I hope you’re doing well.
Mask of the Rose is a relatively new choice-based IF story from Falbetter Games. Emily Short, of parser-based IF fame as the author of Counterfeit Monkey is credited as the designer and co-writer of Mask.
I’m wondering whether anyone reading this post has tried this game. If so, do you think it might be useful in education?
I’ve spent about sixty-five hours with the story so far. I’ve found it tremendously engaging and wonderfully re-playable. Mask describes itself as a dating sim, but, like many such simulations, it allows the reader to choose a player-character who is not interested in overtly sexual encounters.
What do you think?
Failbetter Games is the studio behind Fallen London, right?
Yeah, and Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies.
I found Mask of the Rose a little unsatisfying, like it couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be. And the quality of the writing and choice design was kinda uneven: some was excellent, some kinda rote/clunky/phoning-it-in. But it seemed like there was a lot of good stuff in there and I keep meaning to get back to it and do another couple playthroughs.
What kind of educational purposes are you thinking about, Brendan? That is, are you thinking about this game for game or narrative design courses? Or are you thinking about using this as a work to explore critically in a more general education context?
In either case, I think the work would be worthwhile to consider. I got done with my first play through of the game last night and really enjoyed it. I didn’t really pursue the romance sim narrative threads, but enjoyed learning about the different characters and goings on in the 'Neath.
Hi, Josh and Everyone,
I think Josh’s assessment of Mask is closer to the majority take than mine. I have to admit that even “The Short Game” podcast, which is always gentle with its criticism, did not like “Mask” all that much.
I’m still into it though. I found a new and interesting wrinkle just yesterday, in my sixty-fifth hour of “Masking.”
I have a variety of interests in educational IF. These days, I spend most of my time teaching undergraduates, but I stick mostly with parser-based stories with them, since my plan is to eventually get them writing in Inform 7. Also, I work with an IF club at a local public library. Here, the students are younger, ranging in age from 11 to 17. I’m thinking of trying Mask with this group, during a time when this group skews more to the 15 and older folks.
Yes, but Emily Short is a relative newcomer to the company, I think.
According to LinkedIn, Emily joined Failbetter in 2020 and left in July of this year. It looks as though she’s once again working as a freelance consultant.
That’s really cool, Brendan! Yeah, I think the game would be suitable for most of those audiences, and the game certainly is interesting from the perspective of teaching game design and fostering conversations about IF in the more informal setting of the library club.
Like I mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t explore too many of the romance avenues in my play through, but I also didn’t encounter anything that was too explicit or unsuitable for a teenage audience. I’d be curious if others encountered more explicit content that I just didn’t run into due to how I played the game.
I think the public take on MotR is at least a bit due to false expectations, to a degree. I’m pretty sure it has a good dose of Emily Short’s experience in complex simulated relationships and conversations, even if they didn’t go so far as to recreate Versu in Ink. Since it superficially looks like the more linear visual novel genre, though, the awkwardness of weird-sim bugs and recycled text stands out more awkwardly than it would in something more obviously simulation-heavy (eg. a more RPG-ish experience like Caves of Qud).
Also FWIW, Emily Short has done a fair bit of writing for Failbetter in their previous titles (Fallen London, as well as Sunless Seas and/or Skies I believe) as a freelance writer, so she’s not new to the story world.