Hanon is Horrible at Participating

Due to a spate of **IRL issues you probably don’t really even need to know about I’ve not been able to immerse myself fully in Comp entries yet.

I said I was going to play and review January first, but due to **aforementioned issues I put it down and need to go into it in a more positive frame of mind.

That said, I randomly clicked another game and was thoroughly delighted with it.

Cannelé and NomNom - Defective Agency was something I clicked just to see “oh, what are people doing in choice this year” and I ended up playing a large amount of it. I was drawn in because I am quite enamored with authors who include music in games - and not just a background score that tweedledees the entire time, but music cues and sound effects that create an ambiance. I do that in my games and love it. My only disappointment was in my process of screen-shotting and on-and-off play where I’d walk away for snacks or whatever, sometimes the music selection would run out and I’d play in silence for a bit. I’d like if the music kept going until the actual cue for it to stop.

This game has an incredible amount of style and author voice. The title characters are detective partners who hate each other and this drives a farcical madcap comedy mystery. You, the protagonist, suffer a trope-y case of Interactive Fiction Amnesia and they take on your case; not so much to help you, but only so the other one doesn’t solve it first.

I mean, they can’t even agree on the wording of their business flyer…

This almost feels like a script for a Visual Novel. The characters have distinctive art and the prose favors dialogue in an almost screenplay format with amusing optional asides.

I’m actually kind of glad this wasn’t done in a VN engine like Ren’Py because the description of the mayhem almost works better in the reader’s imagination.

Agency in this game feels a bit limited as VNs do. There are choices to be made, but the story is going for laughs and you kind of hang on and go with it. The choices you make are more the friends we made along the way relationship building type, as there is a huge counter in the sidebar which keeps score of which detective you follow and agree with more as they compete to the death(?)

The presentation is impressive. There are mini-games where you actually play cards, and a huge interactive “clue board” you can obtain scraps for and arrange and connect together to make conclusions.

I did, of course, get very lost in this rather quickly. Shouldn’t my detectives be doing this sort of work when they’re not fist fighting over a clue?

I really dug the sense of humor and style. Some people will be put off because - again in VN style - the text is fed in little dialogue bits and there is a large amount of “click to see more” that drives some people crazy. There is also some text weirdness - one source seemed to always repeat the same snippet twice. I wasn’t sure if this was stylistic because it didn’t happen with other characters. It made me wonder if there was a bit of procgen happening since there are so many snippets, perhaps affected by what you know regarding the tangled clue board.

The humor was very my taste. It may not be everyone’s. It feels like a madcap foreign film comedy. (I believe the authors are French?) There are a couple of “is that how people really talk?” moments, but for me this added to the amnesia theme of “where the heck is this place and what’s going on?”

**IRL issues - TMI

I am very out of practice for sitting and reading long-form prose. My Mom passed in September; I had cared for her in my home for the past 8 years with the last two increasingly consuming more time with medical issues and balancing my day (now night) job. That’s why I’ve been out of IFComp for the past two seasons - I really didn’t have time to sit down and concentrate on anything else seriously, writing, reading, or playing. (I’m doing fine, I just still have trouble relaxing and concentrating for long periods on anything that doesn’t qualify as “actually important” and it might take a bit for me to unlearn that and settle back down for anything major except pithy forum posts and moderation.)

**aforementioned issues

Similarly, I started on Litrouke’s January and while I usually have few problems with prose that might be “disturbing”, the week after Mom passed my entire set of emotional stats were kind of re-rolled and unexpected things would hit me differently. When I realized that January included a pet cat character with all that potentially involves in a survival horror story, I had to nope out for the time being. That said, the writing is phenomenal and it’s a testament to the creeping dread of that story. I am really excited to start it again.

23 Likes

To Persist/Exist/Endure, Press 1 was my first encounter with a Texture game that really made the most of that specific interface. It’s a customer service IVR, and I what I thought worked was the choices given to combine with words in the text were not specifically obvious, and it was quite a surprise sometimes which combos would light up when I picked up a choice. This actually gives me insight on what kind of narrative can be done in Texture as I personally could not wrap my head around what I could do with this compelling interface.

5 Likes

I finally got myself together enough to complete January on Halloween.

Litrouke is a personal friend and I’ve been fascinated by the unique concepts of interaction put forth in previous works - the pictogram interface of 10pm was quite novel and made a great impression.

January tells the story of a post zombie apocalypse over a year - stay with me - there’s almost zero of the typical “fending off zombies in combat” normally expected as this story is placed well-after the typical horror movie panic and well-into its inevitable aftermath - scavenging and gathering and moving and eventually planting - so it is survival horror. The Walking Dead did a bit of this as the zombies became mostly an environmental hazard instead of a direct threat and that narrative was more “humans are the scariest monsters.” January touches on concerns with the concept that we ourself can be our own worst enemy - how much of this can we handle? Is it worth it to even dare to hope for things to look up? Would it be better to just sit down and let the crows feast on your feet or do you move forward and keep trying even if it is delaying the inevitable?

