Having played many recent Autumn Chen games in the last year or two, I saw a lot of references to Pageant, and thought, 'I don't really remember that game well'.
Turns out, I never played it! I mixed it up with another game and never even tried it.
Having tried it, it's pretty great. It's clearly influenced by Emily Short's Bee; both use the same system (one from when it was a semi-commercial system and another after it became Dendry). Both are based on quality-based narratives that play out over several weeks, both are about a certain type of rigorous, conservative upbringing, one by fundamentalist Christians and oene by Chinese diaspora parents.
However, this is certainly not just a retread of familiar material. Our main heroine, Karen (whom I recognize from several other games) has a unique and complex approach to life that makes choices not straightforward. Karen is thoughtful and compassionate but also is under enormous stress and has social anxiety at times that makes intended choices (like responding and so on) impossible to actually carry out.
One fundamental aspect is that Karen is extremely competent but does not see herself that way. She does 95% of what a human is capable of doing, but only sees that 5% gap. She works with adult research scientists but only sees her ineptness; she is told frequently she is beautiful but only sees awkwardness; she is loved by others but only fears rejection.
But the key is that she acts in spite of these fears; she just keeps on trucking.
Having played other 'pageantverse' games I immediately narrowed in on interacting with (Spoiler - click to show)Emily as much as possible. This game explores young trans interactions quite a bit: what does a trans relationship look like? Actually, that's not true; this game isn't about 'trans relationships' first; it's just about relationships, and what happens when someone being trans is thrown in the mix. Some of the tensest moments in the game for me were switching between private moments with my friend being able to express herself however she wanted and public moments with her family where the expectation was 'be normal or get punished'.
Overall, I'm glad that this wasn't a 'downer ending' game. I was able to succeed in my goals (being close to someone and doing good in pageant + research while being mediocre in science olympiad and basically ignoring family).
A strong game, and it's clear why it spawned several good followups.
This game takes place in the same universe as Pageant and New Year's Eve, 2019.
This has one of the best mechanics I've seen used in the Single Choice Jam, which requires that players can only make one choice of any important.
What this game does is have many choices in a short-but-not-inconsequential game, but almost all of the options are greyed out (something I've seen in games like Depression Quest, but not recently). So you get lots of 'choices', and can see what you could have tried, but can only make one choice. This is great at giving the illusion of choice in a positive way.
The story is messy, like a lot of real-life relationships are. You have someone you mutually confessed attraction for months ago, but covid has happened and you haven't seen each other. Now you're isolated and it's so lonely. You contact your person and...well, the rest is what the game is about.
Some strong profanity, which seemed to fit the characters and situation. Overall well-written.
This is a brief Ink game entered in the Single Choice jam.
You play as a creature newly formed, emerged from a chrysalis. Being exposed to the brave new world, the creature must adapt quickly, especially since a human approaches.
The game is very short, but the writing is solid, from an alien perspective. Despite the single choice, there is real agency, as all of the endings give logical but not straightforward.
Brief but enjoyable.
This game unrolls as you read through the documentation of a certain piece of software, digging into its API, its pipelines, its documented users, and, at the end, its chat logs.
The dry format allows for contrast with the futuristic setting and the drama-filled true story.
It's surprising this game was able to be made in less than 4 hours, but less surprising if the author already had experience in creating such documentation. Either way, it's an amazing feat.
Very well done. The format did keep me at a distance emotionally, but the story was effective.
In this game, you call your son to apologize for not picking him up.
The reason you didn't pick him up? That's...complicated. The actual answer depends on your choices. You have a few 'main' choices and then a chance to add details.
The system is interesting, with realist options on what to do with the voicemail once you run out of time.
I played about 3 or 4 times and liked each of them. An expanded version of this would be fascinating, but a lot of the appeal here is from the wild branching, and that would quickly get out of hand.
I like this game, the kind of inherent symmetry it has.
It starts with introducing you to a young trio who have recently escaped from a cult and want to do what anyone would do in that situation: start making a movie!
You have several options on what to spend the money on, like a better monster or better set.
While one early option will lock you out of victory, others will lead you onward to greater glory. I had one ending I loved and another that was pretty good.
There's not a lot of game here, but it has plenty of character.
This parser game for Ectocomp was written in 4 hours or less.
This game really surprised me. I started it up, liked the writing, and decided to start poking around. I found a lot more things implemented in the first room than is normal for a speed-IF, which intrigued me, but I had trouble doing things.
Once I realized the twist, though, I found it to be clever, reminding me of some enjoyable games from the past. Just when I thought I couldn't do any more, I reached the ending, which was a satisfying conclusion.
So I'm not saying more because of spoilers, but I thought this was a good game and a good choice for the scoping and size issues that usually come with having a time limit for writing, like Ectocomp' Petite Mort division does.
This game is a Bitsi game, a platform which has art with minimal palettes and simple responses to movement keys, as well as text. This specific bitsi game provides a new image for most (but not all) lines of text.
There aren't any choices as such. It's just a narrative essay about writing; what is the gap between characters and their author? How does fan fiction come into play?
The writing is good, the art was inscrutable at times but also well done. There wasn't anything wrong with the story/game, but also it lacked many of the elements I most enjoy about interactive fiction without providing a substantially exceptional experience to make up for it.
Overall, short and well done.
I like short, ritualistic Twine games like this. You progress, in any order, through five different sets of body parts, choosing how you will present yourself to the world.
The choices are both physically meaningful and symbolic. Tree arms, for instance, are bad for physical defense, but all growth through painful pruning.
The styling is nice, with a background that is both visually interesting but non-distracting, and good color choices.
Overall, I found the writing strong. I didn't feel a strong need to revisit it, but my personal experience was positive and I would happily recommend the game to others.
This short Twine game was entered in Ectocomp in the Petite Mort division.
It features a father running a food stall who sees his daughter after a long separation. There are supernatural elements, as well as LGBTQ elements.
The food stall descriptions are delightful, with sounds, smells, and sights described with a complex preparation for a meal. The supernatural elements are varied and interesting as well.
There seems to be an Ah Lim Chicken Rice in Singapore, but other aspects could place it in Malaysia, perhaps. There are names that sound Cantonese and names that seem to have Muslim origins.
Overall, a nice blend of culture and human emotion.