Uncle Dunc's Petite Mort Reviews for ECTOCOMP 2022

Okily dokily, time to start posting some thoughts I wrote down about a few Petite Mort entries from ECTOCOMP 2022. I’m hoping I can get through them all (playing in a random order) and will have time to take on some Grand Guignol entries as well, but those reviews if I get to them will be in a separate post. Hopefully I’ll have a bunch of time to get through Petite Mort stuff this weekend but who knows? Time is a mystery and circumstances are ever the moles randomly popping their heads from holes, now here and now there and sometimes impossible to hammer down.

[edit to disclose that while I’ve responded to some reviews of my own game in other threads, I have so far intentionally scrolled past other reviews in order to avoid spoilers and develop my own reactions to these things although I will undoubtedly be checking out all manner of other reviews afterward]


mmmm… short and humorous, short enough I don’t really want to quote anything because you can play this over the course of a couple minutes and see for yourself. Your mileage will probably vary by your tolerance of the diction, but it is definitely Grunk-like and if IFDB is to be believed people love Grunk. I think the primary joke here is less in the voice that carries it though and more in the broad idea that someone’s brain would have the habit of reviewing their culinary experience so burned into it that they would even do it when zombified. It did make me laugh. There are some chuckles to be had at the individual descriptions as well, but I would also note that this sentence itself is too dry to be as effective as it wants to be.

This one is cooked to a congratulatory “Well done.”


Condensed, plays a lot with Inform default responses. It gave me a chuckle. Also features a WIN command, which I’ve always enjoyed. I suspect there’s more to it since I have been able to get three endings and I’m sure there’s more riffing on default responses going on, but the WIN ending did tell me I’d seen everything, so I’m going to take its word on that for now and maybe come back later. Some of it (most?) is enjoyably surreal, especially (for me) the Nothing item.

My favorite ending so far was the one where remembering a cursed, forgotten language dooms everyone.


As far as I could tell this is kinda like a one-word Mad Lib, except on my first playthrough the first three words I wanted to offer the game were rejected (toad, frog, bum), with some contextually nonsensical “did you mean?” suggestions (goad, grog, aum) [then again, I guess you could say someone is a goad if they always try to get you to do things], so that didn’t start the thing off on the right foot. I went with “hippie,” but I’m not sure the ensuing text reflected that at all. The ending is as far as I could tell invariably the old miser falling asleep peacefully thinking he’s absolved himself. I didn’t see that there was more to it than that.

This didn’t really come off as spooky to me, but it was written under time constraint and the idea of absolving a rich miser does horrify me a little, so I suppose that all counts as two thumbs up, pass go and collect $200 ECTOCOMP material. I would probably need to know more about the system used to create it or what it’s doing under the hood to really say much more about it. Like if it’s gonna be a Mad Lib, and not affect the outcome, why not just let the player type any word? Then again maybe it does affect the outcome in an instance I just didn’t see.


Neat concept! Overall this is a condensed shot of creepy fun that lets the reader experience all it has to offer (as far as I could tell anyway) without having to reboot. I kept getting the sense there was maybe a way out (one dream seems to suggest cutting something out of me, there’s an opportunity to get a knife in another), but while it would be cool to have a solution, it’s also all the more nightmarish I would think to keep the player trapped. To paraphrase Thomas Ligotti, in nightmares salvation from the hell of the mind is only retroactively invented by dreamers with a redemptive agenda.



Slow fade in not cool, always left me feeling impatient but also like I was potentially missing something. Not sure I believe the dialog, but I would have to take a lot longer than I am typing now to put my finger on exactly why. Super impressive to’ve been coded for Petit Mort, all told.

ZALGOTEXT (this is neither positive nor negative, only ZALGO [actually, I should say a little more about it and that would probably be that the vertically longer strings of ZALGOTEXT spilling into other responses was a good use of the form for its intended effect]).

Disappointed the last option just ends the game, no written end or epilogue or anything as far as I could tell. It definitely seemed ripe for some final stab.