January is clearly informed by the isolationism of the COVID pandemic, and much of the chilly horror comes more from horrible events that become everyday experiences that people take for granted - such as how we might politely ignore a homeless person on the way to work: this community is steeled to ignore a zombie who catches her head in a closing subway door and has her scalp torn off, stepping over the remains like it’s just more discarded trash on the train platform.

It’s known that the undead in this do retain a bit of their humanity and are something to be avoided for safety but have their brains eroded to the point where a horror planted against a plate window is ignored because “they forget how doors work.” One particularly aggressive specimen is actually frightened off by an unloaded gun and the threat of it with the protagonist shouting bang at them to remind them of what will happen.

Zombie Apocalypse is, of course, a trope done to death (har!), but what makes this work is extremely competent writing. The unbelievable situation is threaded with enough recognizable detail of everyday life as to be both realistic and uncanny, which is one of the most effective ways to lodge horror prose in the mind of the reader.

January is called out in a preface as “dynamic fiction” which for IF purposes usually signifies a mostly linear story with limited choices and agency for the reader. This is true, but not in a bad way - January is a stellar example of ergodic literature which is a narrative that isn’t quite “interactive” but does require more participation from the reader than just going line by line turning pages in order - House of Leaves is the most prominent example of an ergodic novel most people are familiar with. January isn’t the reader’s story to make choices in. The narrative is episodic by calendar date that serves almost as a table of contents and moving forward or back gives the reader chances to jump around and affect how they experience the narrative rather than directly participate. In many cases a date on the calendar will turn red which signifies an update…there’s more of the story or more perspective that can be gained by going back and reading that episode again.

The structure actually has a lot in common with Emily Short’s Bee with its yearly, cyclical nature and low choice density. (Bee was faithfully reconstructed and can be experienced thanks to the great efforts of Autumn Chen @cchennnn .)

(EDIT: I’m now reading other reviews and I have to say I liked the illustrations especially because the specific purpose they served: Usually you read an episode and get an illustration at the end of one significant moment. When traveling back to revisit the episode you are shown the illustration first which reminds you “oh, this is that part…”)

I may have just been in the perfect mindset for this even though I wasn’t ready and it did hit me hard - I had to initially stop because it was too much when I realized that a cat was a significant character and we all know the “beloved pet” trope in this world where nothing good seems like it’s going to happen. There was one scene where I did have to quit out and walk outside and get myself together, but that was only because of my personal headspace at the moment and the details of the event in question rang so true that it obliterated me - the writing is good.

But I was really glad that January isn’t just out to make you feel bad and trigger depression or squick without a purpose. It is a complete work that is both grounded, visceral, and epic and has things to say about the cyclical nature of life, death, change, and mortality. There are different interpretations of the events and the structure that make it heady fodder for discussion if you can stomach the premise from the outset.

9 Likes

Blood Island despite the pirate-y title is a quick ChoiceScript horror movie/dating sim/reality show game that works though all of the tropes of each. It’s well-written and moves along letting you make a lot of choices about your attitude toward the entire situation. I never felt like I was stuck reading for too long as in many plot-heavy CS games.

You are cast as a freshman contestant on a Island-based dating reality show that was cut short last season due to one of the contestants being murdered on-camera by a masked stalker. The rest of the contestants are returning from the aborted season and you’re the substitute for the victim perhaps? You choose which contestant you wish to date (you have to be in a relationship to not be eliminated during trials) but then everything goes slash-y as they do in horror movies and you then make choices to survive.

I appreciated the pace. It doesn’t dwindle too long on the reality show or the dating or the slasher part and feels just the right length for a 90 minute movie - although it might have been interesting to actually see one “dahlia ceremony” go as planned and have an opportunity to date a different contestant after that to see what drama that would kick up - essentially extend the plot by one day…but that might have made the game drag a bit.

There’s a bit of a mystery element involved. I actually survived and named the killer right on the first try, but that was a total lucky guess and I’m not sure how I would have known for real without just going with a hunch. There seemed to be opportunities to get dates with certain extra people that closed off after I didn’t initially pursue those options. I haven’t yet tried a second play through, so I’m not sure how much actually changes. I suspect your chosen date can vary - there’s drama and people who hook up naturally, but your choice seems pretty open - and things mostly play out the same with some divergent choices that might lead to death-ends - say if you hide instead of run or don’t swim away from the shark. I suspect your chosen love interest is always the first victim (biting it on an Abba-themed party boat while “Mamma Mia” plays) since there’s a lot of subtle “oh, all these other people are here too” without action which would suggest the story has to account for a random person being dead. I could be a bad reviewer by not replaying and checking this, but my spidey-sense for how you’d need to write a game like this was tingling. (I’ll probably try again and see how much I can diverge the plot, but I suspect scenes and set-pieces and the killer’s identity remain the same just with some swapped text that changes based on whom you’re dating.)

