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About the Story
IRL: The Game is based off of IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives by Chris Stedman. The game was designed and developed by Julia Makivic.
Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Current Version: Unknown
Development System: p5.js
Forgiveness Rating: Merciful
ĎIRLí is a book (and a game) thatíll change the online (and offline) you
Author Chris Stedman hopes his new book IRL ó and its accompanying video game Ė will get you thinking about digital realness.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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IRL: The Game was written by Julia Mkivic and accompanies a book by Chris Stedman. I haven't read the book, but it supposedly explores the challenges and opportunities of living part of our lives online; and the game is a companion piece that allows players to think through these issues for themselves.
Unfortunately, IRL: The Game reduces a nuanced and multi-dimensional issue to a series of black-and-white questions that float in a narrative void. The basic idea of the game is that you are following several people on social media. Three appear regularly: a cartographer who is struggling with how to best resist the way that gentrification destroys existing communities; an online performer (possibly drag, but I'm getting that more from the book description than from the game itself) who loves being in front of their audience; and someone who is organising a furry convention. The idea is that all of them are struggling with how to weigh their online presence against their physical contacts. Each of them asks you several questions, and you can always answer these with either a pro-online or a pro-offline option. Depending on how many you chose, the final screen will give you a different description of how they continue. For instance, the furry organiser will either organise a fully in-person conference, or organise a partly online conference.
So... yeah. Online and offline interact in complex ways, and getting a bunch of dichotomous questions that make me choose either one or the other isn't really getting me to think about any of the complexities involved. Furthermore, the game doesn't even attempt to hook the choices up to the unfolding narrative. Yes, your answers determine what exactly the characters will do. But what the characters do has no effect on me, on the questions I receive, on how I feel about things. One does not in the least identify with the outcomes.
A missed opportunity, one feels, and certainly not one that made me eager to read the book.
(I played this game as part of an IFDB Spelunking expedition where I try to play through ten random games.)
HTML-based social media simulator that probes the social intersections of digital and material realness. It complements and promotes the non-fiction book "IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives." A fruitful experiment in non-traditional IF that needs some work to reach its potential.
This review uses the P.I.A.N.O. system for reviewing and rating interactive fiction.
Plot compellance = 0.5
The "plot" of this game arises from the way that the player's social media responses impact the values and material choices of three NPC characters. This promotes a degree of investment in the outcome, but the effect of these responses is only observed at the end of the game. This made second and third playthroughs boring and rote.
Implementation maturity = 0.5
All of the choices that appear to directly impact the outcome have only two options. I found this sparse for such a rich and ambitious topic. (Spoiler - click to show)Example: the game asks "When does an object, idea, or experience become real to you?" and gives the choices 1) "Itís real when I can see it and feel it. Otherwise, itís just an abstraction." and 2) "Reality isnít always perceptible or tangible. Even abstract notions like theories and concepts have concrete consequences.". This felt like a false dichotomy.
How about also 3) "Reality is socially constructed - something is real when it is shared and interpreted in a communal context." and 4) "Each and every present moment is equally real, what I am thinking and feeling right now is my reality, including abstract thoughts. Everything else is an echo." Consequently, the algorithm for mapping the choices on to the outcomes felt like it was disingenuously diluting my participation.
Artfulness in use of the medium = 1.0
The interface is simple and elegant with effective use of sound, text and graphics.
Net reward = 0.0
I wanted to like this game, but it fell short of its goal of provoking me to join its dialogue about digital and material meaning and reality. I think the IF world is a little richer for this experimental contribution.
I'm not so sure that the players are (yet).
Oh, that certain "je ne sais quoi" = 0.5
"The best fiction is true." This game is a courageous exploration of the relevance of fiction to material life on multiple levels. With some retooling and some polish, it could achieve its goal.
Total: 2.5 (rounded up to 3 stars)