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About the Story
Synpiece: A wearable technology that changes the wearer's mood. Users of the Synpiece can adjust the 'color' of their experience, which adjusts psychological traits mapped to hue (emotion), saturation (intensity) and value (complexity). The Synpiece can be used by brands to increase users' engagement.
Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Implementation; Winner, Best Use of Innovation - 2015 XYZZY Awards
30th Place - 21st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2015)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Good writing creates an emotional response.
I deliberately avoided this game because it sounded experimental, and I assumed that would just confuse me. It did confuse me (not a difficult task; I get confused brushing my teeth sometimes), but it created plenty of other emotions too: curiosity, pleasure, relief, interest, awe, suspicion, wonder, achievement, depression, hope, frustration, cautious satisfaction.
This game is an amazing thing. It's hard to write about, because for me it was an intense and personal experience in which I chose to let go all rational thoughts about structure or programming and fall fully into the illusion that the story was real. NOTHING I have ever read has had that effect on me.
Your experience is likely to be different, because that's exactly how art works. It lives, and changes with every viewing. This story certainly does that.
Here's a bit more on those emotions I mentioned above:
curiosity - At first I was impressed enough by the language to feel like I wanted to know more. A few good sentences buy a lot of reader goodwill. (I read and write a lot of novels, and Katherine Morayati is a damn fine writer.)
pleasure - I was so delighted that my random input words created a response every time (and never a repeated response, either).
interest - Okay, so there's a character called Brian. This feels like something that can move the plot forwards; good.
awe - unable to move towards Brian (I tried with my usual incompetence), I gave up on playing the game and simply accepted that the hopeless desperation of the MC was painfully similar to my own. So I typed in things that everyone tells me I should do to make real-life existence better. This included "exercise" and "go outside" and even "buy a swimming pool". The game never once told me I was wrong. It never repeated information. It was always interesting to read. And I was deeply satisfied that the kind of solutions that well-meaning friends and family offer didn't actually solve anything.
The MC wandered in the same musing, thoughtful, desperate circles my brain traverses every day. That moment right there is why a game I fundamentally don't understand (I keep trying and failing to like parser games) got a 10 from me in the IF Comp - a score I reserved for something greater than numbers could convey (and never truly intended to use). How did the game know me? How on earth could anyone write a seemingly infinite number of responses? It was as impressive as a person flying in the air in front of me. Such a thing is possible, but I don't know how, and I suspect it takes a lot of skill and hard work.
suspicion - a lot of what I read didn't closely relate to what I wrote, and I began to wonder how many bits were simply playing out at random. Maybe the magic wasn't so impressive after all. Had I caught the flash of a metaphorical wire holding the story up?
wonder - it still felt like an infinite and interesting world. Perhaps I could just wander here among the beautiful words and be satisfied.
depression - this is too like real life. All I can do is go over the same hopeless thoughts again and again. And Brian sounds like a tool, but who else is there?
achievement - ooh! I managed to actually get in the car and go somewhere. Is the plot actually moving forwards now?
hope - this game is so real; perhaps too real. But this isn't my own head. Perhaps this author is smart enough to come inside my head and then show me some way to come out.
frustration - I'm driving but not getting anywhere. I hate parser games.
cautious satisfaction - when I finally finished the game. Having talked to the author, I know that my interpretation of my ending wasn't intended at all... but, like I said, this is a piece of art that truly lives.
You'll have to play the game and see for yourself whether you feel it has generated a story or not.
In any case, I will NEVER forget this experience. I'm incredibly grateful it exists (although also grateful it was short, because the inevitable disorientation was mentally nauseating).
I know from talking to others that this game continues to burrow away in the minds of various players... in the best possible way.
Laid off from the Synesthesia Factory (LoftSF) does a clever and strange and beautiful thing. The player plays - types in commands - but suddenly their in-world actions aren't necessarily in total control of the narrative. Its trajectory and momentum continue with or without them. They guide the narrative maybe, rather than control it. At first, this is disconcerting, and for players used to the traditional parser model of action/triggered response, it could result in an extreme negative reaction.
And that would be a shame, because LoftSF shows me something I haven't seen before. As a player I am part of the narrative, I can suggest direction it might go. I can influence it at certain points, but I am also being guided by the hands of a master storyteller - taking me through a compelling beautifully written story that doesn't lose momentum or get bogged down by traditional parser mechanics.
Going forward, I want this idea to be explored more. If I have a criticism of LoftSF, it's that sometime I am unsure whether my actions are guiding the text, or the text would happen anyway and is just coincidentally reflecting my wishes. But, then again, maybe that's the point.
This is a game to be read without pre-conceived notions of IF.
This game focuses on a career involving mood-altering or mood-activated equipment; however, the real story here is a slice-of-stressed-out-life story of a woman, her career, and her love interests.
This game responds with story text no matter what you do, and it's purposely written in a style that can jump back and forth between different topics. This allows the transcript of the game to read as a short story.
It also presents a novel challenge: decipher if your text comes from real commands or the 'floater text' (the name for the text from wrong commands). It helped me a lot to just type important keywords. You'd think UNDO would help you figure out what's real and what's not, but it's cleverly been disabled.
Worth checking out.
(note: I beta tested this game.)
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