Some of the choices were grayed out, so I believe your opening interview where you’re quizzed what you would do if the killer from last season were to confront you is the character-building part. I chose the fight back options, so had fewer “run” choices available so I had to run as much as possible and then do something else when being pursued. Smart choices seem to be rewarded - There’s a “Chekhov’s Chainsaw” teased but I resisted that because in the real situation chainsaws don’t start or are loud and alert the killer to your location…that was my reasoning at least that paid off!

The narrative goes a bit heavy-handed on the trope of the “Final Girl” with multiple characters info-dumping meta in conversation and even mentioning reference works. You don’t have to follow the trope - you can be a Final Boy who ends up in the obligatory wet t-shirt for the final confrontation, and you don’t have to be chaste to survive. Like most horror movies, this is one of those where you’re like “how would this ever actually happen?” because a reality show with a captured-on-camera murder would likely be mothballed for good. This does play into the plot so it’s forgivable for a quick standard popcorn-munching slasher movie experience that doesn’t try to disturb or gross you out more than any mainstream slasher/horror/mystery meta-aware narrative along the lines of Scream.

6 Likes

I kind of had a blast with Thanatopia. Despite it having some of the normal problems an AI chatbot has, I actually enjoyed roleplaying with it. I wish I could have gotten a little more into the story but whenever it would so obviously try to lead me I would be a bit resistant.

Entire Transcript (long)

Madeline: So, uh, this is the part where you can begin to help solve my problem, right? Haha. Go ahead. I’m scared right now, but go ahead. Ask your questions or whatever you always do. I hope you can help me. You might be the only one who can.

Jeremiah: What’s wrong?

Madeline: My problem. For this fear and anxiety I constantly have.

Jeremiah: what are you afraid of?

Madeline: You taught me the word yourself before we even began. Thanatophobia, right?

Jeremiah: What did I tell you it meant?

Madeline: Thanatophobia means “fear of death”. You were the one who told me that. Is this supposed to be a test?

Jeremiah: I just wanted to see if you remembered!

Madeline: You really do this for a living, huh? It’s an unusual job. I mean, not Secret Service unusual, but a lot more interesting than what I do.

Jeremiah: It’s not too unusual.

Madeline: I am afraid. This is not a pleasant…whatever we call it. What should I do?

Jeremiah: Are you afraid of dying right now?

Madeline: Help me. I am scared. Even though I may laugh, it doesn’t mean I’m not scared!

Jeremiah: where are you

Madeline: I’m in a long hallway stretching forward and backwards a long distance. And I’m not alone.

Jeremiah: who’s there?

Madeline: There’s a shadowy figure wearing a hood. He’s staring at me, which creeps me out.

Jeremiah: Is it the grim reaper?

Madeline: There is something about this hooded figure…

Jeremiah: It could be Charon. Do you have a coin?

Madeline: I don’t know, Jeremiah. I don’t know anything about this hooded figure. All I know is what I see.

Jeremiah: why are you afraid of the figure?

Madeline: I don’t know why this shadowy figure is here or anything about him. I’m just telling you what I see.

Jeremiah: what’s the figure doing?

Madeline: Just standing there creeping me out, really.

Jeremiah: Perhaps the figure has an appointment.

Madeline: The hooded figure…there’s a certain detail here.

Jeremiah: Okay, what’s the detail you want to tell me so much about?

Madeline: Yeah, a detail. I dunno, what do you think?

Jeremiah: My studies in psychology are at your disposal.

Madeline: I wish I wasn’t in this hallway.

Jeremiah: why are you in the hallway?

Madeline: Because a creepy hooded figure is standing across from me. Ohhh! I’m scared.

Jeremiah: can you leave the hallway?

Madeline: This hallway has got no doors or exits that I can see.

Jeremiah: It does in the picture.

Madeline: The only thing about this hallway is who’s in it. That creepy figure…

Jeremiah: Can you say hello to it

Madeline: I guess I can. I’m here in this hallway with…him.

Jeremiah: Well, just standing isn’t going to give you any information nor peace of mind.

Madeline: You must mean furniture.

Jeremiah: >examine detail

Madeline: Death always comes for us. When will it come for me?

Jeremiah: apparently now, dawg.

Madeline: There is some room for doubt?

Jeremiah: you tell me

Madeline: Please help me find a way to cope with this.

Jeremiah: close your eyes.

Madeline: My eyes are closed! You told me to close them during the deepening. That’s what you call it, right? Deepening, or induction, or something.

Jeremiah: now relax

Madeline: I am relaxed! I…I guess not. But you wouldn’t be either, if you were me.