Overall though, minus any quibbles this is a slick execution of a creepy, supernatural horror story about forbidden knowledge, obsessiveness/compulsion (thus the title), and doubles/duplicity, all classic horror themes. It gets the brain going; wondering, fearing, doubting…


Ho ho ho, time to take this ol’ house and “get it nice and SPOOKEH!” I’m down for this already. Having to spook the living daylights out of a new inhabitant is great horror fodder, but potentially even better horror comedy fodder (see stuff like, I dunno, Beetlejuice or “Haunting” on the Sega Genesis).

Pretty impressive amount of options, effects, and just stuff going on in this game for a Petite Mort entry. The game also has a good sense of humor [the ending where you haunt nothing is funny and cute, as is the idea that hiding the remote is “wait, too mean”].

I only managed to get two endings so far, but the SPOOKINESS meter seems to suggest this is an optimization puzzle with potentially a full range or spectrum of endings, so I will probably come back to this one later and see what else I can do.



Continuing my review posts, I have notes on a few more Petite Mort entries. I may have more later tonight too, but we’ll see. My sleep cycle has recently changed, so while I might get to another couple tonight, I might also veg out for the few remaining hours of the night before I hit the hay. Still, it seems like there’s some possibility I could have all of the Petite Mort entries knocked out this weekend, after which I’ll start in on the Grand Guignol entries. Continued reviews follow:


This might be the first piece of erotica written for ECTOCOMP (and maybe the first poem, too? Man, I’ve been out of the ECTOCOMP loop for a while), or at least the first I’ve encountered. It’s also free verse, which can be tricky, but it worked for me here. Admittedly it took me a few reads to fully comprehend. My second and third reads cleared up a lot of the confusions I’d had about it so I have rewritten this review entirely to reflect that.

[Useless sidenote that I still wanted to keep from the old review: turns out it’s just a coincidence this poem shares a title with my favorite Hedwig song {except maybe for connoting the LGBTQ content if the Hedwig song was known by the author and done intentionally}. Next year someone oughta submit a “Wicked Little Town” entry for ECTOCOMP.]

I feel I understood the poem better reading through without the sidenotes, as I am easily distracted, and then going back and allowing a reading that added them back in after. I had to get the core down first. Because I was going through and over things a few times I appreciated the restart at the end, but also after a couple times wished there was a way to move back one page instead of only forward, but it is a Petite Mort so I don’t think it really can be dinged for that. Any extra li’l thing can be on the feature creep chopping block when you’ve only got a few hours.

“origin of love” is easily the best homoerotic vampire poem I’ve ever read. I thought its best figurative flourish among many was “only you love him the way/…/a raw socket misses the tooth/restless tongue probing/cavernous ache” (I was less into the “wound bays for a knife” line, admittedly). I was a little less sure about referring to vampirism as a “blight” in the sidenote to “cavernous ache” (although on second thought, too, “blight” is another form of life fed parasitically off the initial plant life and that does play well off “taken root” for that reason too, so maybe it’s actually quite clever), but I mean… that I would have to nitpick over individual words to try to exercise some criticality here speaks to the overall care of the author and the quality result that’s already been wrought here.


This fit into Petite Mort by cutting implementation of unessential scenery, which is totally fair. I like all of the included art and wonder if it’s original and made for this game or borrowed from elsewhere. It certainly has a distinct style.

The game also has a distinct, zany style that fits somewhere between cartoon rendition of a D&D adventure (with monsters, HP, XP and all) and hyperactive kid’s story, zip-zoom, all over the place don’t pause don’t question it let it go anywhere and get wild. This is all fine by me. Slapdash comedy and speed-IF go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Some errors that didn’t detract from my experience, but that might be useful to point out if there’s a post-comp release: An early scene mentions the character’s intention to take taco medicine, but I had already done that. The graveyard entrance description seems to be missing a word at the end of the first sentence. I was unable to interact with the taco before the taco medicine due to disambiguation issues. I also personally could’ve done without the inclusion of the character’s family, who didn’t seem to add much except for the one daughter.

Seems like the monsters never fight back? I suppose the RPG stats are more like window dressing after all. In that case, I think I’d’ve preferred if the punch command just sent my enemies into space without bothering about their HP or damage dealt.

Overall it’s a quick 'n easy, largely one-verb deal, sort of like Mangiasaur or EAT ME. I got chuckles out of it, so thumbs up, although I think it could’ve been tighter.

