Exploring the 'Best Games': I-0, by [redacted]

The next game on the XYZZY Best Games list is I-0x by an author has has withdrawn their name from the game.

This is one game I really debated about reviewing, as it is best known for its sophomoric, male-centered sex. However, you can play through without using any of the sexual content (that is, none of the puzzles require any sexual actions), and the game does several things well that I’d like to talk about.

==Narrative Structure==

Sam Kabo Ashwell has listed a variety of CYOA structures for plots of games. Most games before I-0 had a linear plot or a branch and bottleneck plot. Games like Trinity, Jigsaw, Spellbreaker, and others allowed for some jumping around between discrete chunks, but in practice the chunks were unlocked in the same general order each playthrough. Each chunk is accessed the same way each time.

I-0 has a sort of floating module structure that allows you to access the same events in very different ways, and different playthroughs can have very different structures. Hitchhiking at any time results in the ‘crazy driver’ segment, which can end successfully in 2 different ways, each leading to a different part of the game. The Taco Junta can be accessed at multiple points in the game. The underlying structure of the game might just be a simple branch and bottleneck (I’m not sure), but it feels like more, like an expansive sandbox world where you can determine the story that is told.

== Detail and PC==
The level of detail in the game is astonishing. In a trick perhaps inspiring a similar scene in Brain Guzzlers, the glove compartment contains tips on how to survive in the desert. Your purse contains pepper spray that can be used on anyone. There are 4 different forms of conversation. There are multiple scripted conversation scene that allow player input. Almost all reasonable actions have been implemented.

This game is also notable for having a very strong PC voice. Some earlier games had well-defined PCs (Christminster, Plundered Hearts, Infidel), but it was unusual to have the PCs voice color everything that you do, from examining details of your car to waiting around to the error messages. The ‘strong pc’ has become a hallmark of XYZZY Best Games, with games such as Violet, Lost Pig, Coloratura and Birdland being designed around vibrant and interesting PCs.

==Knowing your audience==

I-0 has a lot of sex in it, but it’s all phrased in cheesy, male-oriented innuendo. ‘Oh boy, you give him the best 5 minutes of his life.’ ‘Hee hee, giggle, you have good stuff under those clothes.’ Those aren’t quotes, but show the kind of attitude the game has. In the year it came out, though, the population of RAIF and RGIF had a large segment that enjoyed this kind of material. Reading the XYZZY transcripts about I-0 makes this clear; many people in the community wanted this type of game.

This continues to be important today. Many of that group have grown older and started families or taken on more responsibility, so their tastes have changed. When Violet was released, many people in the voting community had written, were writing, or had failed to write dissertations. As another example, in recent years, a large group of LGBTQ authors have joined the XYZZY voting community. The winning games in 2014 and 2015 included LGBTQ storylines. Communities are never defined by a single feature, and authors can freely choose what to design their games around, but it’s interesting to see how Best Game voting is influenced by the Zeitgeist.


I-0 is mainly remembered today for its eroticism, but underlying it is an innovative plot structure and deep implementation. Its subject matter is an artifact of the time period it came out in.

1 Like