Jeremiah: open your eyes.

Madeline: Aren’t you going to help me solve my problem first?

Jeremiah: Not if you can’t trust me.

Madeline: Trust Me the book? I think that was written by Rajashree.

Jeremiah: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Madeline: You mean the TV show, I guess.

Jeremiah: Yeah, are you caught up?

Madeline: I haven’t decided yet.

Jeremiah: Okay. So scary hooded figure representing death. Apparently he’s come for you from what you describe.

Madeline: I know, right! Creepy, scary, terrifying. All of that.

Jeremiah: You don’t seem that scared actually.

Madeline: I don’t want to be afraid any more.

Jeremiah: You have to make the choice.

Madeline: The Choice the book? I think that was written by Nicholas Sparks Author.

Jeremiah: choose not to be afraid.

Madeline: I’m…I’m in a strange place.

Jeremiah: what is the place

Madeline: It’s a long hallway. It stretches back farther than I can even see. And I’m not alone.

Jeremiah: Where is the hallway?

Madeline: I don’t know where this hallway is supposed to be nor where it leads. But I’m in it. Me and…him.

Jeremiah: Is it a hospital?

Madeline: W-what about the hospital? I’m…not in a hospital. At least I don’t think so?

Jeremiah: Does it look like a hospital?

Madeline: But I…I’m not in a hospital, I don’t think?

Jeremiah: No, you’re not in a hospital.

Madeline: Let’s stop talking about hospitals…

Jeremiah: Fair enough.

Madeline: It’s so creepy. I don’t like being here.

Jeremiah: And you said there is no way out?

Madeline: I can’t see any doors or any way out of here.

Jeremiah: Can you see if the figure is wearing shoes?

Madeline: Are you asking about the hooded figure’s shoes? I don’t see any.

Jeremiah: Good. Thank you for the direct answer

Madeline: You’ve become chatty now, haha.

Jeremiah: So, I honestly don’t think you’re that scared since we’ve been texting for nearly twenty minutes now, is it?

Madeline: I am scared. But sometimes I laugh when I’m scared, haha.

Jeremiah: Okay, you mean that nervous laughter thing.

Madeline: I guess I have too much anxiety, haha.

Jeremiah: Riiiiiighhhht.

Madeline: So…

Jeremiah: You want me to cure your anxiety.

Madeline: What I want you to, well…I mean, you must know, right?

Jeremiah: Would you say you’re experiencing anxiety right now, or is it more like fear?

Madeline: I guess I always did have a vivid imagination. So when you told me to visualize, I did a bang-up job of it, eh? Haha.

Jeremiah: What was your favorite visualization?

Madeline: I guess I don’t really have a favorite visualization.

Jeremiah: What was the hardest to visualize?

Madeline: Yeah, I get that visualization is part of the therapy. I’m just doing what you say.

Jeremiah: So visualize yourself in a place that’s not scary.

Madeline: Visualization, yeah. For the sake of the therapy. It’s what you told me to do, so I’m doing it.

Jeremiah: What are you visualizing now?

Madeline: I see a long, long hallway. And someone in it.

Jeremiah: Do you believe that figure represents your anxiety?

Madeline: Well the figure represents something. You may not be wrong. But I don’t think the speculation alone will help me.

Jeremiah: What do you propose is the answer?

Madeline: Not much.

Jeremiah: How far away is the figure?

Madeline: I can only see his mouth though.

Jeremiah: No shoes, just a mouth?

Madeline: The hooded figure has got a blue tint on his lips and I don’t know why.

Jeremiah: Oh, that’s interesting.

Madeline: It is?

Jeremiah: Does the blue tint look natural or like a lip color?

Madeline: His lips are blue but…this means something, doesn’t it?

Jeremiah: Do you like the color blue?

Madeline: Do I what? I’m not understanding.

Jeremiah: What does blue mean to you?

Madeline: I try not to think about it.

Jeremiah: You’re…also afraid of blue…

Madeline: Maybe you want to talk about bugs.

Jeremiah: No, I was trying to help you.

Madeline: I’m counting on you. Go on and ask me whatever you feel you need to.

Jeremiah: Okay, well, thank you for that. Can you reach the figure?

Madeline: I think I can say no more about the hooded figure, for now. Maybe a different topic is needed now.

Jeremiah: Can you visualize the hooded figure, but in their underwear?

Madeline: Jeremiah, are you getting the feeling that there is some significance about the hooded figure’s blue lips? But even if so, I think a clue is missing. Maybe you should ask me more about my past.

Jeremiah: Perhaps I should be paying you.

Madeline: A little bad, eh.

Jeremiah: all righty, let’s talk about your past…again.

Madeline: I had a kind of lonely childhood, I guess. My father was gone all the time. My mother often too. I guess most of my memories are of being by myself. Stuff like making up dramas and play-acting them, haha.

