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About the Story
A multimedia project about the end of everything.
64th Place (tie) - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
A lot of science fiction literature makes use of concepts that cannot be appropriately described in the vocabulary of the present, and demands an inductive approach; just go along with it, and it will become more or less clear as the story progresses. Accelerate is bordering on linguistic overload in this sense. Add to that a horde of strange metaphors and you have an “enormous piece of extravagantly confusing art”, to use a quote embedded in the work itself.
While it was occasionally hard to understand the protagonist or the context in a given situation, the story is actually relatively clear: you become indoctrinated into a cult of religious terrorists and attempt to bring forth some kind of revolution. In this, you have no agency. Perhaps you have no choice.
Regarding it as a gesamtkunstwerk, my feelings are varied. Its strongest point is definitely the writing; Accelerate reads like a modern sci-fi classic, only more poetic, though I would have had an easier time accepting it if I had sensed more coherence between the different contexts. As it is, I often felt I found myself in a new situation, not understanding how I got there, which also compromised the connection between the player and the protagonist. The visual presentation was the most lacking element of Accelerate. With a plain interface and simple animations, it brought thoughts of the 1990’s, rather than of the future. The music, on the other hand, was nice and appropriate; most of it I would describe as cyberpunk muzak, although at times it became uncomfortably brutal.
Okay, so there's a certain kind of game that pops up in IF from time to time. It's a kind of game that's part poetic and part heartfelt exposition. The words are abstract, the situation obfuscated or abstracted to a level where the core narrative is hard to discern and the game becomes a kind of blank slate or Rorschach test, where scenes and phrases give deeper meaning but not always what the author's original meaning was.
B-minus makes a lot of games like that, which are usually short. Longer examples are a lot of Porpentine's work, the work of Phantom Williams, and the games Spy Intrigue and Dr. Sourpuss Is Not A Choice-Based Game.
This game has that kind of style, but it also has 'really good animations and music' style, too. The music in this game perfectly complements the writing.
This is a long and complicated game. I played it over two periods of time, as I had to take a 3 hour break. When I first played it, it all seemed a mystery, but when I came back later, somehow it all clicked in my head and I understood exactly what was going on in the story and exactly who everyone was (not the deeper meaning, just the outer meaning).
The game has 21 chapters with some surprises in the middle. Here is a general outline of the complex, non-linear plot as I understand it:
(Spoiler - click to show)The player is (or more precisely, was) a young man named Hank, born in the 23rd century, who had a traumatic incident where they were held up at gunpoint by a black man, and then called the police. The event haunts them, and is one of a giant group of negative events that pile on the protagonist. The hero is also addicted strongly to drugs (one called metafentanyl in my playthrough).
(Spoiler - click to show)To get their fix, they go to the TAV institute, a pre-war group that somehow survived the worldwide conflict (giving them the name antediluvians). A Scientology-like group, they read your body with a strange meter device, and prescribe you your drugs.
(Spoiler - click to show)The leaders, Mother and Father, give you surgery and a new name to make you a woman, Hannah. Mother uses you to further her goals, having you assassinate, steal, and kidnap. Your ultimate goal is to end the bitter cycle of reincarnation and repeated horrible experiences by murdering fate, represented by an Archon. And that's exactly what you do.
There are references everywhere in the game, so many that I can't even be sure if they're references. Is it a Galatea reference when you awake as an art exhibit on a pedestal in a gallery with the name Galene (or is Galene an exhibit near you)? Are some of the Institutes beliefs and practices reminiscent of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's beliefs and rituals? When the author refers to living in a holographic reality re-experiencing traumatic moments, is it referring to Howling Dogs? Is the end of Chapter 20 a visual representation of the scripture that says 'No man shall see the face of God and live'? Some maybe yes, some maybe no.
Other references are far more direct, like when you take on a role directly imitating the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 during 9/11. Timothy Mcveigh is referenced, Trayvon Martin is referenced, and absolutely everything ties in with trans identity (one reading is of Mother and Father as representing dual natures of Man and Woman inside each of us, with the protagonist's transition corresponding to their love of Mother, and Archon representing the idea of fixed gender identity). But that's only one interpretation.
I frequently compared it to musical albums as I listened. It reminded me of Joni Mitchell's Blue, where she used all of her most tender and/or heartfelt memories and thoughts to make a very public album. After my second session, I thought it was like the Who's Rock Opera Tommy with it's semi-religious overtones and a central narrative mixed up with symbolism. Or The Wall.
A game like this isn't really a game to be 'enjoyed'. This seems like the game you write when you have so many thoughts and feelings in your head you have to put them somewhere. You can either do that directly (I wrote a game called In the Service of Mrs. Claus which is 100% about my divorce, and in a fairly direct way) or you can do it indirectly and jumbledy-complex like this game. When you put out a game like this, probably the worst possible result is that a few people say "wow I loved it" and no one else comments. If you push this hard, you want someone to push back, and so I think it would be 'successful' if many people reacted to it strongly in both positive and negative ways. So 'enjoy' is definitely not the word here.
Despite that, the ending sequence with its visuals and music all came together and it was actually pretty epic, just as a story. Chapters 20 and 21 are just plain awesome, and like I said, I don't know if the author wanted to be awesome. I think a more appropriate response I had is early on in Chapter 6 or 7 where I said, "Well, that's disturbing" out loud.
The credits bring things back to a more somber tone. It's a vast list, including me (!), Sonic Youth, and 'the haters', without which the game would not be possible.
I'll have to revisit this game some time.
Rating this game defeats the purpose, but I'll do it anyway.
+Polish: Very polished. Extremely so.
+Descriptiveness: Equally so.
+Emotional Impact: High for me.
+Would I play again? Plan on it.
+Interactivity: I liked my choices.
Some people might interpret the prose as atmospheric, and others might dismiss it as trying too hard. It sets a consistent mood, and it's quickly apparent whether this experience will appeal to you.
For me, the interesting question was whether the interactivity in Accelerate supports its story. Early chapters, which put the audience in the role of an addict trying to score drugs from a religiously affiliated medical clinic, set up a conflict that made it difficult to engage with the narrative.
Open-minded curiosity will help readers explore this story, but that makes it difficult to act like an addict on the prowl.
Assuming the role of a cynical addict will encourage the audience to remain distant from the religious propaganda, and that could mean rejecting the entire entry by quitting early.
As interactive fiction, it was difficult for me to identify my place in the story. It seemed like I was expected to assimilate with a movement as controlling and destructive as the authority it seeks to overthrow.
See All 5 Member Reviews
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