Systemic endings (Spoilers for Map)

I found it difficult to get into Map it just doesn’t seem to mesh with my way of thinking. I did find the memory-laden rooms around the house evocative and moving especially the absent children’s rooms. I didn’t find the metaphor of the film projector compelling. It was slow going. I played three times and eventually got to the first choice but didn’t figure out what action to take.

Visiting the past, I revised history by telling my aunt that she could come to live, I went back to the house through the magic door, thinking I should discuss inviting somebody to move in with partner Derek, then use the telephone to confirm the invitation if Derek agreed. But, tragically, I misinterpreted/forgot the difference in times/dates on either side of the magic door so that the opportunity to save my aunt from a retirement home (an opportunity which seemed marginal for an apathetic main character - a senior can be high maintenance. I thought it was finely balanced whether having supportive but stressful company at home would make or break the MC) was long gone after I stepped through the door, thereby stepping through time to a later date (i.e. back to the present).

The fine balance of the choice, in my mind, makes it a powerful dilemma.

It turned out that Derek regretted that we had missed the chance to live with my aunt - I should have talked to him more earlier before the choice but I didn’t think of the aunt as a topic. I think I know what to do now. I heard from reviews that there are a series of choices which have ramifications for the MC (and the house) in the present. I’m eager to see that. It’s on my todo list to play further.

I can’t help thinking that a choice-based game, abstracting exploring the rooms into narrative exposition with only the choices of whether or not to revise the past as formal narrative choices would have been a shallower but more effective way to experience the work for me.

The mechanic of going back in time to (try to) fix what went wrong is a commonplace in romantic fiction. But wish fulfilment doesn’t agree with my philosophy, leaving me feeling uncomfortable about the plot. If the main character is really disturbed, perhaps mentally ill, I don’t care for the metaphorical message that wishing will make it better. I’m not convinced the narrative couldn’t be just as effective running forwards in time (from the past) presenting the same choices without the need for dubious magic.

My thoughts went along similar lines, but I reached a different conclusion:

In a broken-timeline narrative, how do we know that the framing story (i.e. the textual beginning and end) represents the present, something that “actually” happened? In Map, it is only during the flashbacks that we have agency, and the choices we make determine how the framing story unfolds. Furthermore, the framing story is surreal, while the flashbacks are down-to-earth. Well, what if it’s the flashbacks that are the present, and the framing story represents the future as envisioned (if not by the main character, then at least by an omniscient narrator) at the time we make the choices?

Granted, this interpretation requires us to envision reality as nested inside a dream-like structure (here not only as flashbacks in a framing story, but also as rooms in a house), which violates our common-sense view that unreal dreams belong inside real brains. But a broken timeline already violates common sense, in much the same way.

I don’t know if this interpretation was intended by the author, or to what extent that would even matter. But it struck me as a fascinating narrative device that could probably be taken further.

Hm, that’s interesting – so sort of an extension of what happens in Fate, where the protagonist is able to foresee outcomes.

I agree; that’s part of the reason I had written this only felt “sort of” like time travel. It was more like creating an out-of-sequence story of your very own.

I’m not sure it’s wish fulfillment. I thought some of the odder outcomes (try not dancing at the very last choice, for instance) indicate it’s not just that.