A Paradox Between Worlds

by Autumn Chen profile

Slice of life
2021

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Experience a fictional version of the Tumblr Potter fandom and JKR, October 20, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This is a pretty hefty Choicescript game that consists of two parts: a young person browsing Tumblr that's part of a fandom for a fictional series of novels (a science fiction analogue of Harry Potter with its own house-type system), and a story-within-the-story consisting of your character's fan fiction.

Fanfiction gameplay includes things like customizing your character and reacting emotionally to things, as well as choosing ships (as in relationships).

Tumblr gameplay consists of choosing from 8 or so different blogs to look at. Choosing a blog to look at brings up a post you can like, reblog, sometimes comment on, or skip to go to the next one (or back). Each blog has about 4 posts in each section of gameplay.

There are several chapters, each one giving more fanfiction and more events in the blogosphere.

Midgame spoilers:
(Spoiler - click to show)The author of the series makes posts in the middle of the game calling out one of your friends and saying that transgender people are degenerates. Most of the people you follow are trans, and so it puts a big damper on things and chaos ensues.

The game has a main story thread, but it also has a 'score' aspect in terms of your followers. Reblogging gets you more followers.

I had a ton of emotions reading this. I like to put myself in the headspace of the people I play as but doing so made me really uncomfortable this time, and I made choices in-game that I thought the protagonist would do that are things I really wouldn't do in real life.

The discomfort I experience playing this game is because it encourages you to have empathy for people and then puts them in hard situations that there aren't easy answers for. It also reminds me of real life confusions and conversations I've had.

So I definitely had a stronger reaction emotionally to this game than to others.

Mechanically, a lot of content is dumped at once in each of the tumblr sections. That's the way real social media is, but I've been trying to clear my head of social media 'noise' recently (who isn't?) and playing this reminded me why.

With its world-within-the-world and focus on the nature of human experience, art, and their interactions, and with the Choicescript format, I was strongly reminded of Creatures Such as We, a game by Lynnea Glasser in my top 10 games of all time. That game leaves me thoughtful and hopeful, while this one left me thoughtful and distressed. Both are useful. Of the two, though, this game had an interaction mechanic that didn't work quite as well for me, with the nonlinear asynchronous tumblr text dumps. But that isn't to say it didn't work at all; I think it's one of the better games of the competition and a masterpiece of technical work, doing things I didn't know were capable in Choicescript. And the characterization is excellent, with a lot of the characters coming alive for me personalitywise (although I lost track of some of the handles).