From an author’s perspective, I tried to leave the interpretation of Map entirely open. I honestly don’t know whether what’s happening is real, dreamed, imagined, some sort of ‘dubious magic’, actual time travel or wish fulfillment. The ending is phrased as a constructed fantasy. Or is it, as jason points out, an imagined one? Someone asked me if I intended the ending to be a constructed version of ‘heaven’ - and whether Elaine was living in some sort of purgatory. I hadn’t even thought of that as a possible interpretation - but it might be.
Personally, I preferred to believe that the story was at some level real (if bizarre) because the moral impact seems much less if Elaine is just imagining what might have happened if she’d done things differently in the past. Likewise all the elements where we find that Elaine misunderstood the people around her, especially her husband. Those things (I think) have to have some independent truth outside Elaine’s imagination if they’re to be really meaningful.
I admired Map more than I actually enjoyed it, but it wasn’t meant to be a light, fun piece so I think that’s a perfectly valid reaction. I’m glad that it wasn’t a straightforward ‘put right all the wrong decisions you’ve made’ game, especially since personally I didn’t necessarily think that a couple of the decisions the protagonist had made had been wrong in the first place. I thought the way the story developped depending on your choices was well executed even though my inability to access the dynamic map meant that I spent much of the game wandering about trying to find the new rooms and often missed out on engaging with past scenes because I didn’t find the relevant room until a few days after they appeared when the potential had already been drained from the room which left a number of parts of the protagonist’s story incomplete and hard to piece together. I also felt that the protagonist was somewhat under-developped as a character and that some of her characterisation seemed odd. For example, she is described as being forty years old, but her interactions with her husband suggest a considerably older woman, perhaps in her late fifties, I have no idea if this was deliberate or not or if I am just completely misreading it. Anyway, I think all of this did create some distance between the protagonist and I which is probably why I didn’t get as much out of the experience of playing Map as I felt I should. It was a wonderfully written and conceived piece over all. Also, I’ve not seen this mentioned in any reviews, but I found the similarities between Map and Mark Z. Danielewski’s astonishing novel ‘House of Leaves’ very striking. I don’t want to ruin ‘House of Leaves’ for anyone who hasn’t read it, especially since describing anything about the book or its format would be a massive spoiler, but I would definitely say that anyone who enjoyed the way the house functions in Map is likely to love ‘House of Leaves’. It’s also got quite a few elements I think could constitute interactive fiction!
I haven’t read House of Leaves, Sarah, but you are the second person to have noted the similarities. I will do so.
Thank you for your comments.