Heal Butcher, agency, and the reader experience

Thought I’d go ahead and bring up some ADRIFT games I played recently, both by an author named Heal Butcher, and see if anyone can provide thoughts on two particular design-based themes in this author’s work. The games involved are 1) The Wheels Must Turn and 2) Silk Noil. Both were written in 2001.

From what I can tell, the two salient features of each happen to be their peculiar diction and (throughout in Wheels, from the ending in Silk) lack of player agency. Personally, I did feel some satisfaction in reading through each, as they demonstrate unique world-building and drip with atmosphere & tone-- perhaps this author intended to use lack of agency to reinforce the themes in their fiction? In light of these works-- and any others which might usefully come to the discussion-- I wonder if it is the opinion of the forum that this justifies their presentation in the form of interactive fiction or, indeed, whether such justification need be sought at all.

Rameses is the first similar game that comes to mind (similar in the lack of control you have over the player character…I don’t think I’ve ever played anything with a similar tone and writing style to HealButcher’s work) and might be a game the average IFer is more familiar with for the purpose of this discussion.

…I also distinctly remember playing a game once where the main character was a vase, I can’t remember the title but I’m almost certain I didn’t hallucinate the whole thing. Maybe somebody can help me out here.

Somehow, I get the following picture:

Robert Rothman

Constraints by Martin Bays. I enjoyed it a lot more than Rameses, though I played Rameses early on in my IF experience so maybe I wasn’t prepared for the joke. [EDIT: OK, “joke” is not quite the right word. I should check out Mr. Butcher’s works.]

That was it, thanks Matt! I played again, and it was just as infuriating as I remembered. :slight_smile:

Heal Butcher’s stuff is definitely…unique, I do recommend you check them out if you’ve got a few minutes. It’s a shame he seems to have pretty much disappeared after writing a couple of games, I would’ve have liked to see what his work eventually evolved into. It’s kind of sad Silk Noil and As the Wheels Turn are both so tiny, though I imagine the writing style would have been really difficult to keep consistent in a full-sized game.

Although in general I wanted more, I think their being quick reads is a strength in both pieces.