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IMO: A Good Start, May 14, 2021
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)