Reviews by Sam Kabo Ashwell


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Run for the Oregon Legislature!, by Eva Schweber

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Your Campaign Finance Director Has Died of Dysentery, July 13, 2011
by Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle)
Related reviews: educational, simulation, political

Conventional wisdom holds that educational games suck. Conventional wisdom is unlikely to be shaken to its foundations by Run for the Oregon Legislature!

It's apparently targeted at an audience wholly unfamiliar with IF; indeed, there seems to be no good reason why it's using a parser-based system at all, since it lists all the possible commands at every stage. And IF is not the easiest platform for novices -- particularly so when it's minimal, buggy and not designed to take advantage of any of the medium's strengths. Choicescript, Undum or Flash would have been more natural choices.

Even if you transferred the existing structure into something more appropriate, it would probably still not be a good game. Most of it involves textdumps about how the election process works, after which you sometimes can make a choice, more often just walk north to continue. (Yes, this is sort of awkward.) It bills itself as simulation, and it seems probable that some simulation is going on; but it doesn't do so in a very transparent way, and the few things that do happen as the result of your actions give little feedback about why. There's an implication, for instance, that you're spending resources -- money and time -- but you are given no idea about how much of these you have. There's a general lack of polish; where you'd expect the game to end, you're instead moved to a darkened room. Possibly it's an Oregonian tradition to feed unpopular political candidates to the grues.

A great deal's missing from the simulation: any idea of the general political climate, any idea about your opponent, anything much about your policy positions or the concerns of your constituents. The impression it gives -- probably not the intended one -- is that electoral success is almost entirely about running an efficient campaign. A side-effect is that the subject matter is rendered pretty boring and lifeless.

The thing that this most closely resembles is a particular kind of interactive museum exhibit -- the one where, rather than reading some text on a board, you press a button to illuminate a box that contains some text on a board. This isn't as pointless as it looks -- crap interactivity is actually quite good at engaging interest. But if you're going to do this, at least make sure the button doesn't stick, or throw off alarming sparks.

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