Grief

by Simon Christiansen profile

Surreal
2008

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Number of Reviews: 4
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Bleak, frustrating, and not relatable, May 22, 2013
by Andromache (Hawaii)

I was warned that this was the kind of game that you have to play through several times. This alone put me off. But I was slightly curious and figuring the game was tiny, I could try it out anyway.

Interaction is very minimal, which is a mercy for a game you have to replay but also means it's hard to get very invested in the story. I played through a few times and made different mistakes each time. But I'm not motivated to figure out the winning combination because to get hit with so many "random" tragedies just takes its toll.

Characters, setting, writing - I'd characterize everything as flat or bland. Everything has a kind of generic feel, there to serve a function that will inevitably turn on you. I couldn't even feel sorrow. If anything, the emotion I feel right now is frustration and even a little apathy. There's just no reason to care about the people and nothing particularly striking about the prose. I don't play games or read books for this kind of feeling. For tragedies to work, you have to get to know the people and like them, as well as caring about their plight. None of that here. Tragedy can be incredibly cathartic and beautiful, but it has to have heart, to speak to a person's emotion. There has to be just enough individuality in the character to make them real, as well as a plot with elements people have experience with. The subject matter was too narrow for me to relate to, and there was no other angle to view the plot from, no other sorrow that might have engendered pity or a sense of loss. This kind of game might have worked if the object was simply not to get killed, without trying to be sad, because the genre isn't served well by constant replays and short game length.


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Andromache, May 26, 2013 - Reply
I think you're right. "Worlds Apart" worked for me because the emotion and connections were experienced interactively. Some of the story was told in cut scenes, but they worked because I was introduced to the characters and had a good sense of who they were by the time I was hit with the big reveals. This knowledge was gained through the immersion of the game. "Grief"'s problem was that there was barely time to figure out who you are and what the game premise is before the game ends abruptly. The impact was not one of loss so much as "What just happened?"

I think IF is problematic because unlike conventional fiction, which takes time to set up who everyone is and answers basic questions like setting, agenda,etc, IF tends to throw you in the middle of a scene and you have to glean this information as best you can by playing the game. Whenever I start a new game, there's an adjustment period of sorts where I attempt to establish these familiar types of guideposts before I can really settle in and process the current situation the character is in. So games that push me to act before I'm ready kind of annoy me. This is one reason "Grief" didn't achieve the intended effect, I believe.

And yes, it's not good storytelling to expect readers to feel something because the author says so, which is kind of how it feels here. Like taking some random person off the street and telling me to feel bad for them. Yes, once I'm told what happened to them, I certainly feel sorry, but not to the degree that the person's grief becomes my own because I really can't muster it.
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