Sophia de Augustine's SeedComp Perusal

I unfortunately had to tuck my own intended entry off to the side for the time being (time constraints, as ever!) but like Charm, wanted to try to fire off a couple of reviews for the games featured in the competition.

Full Reviews

I’m looking forward to trying out Manon’s entry- as well as Amanda and Bez’s, especially as the latter two used my poem-seed entered into round 1!

I’ve briefly flicked through all three, (while absently working on a school assignment, I wanted to get a feel/first impression before I can sit down and really hammer out my thoughts on each during a proper playthrough) and am honestly delighted.

Manon mentioned she might be making a silly noir and I cheered because noir is one of my favourite genres, (to read, not to write- I’m far too loquacious, but I love the snappy and tight writing in the genre, I was introduced to Chandler in a class and got hooked.) I like how playful her writing often is, and even just a little nibble at the narrative already reveals this game is much in line with that same style.

Amanda is one of my favourite authors, and I’ve been fangirling ever since I found out that she was making a game around one of my poems. I’m not really one for parser games, but she and Mike have gotten me to come around more to playing and dabbling around in the space. Even just a preliminary brush over the work reveals the same gorgeous prose I’ve come to associate with her work. Such a treat!

I’ve played a handful of Bez’s games, including Bi-Lines, which ever since I played it, has lingered in the back of my mind. It’s a piece that I can relate to, in many aspects- and I’ve come to associate Bez’s works with hard hitting, salient commentary on difficult to discuss topics, often focusing on centring narratives that rarely see screen time. I imagine this will be along similar lines- though I did get initially queasy at seeing the 14 year old mentioned, paired with the content warnings… This might be another piece that’s difficult for me to confront, (I am anticipating having to similarly steel myself to read Amanda’s, as from what I’ve seen it focuses on the car accident) but I look forward to it all the same.

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Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets (by Bez) @Norbez

I'm going to be hiding my unstructured/live time play through thoughts behind a drop down because of the nature of some of the content in the game. Please heed the content warnings inside of HG/HS, and proceed with caution.
  • The background noise is kind of annoying. The little message blips are cute but I very rarely listen to the audio of games- (including Stardew, which shocks a lot of people I’ve mentioned it to?).

  • They’ve done a very good job of imitating a messenger interface and as someone who’s basically always on Discord, it was very intuitive. It almost reminds me a bit of Blooming Panic’s interface, which was very solid UI. The little flickering “X is typing” touch especially is really lovely.

  • One thing that didn’t really work for me was the odd toggling through options- I kept accidentally sending one without meaning to, or swapping the option because my impulse is to click on the message to send it while using the arrows off to the side to switch through options.

  • I kind of giggled at the mention of a Kit, since it makes me think of our Kit. Just a coincidence, I’m sure, but I smiled all the same. I like Kit’s silly bo billy little posts and our occasional interactions on Tumblr.

  • The variety of communication presentations was really cool- emails, logs, the chat. The logs really made me think of the basic formatting on some older IF sites or MUD logs/wikis, which was a nice immersive touch.

  • It was deeply uncomfortable to have to play the unsympathetic character as George with asking why they couldn’t wait for a better time to come forward. I’m also really upset by the fact that this conversation is happening where a child could see- (a bit confused as to why this conversation is taking place in a public channel where August could see, even if he had gone to sleep, if the goal was to keep him from knowing, wouldn’t it make more sense for it to occur in another channel? But I guess you have to suspend that disbelief for narrative tidiness) but I think the like, being upset and discomforted is the point. Bez’s work rarely holds back on the punches.

  • Yeah, going in from the warnings and the second I saw that 14 year old mentioned, my stomach lurched- I knew Kit would be involved somehow in the centre of the story. I feel really sad for Kit. I can empathize with that experience. And 14 is so young.

  • God, the sicko repeating the phrase ‘you are a very talented young lady’ makes me rabid. I’m glad he’s maybe-dying in the story. “And your remark about God—
    hah! If I were God, oh, the things I would do. Controlling the weather would
    be just the start.” Ew! EW! EWWW!

  • I specifically chose the options to reveal information to the group for each of the characters- as uncomfy as it was, it’s important to have candid discussions on this sort of thing. Hiding things- feeling too ashamed to share, like no one will believe you, like it’s your fault- these are all things I’ve grappled with, and it’s what lets this sort of thing perpetuate, especially in a group dynamic where the perpetrator has social power.

  • The pacing of the text was a bit slow- I often found myself having to wait around for a bit, maybe leave the tab open and scroll back up. I wish there was a way to toggle speed- a lot to ask for from a design perspective, though, so it’s not the end of the world. Bloomic’s fast toggle and adjustable speed I think is something Ren’py natively supports, which makes it easier, but I loved that function.

My overall thoughts of the game… I think I figured out that my seed had been used to frame the whole accident that the dude was in? Overall, this was a really polished piece- the various presentations (emails, logs, the chat) were super slick. The ending hit me a bit abruptly, but that’s understandable, given the time constraints around development.

HG/HS deals with some pretty upsetting content- but it warns adequately for it, and I think the point of some pieces of media isn’t really to comfort, but to confront.

When put against the larger body of Bez’s work, I often find myself in uncomfortable shoes: no one likes to feel like they’re actively being a terrible person, and that discomfort is important to sit with. A lot of the reactions- though they feel hyperbolic or like, ‘no one could possibly be like that’ to those unfamiliar with living through these scenarios themselves: yeah, people are actually that mean. These stories are difficult to tell. They’re important to listen to, anyway.

Saying that I ‘liked’ this game feels a bit off to me. Instead, I will say that the experience rung true, and the story was presented well. This game also feels very ‘Bez.’ Do I suggest others play it? Sure, if they feel like they’re in an emotional space to handle very difficult topics. Proceed with caution: and take care of yourself.

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I’m playing Amanda’s game. I already know I will need to play it at least another time. I’m all teary eyed. The writing is so beautiful. I hardly want to slow down enough to take notes- I just want to devour the game. This one line really jumped out at me though, and I want to share it-

He’s driving, hands caressing the wheel because even though the car is a piece of shit, he bought it, it’s his, he loves it.

It reminded me of this one poem that still haunts me. It’s Accident Report in the Tall, Tall Weeds, by Ada Limón.

When the plane went down in San Francisco, I thought of my friend M. He’s obsessed with plane crashes.
He memorizes the wrecked metal details, the clear cool skies cut by black scars of smoke.
Once, while driving, he told me about all the crashes: The one in blue Kentucky, in yellow Iowa.
How people go on, and how people don’t.
It was almost a year before I learned that his brother was a pilot.
I can’t help it,
I love the way men love.

I’ll write more later. I just had to share.

ETA: I’ve been sitting here crying into my soup and eating it like the world’s scraggliest kitten two seconds from dunking into his milk. I’m at a loss for words. It’s everything I could want from a reading of the poem. If teenage me saw that something I penned way back when would be read through this sort of lens, I’d lose my mind. It’s so lovely. I want to tear through another run through of it. I want to sit down and savour the sentences slowly. Mostly I’m going to be scraggly and have it rotate around in my head overnight.

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