Dad vs. Unicorn

by PaperBlurt

Slice of life/Surreal
2013

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Number of Reviews: 6
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Exploration of Masculine Gender Identity, November 28, 2013
by streever (America)

This short narrative is not badly done; it is a successful exploration of culturally normative masculine gender identity.

This is essentially a twine or hypertext game, concerning a linear story line told from three different perspectives. The third perspective (that of the unicorn) is an "unlockable"--once you've played through as either of the two starting characters (father or son) you can play as the unicorn. Unfortunately, the Unicorn and the Father both present the same macho/bully/entitled male gender identity, so there wasn't as much variation here as there seemed.

The actual writing is fairly good, although the story could have benefited from better characterization. The father's final, binary, choice seems superfluous/gamest and not in keeping with the plot. I had no sense from reading his narrative that he'd be even possibly be willing to make the more noble of the two choices. In that moment, it was clear that I was the player and not the character, which was out of keeping with the experience so far. This game is very linear; you do not get to change the perspective or behavior of the character you are playing as.

Ultimately this game says something meaningful about gender identity, particularly as it applies to American masculine identity, but the message is hindered by the actual mechanics and style. The tone seems to suggest you can make meaningful decisions (and you do have one choice, at the end, depending on your character), but the choices do not seem particularly illuminating or realistic.

I think of the 3 narratives the son is the strongest. It features the feelings, emotions, and thoughts in a way that felt real. I found the character to be irritating and not particularly sympathetic, but still well-written. To be clear, I think the author succeeded at portraying an unlikable character in a sympathetic way, which is a success.

The story for the father was much harder to appreciate. The father is a parody of American fatherhood, and didn't feel real or even vaguely sympathetic. I suppose the final choice in his narrative could feel real, depending on how you viewed him or how realistic you believe the stereotype of American fatherhood is, but it felt empty and meaningless. Choice for the sake of choice.

The unicorn worked better as a portrayal of bullying male macho masculinity; there is no attempt at humanizing or making the unicorn sympathetic, so I didn't feel any disconnect with his actions and the narrative.

I think this is a good story, and the graphics are fun. I would suggest improving the father character, but on the whole, I thought this was a successful game.