Euphoria Brighter Than A Comet

by Naomi Norbez (call me Bez)

2022

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Twine romance game about a genderfluid alien trying to fit in, November 5, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a prototype Twine game entered in the Ectocomp 2022 Grand Guignol competition. It is kinetic fiction, which means it currently has almost no choices besides going to the next page, where the main choice is pacing. The current stated plan is to expand it to include more choices in the future.

You play as an ornithologist who is also an alien assigned as the only alien in the area of earth you're in. Everyone stares at you, because you're literally from Pluto. You've managed to get some good work done and make friends, but your existence makes others uncomfortable and you just can't fit in with human traditions.

Especially gender, which your planet doesn't have a conception of. Most of the game consists of dealing with good and bad reactions to your conception of gender and self.

I said the game contains almost no choices; one that I appreciated a lot is the ability to skip the sex scene. I honestly wished this became a standard in choice games, as I was able to enjoy the genuinely sweet romantic buildup while avoiding content I'm not comfortable with.

I had a strong emotional reaction to this game for a couple of reasons. [Apologies for the long, unrelated personal story]. One is that I almost didn't play it because I was having stressful flashbacks. I used to be a math professor, but I always struggled. I had done all of my undergraduate and graduate work in the same math department where I had a lot of friends among the professors and staff. I had done well, and people had always supported me.

But once I left to be a 'real' professor, everything changed. My research faltered, and I encountered a lot of pushback from professors in my very narrow field. I was told that I had misunderstood major parts of the research topic or left out key parts of theorems, that my research didn't really have any applications, and the most hurtful, that my writing was just bad and/or sloppy. I started having papers get multiple rejections, and since that's the main 'currency' in the math world, I lost my chance at getting a permanent job, and ended up in limbo for a few years. And my refuge, the school I graduated from and where I liked everyone, had implied they would hire me when I came back, but ended up going with other people, only hiring me for a temp job, out of pity, I thought.

I eventually left academia (which is really looked down on in the field, like complete failure), and I've suppressed those thoughts. But I started fooling around with an old research problem today for fun, and I felt so many bitter, jealous, sad, and stressed thoughts remembering those times.

So I almost cried reading the story of Beckj, because even though the setting and reasons were so different, I recognized the feeling of everyone around you just feeling judgmental or looking down on you, and feeling like everyone just wishes you would be different than you are (I remember my postdoc advisor telling me I should never have become a father, because I took so much time off to be with my disabled ex-wife and newborn.). This story is a very specific story, but I think the author has done a great job of tapping into universal experience.

It also resonated with me because of the experiences I've seen with my trans friends, both Bez emself and also the numerous trans people I've met locally. I've seen how hurt they feel when people misgender them or feel uncomfortable using their chosen name (which is odd, as so many other people have nicknames completely unlike their birth names and no one cares), and the positive scenes between the MC and the love interest seemed completely authentic.

I do think adding the extra choices in could enhance the game, so I'm glad that's in the works.