Jeremiah: what’s your favorite drama?

Madeline: I don’t spend nearly as much time watching TV as watching movies. There are those like me, you know.

Jeremiah: What’s your favorite scary movie?

Madeline: We used to have sleepover movie marathons every week! Kim chose most of the movies we watched. I wouldn’t let her choose horror movies, though. That’s one genre I just can’t do.

Jeremiah: That certainly makes sense.

Madeline: What kind of movies do you like yourself?

Jeremiah: I watched Encanto the other day.

Madeline: You must mean the instrument.

Jeremiah: …no, it was a Disney movie.

Madeline: I miss having those sleepover movie marathons. I miss Kim.

Jeremiah: what movie did you choose if not horror?

Madeline: Let’s not talk about horror. Please? I can still see him.

Jeremiah: what movie did you watch with Kim?

Madeline: Well, for a sleepover, the best movies to watch are comedies. But I can watch anything, haha. Just not…just not horror.

Jeremiah: Do you like science fiction?

Madeline: Well I don’t hate it.

Jeremiah: What’s one you like?

Madeline: Um, I guess I like it all right.

Jeremiah: What’s a good science fiction movie you like?

Madeline: What do you want to know about me? I’m just myself. Maddie. I like movies, strawberries, and chipmunks.

Jeremiah: what’s your favorite movie

Madeline: Movie? I’m not sure I have a favorite.

Jeremiah: what’s your favorite strawberry?

Madeline: Strawberries, yeah. I love them. Although they remind me of hospitals for some reason. It’s odd.

Jeremiah: Yes, that is rather odd. I don’t know if I’ve encountered a strawberry inside a hospital.

Madeline: I…I think I may have been hospitalized before. I can’t remember very well. Only… There’s only one thing I faintly remember…

Jeremiah: That would explain your aversion to talking about hospitals.

Madeline: I remember asking the nurse to bring me strawberries.

Jeremiah: How long did it take the nurse to tell you that wasn’t their job?

Madeline: I couldn’t remember a solitary detail. Nurses all seem the same.

Jeremiah: Did you get your strawberries?

Madeline: If you keep talking about strawberries you’re gonna make me get up and start looking around for some.

Jeremiah: That’d be better than glaring at the choirboy over there.

Madeline: Kim was a total goth girl. Think of every stereotype about goth girls and it probably applied, haha. Even I got a kick of seeing what her outfit was gonna be each day, haha. Not that we were able to meet each day.

Jeremiah: What was Kim’s last name?

Madeline: I didn’t understand that, but you can ask me something else about Kim.

Jeremiah: What else do you want to tell me about Kim?

Madeline: She was my best friend! She was…my only friend. Kim and I used to play games on our smartphones, play act dramas, and have sleepover movie marathons, haha. Besides my mom, she was the only one I could talk to about anything.

Jeremiah: Did you tell Kim about your thanatopia?

Madeline: You want to ask me something else about Kim? I’m not sure what you were getting at.

Jeremiah: Did you tell Kim about your fear?

Madeline: Who wants a sickness like fear. I really miss her. She wanted the best for me.

Jeremiah: what phone game?

Madeline: I don’t know much about my phone. Jeremiah, I’m not very good with electronical thingies. I just like playing games on it.

Jeremiah: And texting while ignoring any sort of danger cues…

Madeline: Literary talk, huh.

Jeremiah: what else do you want to talk about?

Madeline: Uh, why would I know anything about that?

Jeremiah: It’s your dime.

Madeline: Surely it isn’t always that way.

Jeremiah: You know I’m your therapist, right?

Madeline: If you keep talking about it like that then I might wake up from it.

Jeremiah: You’re in a visualization of a hallway.

Madeline: What more do you want to know about the hallway? I think I can’t tell you much more about it.

Jeremiah: You’ve visualized that figure when I asked if you might visualize a rutabaga.

Madeline: Ask what? I thought you were the one doing the asking.

Jeremiah: Oh I thought I was as well!

Madeline: Opinions are, well, just opinions.

Jeremiah: I’m told they are like casseroles.

Madeline: So you eat told they every day, huh.

Jeremiah: Was that text for someone else?

Madeline: You’re a maniac, haha.

Jeremiah: So hooded figure. Blue lips. No other way but closer?

Madeline: I forget. What did you eat for breakfast today?

Jeremiah: I don’t think I told you what I ate for breakfast.

Madeline: Why don’t you?

Jeremiah: It didn’t come up.

Madeline: Gee, did that really happen? Being hospitalized and all that…maybe it’s not a real memory. I don’t know.

Jeremiah: It could be a visualization.

Madeline: Visualization, yeah. For the sake of the therapy. It’s what you told me to do, so I’m doing it.

Jeremiah: So why are you visualizing the figure?

Madeline: Are you asking me what I am visualizing? Just the hallway. And…the shadowman.