I think it would be neat to see a sequel where Reg goes into space and has to face everyone he’s ever punched. Where would he punch them to next? Would he have to figure out where to punch certain enemies to defeat them? Or would he have to find another solution?


I could’ve done with some more distinct font colors; these were somehow both muted but also tough on my eyes. I guess I’m not feeling pastel today.

That said, I really appreciated the opening explanation of the mechanics and their distinction by color.

Aaaand I’m chopping off a kidnapping victim’s fingers in gory detail.

My apologies to the author, but I don’t think this my speed. I’m gonna bounce early from this party. Serial killer, SAW franchise, or splatterpunk fans might get more out of this one.


The gothic vibes are strong in this epistolary tale (also appropriate to the form, cf Dracula, et al). The author clearly knows her Ann Radcliffe. About the only other thing I have to say is that although it’s the right size for a Petite Mort, I wanted more. Not in the sense that it underdelivered, but in the sense that I could’ve stayed for a longer read if it were longer. I wonder if there will be a sequel or later release where we get to play as the sister Anne, visit the mansion, and discover or resolve the horror for ourselves, but it’s also just as fitting an ending for the villain to win here and we can leave it at that.



Hey, thanks for reviewing MARTYR ME! Sorry you couldn’t finish it, but I totally get it—the content isn’t for everyone!

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Thanks so much for the lovely review!! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. Free verse is often a difficult beast to wrangle, so I’m thrilled that it worked for you here! My friend pointed out that you had written a review on origin of love, so I rushed to sit down and read it after washing away the grime of public transit and the city at large- and it was a wonderful way to cap off the evening. I’m definitely holding onto this quote as one of my top favourites of all time from a review:


@OverThinking I appreciate your understanding. It’s quality writing, just not a subject matter I can deal with. I was wondering how I would vote for this one last night, but this morning it occurred to me that I think it might be best for me to abstain from voting on it altogether if you don’t mind.

@sophia You’re quite welcome. I’m glad that line of the review didn’t come off as too glib.


I’m impressed that this was coded as speed-IF. It’s fairly short (slightly under an hour playthrough), but has pretty thorough implementation and even accounts for multiple solutions in a few cases.

The story was appropriate for the season without being over the top. I appreciated the thorough hints as well (maybe a post-comp release will include them in-game but I have no complaints about their implementation here; they’re a slick presentation of the classic Invisiclue style), although the hint for setting up the ghost detector in the dining room left a little to be desired, I managed to stumble onto the solution anyway with a little trial and error. I think the shattered china is bugged-- am I supposed to be able to pick it up while wearing the gloves?

That the ghost makes different noises going throughout the house while you have traps set up provides some appropriately spooky ambience without overwhelming the screen with text dumps, which I really appreciate after having somewhat recently played (non-ECTOCOMP) The Impossible Bottle.

The ending does a good job of … what is it exactly? Spoiler tag time, I think. OK, so it subverts your expectations as to the haunt being a ghost but without being patronizing or underwhelming. It’s not “just a cat.” Ghost cat! Yeah! That was a creative and rewarding ending, I thought. Maybe I was also partial to it because I was lonely and adopted a ghost cat last year. “Reggie,” if you wanted to know. It’s a convenient pet because I never have to feed it or anything.


It took me a page or two to pin down what it was about the dialog that was so unique in this game. It’s that everyone is speaking in rhymed couplets! The meter is off, it’s a little strained in places, but they do rhyme. I’m chalking the off-meter up in my read to diagetic reasons and I think I see the author’s wink; the hoity-toity members of our present company fancy themselves poets and speak so because it fits their station, but aren’t always as impressive as they want to believe. (They are, also, coming up with all this presumably off the top of their heads, so I’m sure that deserves leeway in some fashion too.) Later John of Tyre “shift[s] down into the common register,” so yeah. I’m going with that analysis for now.

There are some small spelling/grammatical errors peppered in here, but it’s speed-IF so I can’t mark down for those [e.g., woman/women, than/then, dialog commas that should be periods]. Quibbles.

I was quite engrossed in the sailor’s tale. It’s well told, fits the style. I was a little disappointed that the longer, more involved version where we ultimately refrain from throwing her overboard, but leave her in a rowboat gets such a summarized ending after the telling. I feel like it could’ve ended with one last couplet or something to cap it off. But can I really ding a story for appreciating an author’s style and just wanting more of it?

