly interacted with, who might not even have an account on the same sites as you.
There’s also the whole IF archiving of competitions discussion. I want this community I’ve been a part of to not be forgotten. That’s the desire. But should/do individuals get a say over what they are subsumed by? What isn’t Saved (will be lost). But also the Right to Be Forgotten (Right to be forgotten - Wikipedia) doesn’t exist.
One more thought: years ago, another intfiction poster messaged me and asked me to consider copying my reviews from here over to IFDB. I still haven’t. A lot of that’s on procrastination, but I dunno, do I want my reviews to be read in that way? You (yes, you!) are reading this right now during Spring Thing 2023, and that’s cool. Do I care for this to be looked at in five, ten years? I don’t think too many people are looking at old forum reviews in five years–maybe you’re doing that, did you find this through a keyword search, were you looking for something specific?–but if I do decide to copy more of them over, it’d primarily just be to add activity to IFDB. Certainly not everything fits, and this “review” wouldn’t belong there IMO; there’s only like three sentences that even tell you anything about the ASOS postmortem and whether you’d want to read it yourself (Do it if you’re interested in the topics I mentioned at the top?). Different site, different contexts; I’d have to reframe a lot, and pick and choose. I’d feel obligated to attach a score to everything. But IFDB feels more permanent, where I expect to be put on record. This forum is for immediacy. It’s different, and it lives on in a different way. These forum discussions will have been experienced by and mean something to all the people in the community now, even if they’re never seen by people outside or after it. I’ve trawled a bit through rec.arts.int-fiction newsgroup archives on Google Groups before, in an anthropological dig sort of way. Do I want to be stored and studied in that same way though? I suppose it’s good if people still care. Assuming they care for benign reasons, and not malicious ones.
The ASOS Postmortem outlines very real, very human fears and desires. The protagonist is a very well realized character, very realistic, very well written, and I hope they are doing well.