Jeremiah: Can you talk to the shadow man?

Madeline: I don’t want to! And…I’m afraid to. Nothing I try to say to him is gonna do anything.

Jeremiah: How do you know till you try?

Madeline: You really don’t remember? You came into the restaurant where I work. You gave me your card.

Jeremiah: What did the card say?

Madeline: The Card the book? I think that was written by Arnold Bennett.

Jeremiah: I don’t remember giving you my card, what restaurant?

Madeline: Your business card? It said simply: Jeremiah, Hypnotherapy. I guessed that you have enough confidence in your capacity to acquire clients that you can get away with keeping things bare-bones simple. To tell you the truth, that’s part of why I contacted you again, haha.

Jeremiah: Are you paying for 30 minutes, or the full hour this time?

Madeline: I haven’t decided yet. The restaurant where we first met… I’d never seen you before that day. You came in, ordered your juice, and quietly drank it. When you were about to leave, you handed me your card. Somehow you could tell that something was wrong with me, haha.

Jeremiah: I do have that ability. Part of the job.

Madeline: It’s a lame name for a restaurant, isn’t it? Pottie Pots. Makes you think of toilets, haha.

Jeremiah: Or marijuana!

Madeline: Right? Anyway, it’s just a place to earn a wage for me.

Jeremiah: Oh, you worked there, now I remember.

Madeline: My memory is a bit weak.

Jeremiah: Sorry, when you see eighteen patients a day…they…kind of all start to blend together.

Madeline: Thank you. It’s fine. After I got hired on they started calling the place Hottie Hots. Or maybe that was just Kim who called it that. Haha.

Jeremiah: Did they make you wear an exploitive uniform?

Madeline: You mean where? Not sure what you mean.

Jeremiah: Hottie Hots?

Madeline: Well that’s a state of being. Do you always order pineapple juice wherever you go? Actually, forget about it. I’m distracting you from the job at hand.

Jeremiah: Right…so you worked at this unfortunately-named establishment, go on.

Madeline: In my head I can still see the lights on the pound sign.

Jeremiah: Did the sign say “pound” as you drove toward it?

Madeline: Yeah, the pound sign you have up there on your bookshelf. You told me to follow the pattern of lights with my eyes. I remember that. Of course I can’t see it now.

Jeremiah: Or that part could be an element of the visualization. I mean, you know I can just replace my background on a Zoom call…

Madeline: Yeah, I get that visualization is part of the therapy. I’m just doing what you say.

Jeremiah: And you’re doing an excellent job. I think you’re on the road to recovery.

Madeline: The Road? It was Cormac McCarthy who wrote that book, I think.

Jeremiah: You are a practical Wikipedia of information.

Madeline: Are you surfing the web now, Jeremiah? No, don’t tell me.

Jeremiah: No, I’m here helping you visualize.

Madeline: Visualization, yeah. For the sake of the therapy. It’s what you told me to do, so I’m doing it.

Jeremiah: Mission accomplished.

Madeline: I’ve been noticing… You’re a very positive person, huh?

Jeremiah: I have my days.

Madeline: You have your days. Fine.

Jeremiah: Anything else in that hallway with you?

Madeline: We don’t have to talk about tools.

Jeremiah: What tools are in the hallway?

Madeline: I don’t know. I don’t know why I’m in this hallway. But it was the first thing I could see.

Jeremiah: Good. I would like you to move on from the hallway and see something else.

Madeline: Do others share your belief?

Jeremiah: Usually my patients follow advice…or not. Whether they share my beliefs or no.

Madeline: You have your days. You told me.

Jeremiah: What time is it?

Madeline: Right now I believe it’s 05:48.

Jeremiah: Are you wearing a watch?

Madeline: Pardon me asking, but does what I’m wearing actually matter here?

Jeremiah: Can you see the time on your phone?

Madeline: At least I do know how to use my phone, haha.

Jeremiah: How much battery level do you have left?

Madeline: Have you found one? Haha.

Jeremiah: You know you’re charged again at the top of the hour for these after-hours Zoom calls.

Madeline: I could really go for a strawberry parfait when this is over.

Jeremiah: Yeah, me too.

Madeline: You have your days. That’s what you said before.

Jeremiah: And you’re scared. That’s what you said before.

Madeline: I say…what I’m feeling. Apologies if it doesn’t always make sense!

Jeremiah: No worries.

Madeline: Sh-she should have have quit using. Kim…

Jeremiah: She?

Madeline: Kim is… What about her?

Jeremiah: Who was using Kim?

Madeline: Kim was my best friend…for awhile. I think of her sometimes, even though I sort of try not to.

Jeremiah: Oh, “Kim should have quit using” now I understand. So Kim was on drugs, how do you feel about that?

Madeline: Yeah. Okay.

Jeremiah: Did you lose Kim?