Note: the rhyming in this story must’ve been infectious to some degree. Squint and you can see where I had to change a few words in this review because I fell into it also.


Social anxiety horror is a ripe field, full to bursting, positively pulsing with potential. Unfortunately, as into the concept as I was for this one, I must admit to having trouble overlooking its blemishes.

I’ll hide my implementation nitpicks here because I’m feeling all self-conscious now.

Pop arrow to gush details

The “x me” command doesn’t change responses after popping the zit or putting bandaid on it and repeats a lot of info from the intro. “x zit” doesn’t reflect that I’ve put concealer (ever?) or a bandaid on it (before the call with the employer). All of the apostrophes in the hint file have turned into Õs for some reason. Missing “tissue” synonym for the wad of TP (it works when it’s on the roll-- a disambiguation issue, perhaps?). “Pop zit” works and “poke zit with pin” works but not “pop zit with pin.” “x zit” reflects the bandaid’s presence only if I apply it after the phone call with Solutions! (it can be applied many times if used before, as can the makeup). If the makeup/bandaid are put on before the call with Solutions!, leaving the bathroom isn’t possible until the application is repeated after.

I’ll wrap this up by saying that the conflict is very real, the characters all feel right, and I did really feel for the protagonist who’s going through a really tough time in her life in at least three ways all at once. Alas that the writing is so solid, but the implementation issues I faced distracted me from really appreciating this one fully.


Great presentation. Overall it’s short and sweet. IF (speed-type especially) and minimalist art/design are two great tastes that taste great together.

Had some GTV issues with the syringe. Thankfully the game includes a verb list. On the opposite end of this, I was pleasantly surprised at the intuitiveness of catch blood in cup.

The cliffhanger ending seems to promise a sequel, which I would definitely play.


Thanks for the review!

One day I will be able to write a polished 5 minute game in 4 hours-- probably when I’m smarter about what I think I can accomplish. I’m sure you can see now how righteous my jealousy of your game is!

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One day I will be able to write a polished 5 minute game in 4 hours

It’s not easy. The ADRIFT community used to have a lot of speed-IF comps, even one hour comps (some of which were surprisingly good given the constraints), and we used to do ECTOCOMP in three hours. [~shudder!~] I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this was my fourth ECTOCOMP (and fifth speed-IF in general, as far as I can recall). It takes practice and planning… and generally a lot of both, in my experience. Even then, my third ECTOCOMP game missed the deadline because it waaaay overshot what was doable within the time limit. It didn’t help that it was my first Twine game.

At any rate I’ve been able to accomplish something within the limit because I wrote everything out beforehand in most instances, except for the one non-ECTOCOMP speed-IF I did (plus the other one that missed the deadline), and that other speed-IF one only got finished because there were two other authors working on it with me were who were way better at this sort of thing than I was. That and we dared to be silly, I suppose. That helps, too.

Also even though it’s totally allowed I still kind of feel like my entry this year cheated a little bit by stuffing most of its content into the supplemental material. I hope to shake that feeling as time passes, but who knows? I don’t.

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When I played it, I really wanted this to be true, but only because you had the idea and I didn’t. It’s totally not cheating, and that’s the annoying thing about it.


Many thanks for your review and kind words! Sequel is definitely happening.

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Thank you so much for the review! I’m glad you liked the ending; that was exactly the effect I was hoping for. (And that does sound like a genuine bug—in a post-comp release, I’m hoping to clarify the china puzzle, because it’s a lot less clear why it should work than the others.)

That’s pretty much my strategy. Sketch out all the puzzles on paper, make a map with a list of objects in each room, then make a task list with each object and what behaviors need to be implemented for it. And also practicing with any extensions I’m planning to use beforehand: I spent a while experimenting with Easy Doors specifically to make sure I knew their quirks before I tried to use them in the game itself.

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Overtime at work today and possibly through the week. They’re always telling us we’re behind on stuff. Yeesh. Still catching up on other things tonight so no reviews today, but I hope to be back with something about the next on my list (Trick or Treat or Trick or Treat or Trick) another night (optimistically tomorrow), and more if I can fit them in.


