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rendition, by nespresso

22 of 31 people found the following review helpful:
Squandered opportunity, June 8, 2008
by Beekeeper
Related reviews: subject

A short prologue indicates that the coalition has a terrorist in their 'clutches' who has been sent here to be '"questioned"' (for which read 'tortured'). The player is then permitted to brainstorm abuse verbs to apply to the various parts of a rag-doll in a bare room. Nothing else is possible, except to consult a poorly-written memo which instructs the player to limit repetitions of an abuse verb.

In any other context, players would quit and pan such a game as boring and meritless. Under the heading of protest, it elicits partisan scuffles and elaborate rationalizations. What all this controversy over the nominal premise conceals is the artistic and political failure of the work.

My reaction was not one of shock, horror or outrage, only disappointment and a sense of tedium. That is not because I disagree with the author's political views; it is because the author has passed up an opportunity not only to write a competent game, but to make an insightful or at least politically effective statement on an important issue.

No attention is paid to place, plot, or characterization. Given that interrogation under torture is one of the most dramatic situations available, it is remarkable that none of this emotional power has been harnessed. Andrew Plotkin's seminal Spider & Web centered on an incandescent interrogation scene to great artistic effect, while George Orwell's 1984 used character and a horrific interrogation scene to drive home a political point. rendition does not give us a chance to understand or empathize with any of the characters. Nor does it draw our attention to any dimension of the actual problem. No attention is paid to the psychology of evil, the moral and personal dilemmas of war, or the social pathologies which allow institutionalized torture to happen. We are only given blithely one-dimensional stereotypes which dictate exactly what we should think:

'It [the door] seals your activities from the prying eyes and ears of do-gooders.'
'an operative may choose to proceed for as long as he or she wishes.'
'Yes the Geneva convention is a pain in the backside isn't it?'
'His foreskin appears undamaged.'
'Having filled yourself up with beer several hours earlier, you have no difficulty bending over and pissing all over his left thumb. Abdul screams in horror.'

The result is inept propaganda which can only preach to the choir. That is a profound failure of execution. But there is an incredibly rich vein here for a sensitive author who can attend to the details - emotionally intense, thought-provoking, relevant, and convincing. I hope that we will see some thought-out and researched games which attempt to cast real light on this and similar issues of social justice.

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