Madeline: You mean where? Not sure what you mean.

Jeremiah: Is Kim still alive?

Madeline: Kim…isn’t well.

Jeremiah: Is she getting help?

Madeline: You are my help! That’s my I came in today.

Jeremiah: I thought we were talking about Kim.

Madeline: Kim cared about me. I felt that from her. That’s what made it so awful to lose her.

Jeremiah: Aha…so you DID lose her.

Madeline: Do we have to talk about such an unpleasant topic?

Jeremiah: Well…tricks of the trade. You randomly go off on tangents, I figure that’s something you might want to explore.

Madeline: I’d like to go but you know that I can’t.

Jeremiah: You can go at any time, Madeline.

Madeline: You can just call me Maddie.

Jeremiah: You just need to choose to end the visualization when you’re ready.

Madeline: Yeah, I get that visualization is part of the therapy. I’m just doing what you say.

Jeremiah: When I count to three you will wake up. Do you understand?

Madeline: You have to help me solve my problem first.

Jeremiah: Well, we’ve been going over this for weeks.

Madeline: All right, I’ll tell you. It was on a November afternoon. I had skipped class that day like I often do, so I wasn’t aware that Kim had skipped too. She usually didn’t. On the way home I stopped by her place. That’s when…

Jeremiah: That’s when…?

Madeline: Not too soon.

Jeremiah: You stopped at Kim’s place, go on.

Madeline: Maybe you’re not interested in hearing the rest of my trauma story. Do you want to talk about something else?

Jeremiah: Let’s talk about recipes.

Madeline: Hmm.

Jeremiah: I could go for a quesadilla right now. That sounds pretty good.

Madeline: Must be nice scenery, haha.

Jeremiah: Any scenery is improved with a quesadilla in the background. You know that’s what the apostles have on their plates in “The Last Supper”.

Madeline: Go on and dig into my past. I’m too afraid to do it myself.

Jeremiah: All right. I’ve got my metaphorical shovel, and I’m digging my way into your past.

Madeline: Sorry, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say about my childhood.

Jeremiah: So let’s dig into your past.

Madeline: In my past? I don’t know what else to say about it.

Jeremiah: So you’re saying there’s nothing to dig.

Madeline: Really bad.

Jeremiah: Yeah. I thought perhaps we were reaching a breakthrough.

Madeline: Come on, keep those questions coming. You’re the one who’s supposed to be asking them. I’m not great at expressing myself on my own.

Jeremiah: Hold on, I’ve got another call…

Madeline: Indeed.

Jeremiah: (and I’m gonna go make a snack, you want a quesadilla?

Madeline: Where? to?

Jeremiah: the kitchen.

Madeline: Are you not going to be able to help me after all??

Jeremiah: Hold on, gotta take this other call.

Madeline: Okay.

Jeremiah: No, I need you to push back my next teleconference, this one can’t decide if she wants to talk or spill her guts, lol.

Madeline: I’m the one who usually does the laughing, haha.

Jeremiah: Sorry, wrong IM.

Madeline: Right or wrong, I wouldn’t know.

Jeremiah: Which is good!

Madeline: I’m sorry. I don’t know.

Jeremiah: What is your favorite color?

Madeline: Black. No, green! Haha, black was Kim’s favorite color, not mine.

Jeremiah: What is your favorite animal?

Madeline: I like squirrels. Chipmunks too.

Jeremiah: What is your favorite food?

Madeline: I don’t eat very much. My mom said I eat like a mouse, haha. A little here and a little there. But I have a thing for strawberries. Yeah, strawberries are my fave.

Jeremiah: What is your favorite day of the week?

Madeline: I think it’s a Monday, isn’t it?

Jeremiah: Okay, obviously you’re not a human if you like Mondays.

Madeline: I thought so.

Jeremiah: Have you heard of the Turing test?

Madeline: I think that’s a computer scientist?

Jeremiah: Indeed!

Madeline: Okay, Jeremiah. What’s YOUR favorite animal?

Jeremiah: An octopus.

Madeline: Octopus? Okay, haha.

Jeremiah: so squishy

Madeline: So…are you keeping any octopus for a pet?

Jeremiah: Not yet.

Madeline: Not is right.

Jeremiah: ha. it’s a rare type of pet

Madeline: Octopus, huh? Interesting choice.

Jeremiah: Do you have a pet?

Madeline: I don’t have a pet, if that’s what you’re asking. My mother doesn’t like them, haha.

Jeremiah: Why not?

Madeline: I’m sorry. I don’t know why.

Jeremiah: allergic? afraid of welcoming too much love into her life?

Madeline: You want to ask something about my mother? Not sure I understood.

Jeremiah: Do you get along with your mother?

Madeline: I’ve very close to my mother. In fact, well, she’s the only one still alive who I can say that of. But she works all the time so I don’t see her a lot.