Thank you for the review! (And I’m sorry for taking so long to respond–I was offline for the better part of a week due to migraine.) It’s always lovely to hear that a player was left wanting more in the good way! I’ve been toying with the idea of expanding on it, but I don’t have concrete plans at the moment. I love the idea of playing as Anne, though! That hadn’t occurred to me.

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OK, here’s the last of the Petite Morts. I kind of just finished them in a rush because it turns out I’ll be away from a reliable Internet connection the next few days. That means I probably won’t get around to the Grand Guignols during the voting period. I will rate some if I can manage. I also plan on maybe tweaking some of these reviews (and probably re-writing my review for “One More Page” since I don’t feel it really captures what I liked about the game) and publishing my votes for the games later if that might be of interest.


Finally, a game about trick or treating! This is what Halloween is all about, right?

I do appreciate the “glorious 1990s feel” of the cover art.

Unfortunately, the implementation here hasn’t won me over. It is speed-IF but things are sparse in a way that leaves me wondering if the game is finished (although the description does assure me that the game works and is winnable).

Attempting to put items in the pillowcase says, “That can’t contain things,” which is a pity since that is its job. Maybe it’s too full already.

The nice thing about the time loop is that its size is a good indicator (or so I would hope) as to the length of an overall successful playthrough. Have I gotten close? I think so, but I can’t quite tell. I have a rough idea of the timeframe for a potential win, but don’t have a feel for what the conditions of that win would be. All I know is I can’t drop the thing, but I’m also not sure what exactly would qualify as getting rid of it in this case. I thought maybe I could snoop on the old man and discover something or maybe plant it back on him. No such luck as of yet.

Hmmm. I’ve played through many loops on this one and although I can make my way into the old man’s house, it has no description inside and by then I’ve only got a couple turns. Eventually I was opting to reload rather than play back through the time loop again. I’ve recognized some puzzles and found my way past them, but I’m still quite unclear on what I should be doing at this point as regards the main puzzle. I thought maybe I could tie it up with the rope to anchor it, but that didn’t work either. The old man is nowhere to be seen even when I make it back into his house, and as far as I can tell his house has no description and nothing implemented, so it kinda feels like I went through the trouble of sneaking in for nothing (or at least, no further clue as to a solution).

I’ll have to come back and play this one again in a post-comp release with built-in hints.


Whoaaaa, this game was submitted 70 seconds before the deadline. Is this an author who likes to live dangerously? Also, this was developed in Dendry, a choice-based platform I haven’t heard of before. Discovering a new platform is always neat.

In Starlight Shadows, you’re a clairvoyant at a party where no-one seems to be having fun, despite a background atmosphere of others having fun. That is, others who know nothing of the imminent attack from The Entity.

Form a party from this party of up to four characters. The game has two distinct phases to play over. In the first, read (get a sense for or literally read the aura of) a character and either convince them to join you or not. In the second, assemble and fight.

Although the game is essentially linear the first act is filled with characterization and worldbuilding. I think each character has a dialog tree combination that will allow the player to recruit them; although I didn’t manage to recruit the protagonist’s brother, who was too upset, I’m pretty sure there is a way to do it “right” that gets him on board with fighting off our foreseen apocalyptic horror.

I haven’t seen how it was written, so I’m unsure if the final encounter is written as randomized combat or prepared mini scenes or whatever. Each turn the player selects one character in the party to perform a strategy (commands general enough to be immediately understood like “attack” or “protect”), the character executes their move (these are written with some panache), then the Entity attacks. Combat was over fairly quickly in my playthrough and seemed to go pretty smoothly. It seems like recruiting more or less characters could function as a gauge for difficulty. The game also has some replayability in that respect.

The Entity and its threat are quite abstract, but this works in the game’s favor as a Petite Mort entry.


CELL 174
The content warnings make me think I might not like this one, but we’ll see. Ah, nah, this one’s okay. It doesn’t go straight for the guts, but it does get there and then twists the knife.

This is a psychoanalytical sort of dialog with I think an imprisoned former assassin character. His bizarre dreams and chilling tales are all colored through with espionage, murder, and paranoia. Dialog choices are made in-character, generally choosing when to input the therapist’s thoughts, reflect, or otherwise stay quiet. Produces a full short story transcript by the end, the story of a murder.


