Smart Theory

by AKheon profile


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Number of Ratings: 18
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1-18 of 18

- Ann Hugo (Canada), February 4, 2023

- Kinetic Mouse Car, August 4, 2022

- mediocre.marsupial (Australia), April 18, 2022

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Monologue , April 15, 2022

I really didn't like this game. It isn't really a game, but a semi interactive monologue delivered by the excessively tedious and obnoxious Dr Bother. This amounts to a straw man argument, with the targets including post modernism and internet trolls. These things might very well be terrible, but they still deserve a better argument against them than this game gives.

- Ray Leandro (Philippines), January 26, 2022

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A criticism of fast-and-easy sloganistic political theories, January 22, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a fairly abstract Ink game (and one that I helped beta test).

In it, you play as a college student roped into a demonstration about Smart Theory. The speaker goes off for quite a while about smart theory, and you can choose between making snarky comments, playing along or being passive.

The Smart Theory is a parody of political theories. As presented, it could apply to both American political parties. Some digs seem aimed at one specific side (for instance, the huckster is selling a book called Dumb Fragility, which from the in-game explanation seems like a riff on liberals talking about white fragility), but it could apply to just about any political theory.

Overall, it has several humorous moments and works smoothly. However, I thought the random nonsense words didnt' work as well (like Bathcunk) and would have preferred more chances to act.

- Say (Paris, France), January 10, 2022

- thedigitaldiarist (Canada), January 10, 2022

- EJ, December 6, 2021

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Superficial polemic, November 22, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)

Smart Theory is part of a sub-genre of games that, by my lights, has yet to produce a single successful entry: the much-dreaded polemic about current events. Don’t get me wrong, I like politics in my stories, but using narrative to convince, rather than to explore, sets authors up for failure, and often the temptation is to use thin plots and thinner characters to prop up an ideological point, rather than using beliefs to enrich people and stories that are compelling in their own right.

Smart Theory does not break this streak or beat the already dismal batting average of the sub-genre. I suppose it’s possible I think that because I’m on the opposite side of the particular culture-war fight apparently being picked – the game appears to be an attempt to take down Critical Race Theory, and inasmuch as I work for a civil rights organization and took a class in law school from one of the founders of CRT, I’m on team wrongthink as far as it’s concerned – but at the same time, Stand Up / Stay Silent from last year’s Comp was basically Defund the Police: The Game and I thought that one profoundly didn’t work too. No, the problem isn’t that Smart Theory is trying to gore my oxen: it’s that it’s rather a bore about it.

(After the initial version of this review was posted, the author responded and related that Smart Theory isn't directly meant to be about CRT. That's fair enough, but perhaps this points out another problem with satirical exaggeration in this subgenre...)

Things start to go wrong from the very premise. Where other polemical games dress up their ideological agendas in at least some narrative fancy-dress, here the story is tacked-on as can be: you’re a student who attends a college lecture by a proponent of the new “Smart Theory” craze, which again is a very thinly-veiled CRT stand-in (like, a book called “Dumb Fragility” gets name-checked). There’s barely any plot to be had other than talking-heads yelling at each other, and the lecturer doesn’t get any characterization beyond “over the top charlatan.” So things that stories are traditionally good at are off the table, and the game lives and dies by the quality of its arguments.

Reader, these are not good, on either side of the debate! The lecturer’s explication of the theory is glib and parodic, which I guess makes the polemic go down easy but there’s not much here that a CRT proponent would recognize, as Smart Theory seems way more focused on French structuralism and postmodernism than on the actual stuff CRT deals with. On the flip side, partially due to the nature of the choice format, where you can’t easily have the player’s choices go on for paragraphs, the counterarguments the player character raises are also so superficial and unconvincing that a tiny part of me wonders whether the game is sort of double-agent, secretly parodying the anti-CRT position.

This ain’t changing anyone’s mind – it’s comforting pabulum for those who already agree that CRT is poisoning our children, trivially dismissible by those who don’t, and I’d wager completely incomprehensible to those who don’t already have their minds made up. Maybe someday someone will write the game that changes peoples’ politics by main force, rather than by grounding their ideas in compelling characters, rich settings, and satisfying plots, but today is not that day.

Highlight: Again, these barbs are largely mis-aimed (protip: critical theory and critical legal studies are not the same thing!), but there are some good jokes about postmodernism – the best being a mid-lecture celebratory announcement that “our crack team of social scientists has successfully added one more [post] prefix” to the modernism, postmodernism, post-postmodernism, etc. that Smart Theory is based on.

Lowlight: I think I’ve said enough on this score.

How I failed the author: er, fairly comprehensively, I should think. I really liked the author’s Ascension of Limbs from last year, for what it’s worth!

- Spike, November 17, 2021

- Pegbiter (Malmö, Sweden), November 15, 2021

- Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway), November 15, 2021

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short game, November 6, 2021

Here is a brief comedy piece where you listen to a guest speaker lecturing at your college. He is presenting his stance on the titular “Smart Theory.” None of his claims make any sense. Will you be persuaded to devote yourself to this new belief system? The game might be a send-up of some element of contemporary society, and there are surely multiple interpretations to be made as to who or what it’s aimed at. Then again, maybe the author just wanted to challenge himself to see how off the wall he could get and keep it going as long as possible. I thought it was pretty funny.

- OverThinking, October 21, 2021

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short and funny game about being smart... in theory, October 21, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes

In this game you play a student at a university that stumbles into some kind of seminar, revolution and/or cult. Learn all about "Smart Theory" and how it will soon take the nation by storm!

This short game, written in Ink, is pretty funny. There are definitely some laugh-out-loud moments. Enhancing the humor is that you can actually see something like this happening on a college campus today. That said, the whole game, which is very short, is pretty much the same joke played over and over again in different keys, and it grows old about halfway through.

The game is well-implemented, with more than two choices at most junctures and a bit of looping back to give yourself a chance to catch things you missed before if you'd like. There is even an ending that is a bit more earnest than the preceding humor seems to warrant.

Definitely worth a playthrough for the laughs. Not sure if a second playthrough would add anything though.

- Xavid, October 19, 2021

- Zape, October 10, 2021

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