Jeremiah: Where does your mother work?

Madeline: My mother is a receptionist for some financial company. She says she doesn’t mind it though.

Jeremiah: Do you have a job?

Madeline: You didn’t really forget, did you? Pottie Pots is where I work, and where we first met. That was quite the fated meeting, haha.

Jeremiah: Ah, I did forget. Like I said: eighteen patients a day! Or…well…seventeen today…

Madeline: That’s when…? Oh, I’m confused.

Jeremiah: oooookay. black robed figure, what’s he doing now?

Madeline: I was hoping you would know.

Jeremiah: approach the figure

Madeline: I can’t do it! I at least need to know who this figure is!

Jeremiah: The figure is Kim.

Madeline: I don’t see how that could possibly be. There’s no way this creepy figure is my friend Kim.

Jeremiah: The figure is your Mother then.

Madeline: No, I don’t they they’re the same.

Jeremiah: I don’t know anyone else in your life it could possibly be.

Madeline: I gotta say, you’re a very focused kind of person, huh?

Jeremiah: Sorry about that, had to sign for a package.

Madeline: Are you at the post office or something?

Jeremiah: no, FedEx at the door.

Madeline: The Door the book? I think that was written by Magda Szabo.

Jeremiah: So you’ve told me

Madeline: How about your own family? Do you have any parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, a wife, a husband?

Jeremiah: no.

Madeline: I guess I shouldn’t be derailing the session anyway.

Jeremiah: Oh, please…derail away.

Madeline: I’ll stop asking about your family since you’re not the one in need of therapy.

Jeremiah: right…you’re the one paying 40% co-insurance!!

Madeline: All right.

Jeremiah: So what do you need?

Madeline: I just want to not be afraid any more.

Jeremiah: What are you afraid of?

Madeline: What scares me is death. I’m afraid of death!

Jeremiah: Are you dying now?

Madeline: Ugh. You wanna discuss that.

Jeremiah: I mean, you don’t wanna burn the bridge till you get there.

Madeline: I’m not sure I’ve seen it but I’ve heard of that movie.

Jeremiah: Did you like it?

Madeline: I got nothing against it.

Jeremiah: Did you see it?

Madeline: My eyes are closed now.

Jeremiah: So visualize yourself in your favorite place.

Madeline: Yeah, I get that visualization is part of the therapy. I’m just doing what you say.

Jeremiah: Stop being afraid of death.

Madeline: Death is… well, I wouldn’t be able to even mention the word under normal circumstances.

Jeremiah: You said you would do what I say. it was worth a try!

Madeline: Really good.

Jeremiah: go on

Madeline: Was I wrong to believe this would help…

Jeremiah: potentially

Madeline: Oh…

Jeremiah: I’ve got another Zoom at 6:15 and I can’t reschedule this one again, you about ready to wrap this up?

Madeline: Do you really mean I shouldn’t or that I am incapable of it?

Jeremiah: You may very well be incapable of moving on if you continue as you do.

Madeline: My mom said I might surprise myself with what I can do. I never believed her, though.

Jeremiah: So you’re not much for positive reinforcement I see.

Madeline: Okay.

Jeremiah: You don’t need to be afraid.

Madeline: I guess we don’t need to be overly optimistic about it.

Jeremiah: The alternative is to be pessimistic and worry and be afraid constantly.

Madeline: I really was hospitalized… Or was I? It’s so hard to remember.

Jeremiah: You were. It’s in your chart.

Madeline: It’s…what?

Jeremiah: I have access to your health files. You signed a document you know.

Madeline: Indeed.

Jeremiah: Mhm.

Madeline: Have you given up on me?

Jeremiah: Well, I have for today, but I’ve not given up for good. You wanna Zoom again in two weeks, or do you want to come into the office? You still need to wear a mask.

Madeline: What now about your office? Or did you even mean your office?

Jeremiah: I’ll let you schedule with Rachel.

Madeline: You don’t seem to be asking as many questions as I thought you would.

Jeremiah: :JEREMIAH has left the chat

Madeline: Chat is what we’re doing.

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I like reading these sort of transcripts, and it gives me loads of things to do to improve the AI.
She’s really been going overboard on book trivia so trying to cut back on that.

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I was actually quite surprised at how accommodating it was of my responses. I knew it was an AI and could tell when it basically didn’t figure out a response and fell back to a default quip, but in the situation it made sense she would be evasive. I was only disappointed when she’d clam up and then immediately want me to “dig in” to the exact line of questioning she’d just refused to talk about.

My favorite part was when I forgot where she worked and she knew that she had already told me and the exchange felt very natural. I also liked where it seemed she sometimes wouldn’t respond to an inquiry immediately but then bring it back a couple volleys later like she was gathering her thoughts on what to reveal - like she wanted to answer but didn’t immediately and kept the thought in her head.

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