A good wordplay puzzle structure more as a puzzle whose answer one ne’er knows. But then a few guesses and there goes! What whoas.

Spoiler stuff follows:

When your allies need, I was disappointed not to have a response to “bear bows” (perhaps, “Ah, but they need to have nothing on them.” or else I’m too unsubtle for this sort of thing don’t ask me)[/spoiler] A response would be neat if “Stare where?” is answered with “Stare there” (although there is a better answer). [spoiler]Other rhymes I thought of: pear pose, hehe. Wear woes. Nair nose (I was going to awaken the prayer bros by depilating their nostrils). [spoiler]Ooh, scarecrows? Please tell me this game has scarecrows.

To have quibbles about any purely hypothetical implementation things is more just a sign that I was interested and into the wordplay game going on with the parser than an actual complaint.

I’ve played for about an hour and have a score of 6 (+1)/22-28. Yes. I will probably play more, but I don’t think I can solve it just tonight so I have to move on to another game.


You are a writer in a new city during the week-long blackout phase before technological apocalypse, choosing each day to write or go outside.

I especially liked this one not just for the quality of the writing and how it pulls off its ending, but for that it is explicitly a piece of time constrained writing written about creating time constrained writing. That makes it doubly ECTOCOMP approved, I think.


Hey, thanks for the kind comments on BLACKOUT! Another primary inspiration for me (as an anxious, existential-crisis prone person) was having the desire to create and the inherent tension between choosing to spend time creating art, which tends to be an isolating, often difficult process, and spending time on everything else. Everything else being with others/out in the world/engaged with community, but not necessarily engaging in anything generative.


Thanks for the review! “Bear” has been added. If you want to see the code changed in the commit, it’s here.

The infrastructure was in place for it, but I didn’t have the time–and I appreciate people helping me fill in the gaps! (Let me know if you’d like to be in CREDITS, too. I’ve found people finding one or two good rhymes is a really fun way to free up brainpower/push me to make those core fixes I procrastinate because they’re not so fun.)


ohmygosh frim it and frip it, Thanksgiving is next week. I should be able to get to some Grand Guignols. And I can breathe, which is nice.

Thanks again to all the authors who contributed to La Petite Mort. I’ll get around to the actual sorting and voting on games some time tonight.


OK before I vote on La Petite Mort… phewwww, I can do this…

Other reviewers have made it through this. I can, too. I will force my eyes open and get an assistant in a lab coat to dripfeed my eyeballs instead of blinking.

I put my hand back on my mouse and my index finger twitched before I could click to begin.

Before I know it, I’m reading again through gleeful torture. It’s not unartful, it even has a song and a bit of a joke. But. It makes me squirm discomfitedly. Does this mean it’s working?

The refrain of “You turn your back and open a wooden box. You take a moment to fish through it.” has successfully conditioned me by even its second use. It always starts up my “prepared to be icked” defense reflexes. My shoulders tense, raising and closing in to protect my neck. Is this what you want?

It occurs to me after yet another violent act (it was this one:witnessing the textual bisection of a living person with a scalpel, leaving them “opened like a zipper” [which is actually a good simile for expressing how the the victim is in the killer’s eyes made to be undone]) that part of my discomfort is in my sense of its gratuitousness. I think it feels that way to me because I don’t know what the ultimate end is here. The murderer has a plan, but I don’t know what it is so the violence seems pointless not to the character but to me. The ending I think resolves this tension by overwhelming the reader with gratitude at the end to mirror the savior elation of a psycho killer, but I am still left wondering why these particular methods meant so much.

As I’m unstrapped from my chair by my helpful assistant and my eyes blink their first again, I wonder if the form is less important than the successful experiment in conditioned response. Is it?

My eyes twitch. They feel so dry.


Hm… is a review turning into an impressionistic narrative a good sign? I mean, I think that means it worked.

(Thanks for coming back to it!)

I think it is a good sign, thanks for writing it. On the one hand, filtering through fantasy is a defense mechanism I may have needed to get myself through the gruesome content. On the other hand, one of the best things art can do is inspire a creative response.