CHASE THE SUN

by Frankie Kavakich

2022

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Apocalypse in several flavors, January 16, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Ah, the end of the world. I've had nightmares about it. About what I'd do at the end. A feeling of helplessness, a sudden hope there is afterlife. I can't tell if they're worse than the public humiliation nightmares, because with the public humiliation nightmares, you can cope, or even isolate certain incidents that almost could happen in real life, so you can stand up to certain types of people, or certain lines of attack. But the end of the world? Not so much. Nature doesn't care, whether it's the natural death of the sun or something horrible and man-made. Certainly the threat of nuclear war back in February 2022, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, brought back a lot of these worries and thoughts. I hadn't had them since the glorious days of Duck and Cover.

Here you're driving west in a truck that is close to empty, and you have to assume gas stations aren't open, or if they are, they're gouging prices. A truck can go 60 MPH. The sun? Well, you have to go 1000 MPH to keep up with it. So, yeah, here it's pretty obvious you're going to fail, just by the title alone, but the only question is: how?

There are several ways in CtS, and none of them are particularly appealing, but on the other hand, there's a lack of melodrama. I went unconscious in my truck, got lost in a forest, and wound up fleeing people who actually welcomed the rapture. The choices sprawl, for such a small work, but they don't feel totally random. A lot of early choice-based works had branches all over the place, often for humor (EctoComp Petite Mort is good at this, and Ruderbanger Doppleganger's Last Minute is an extreme example,) other times just to get something in before the comp deadline.

Each end seems to denote futility in different ways. They all worked for me. There's no melodrama, just an inability on the author's end to accept that the world's coming to an end, whether or not they saw the disaster in advance. I thought the strongest ending was with the people who said "oh come on think positive you have nothing to worry about if you've been good." This sort of "embrace the inevitability, it can't be that bad" is annoying even for far smaller things, such as a favorite restaurant or pub closing, or even trying to type in that last bit on a library computer when I had a bunch of writing notes and couldn't quite concentrate at home. (The time constraints actually helped me get a lot done.)

Perhaps CtS would not have been as effective if I'd played it earlier in the IFComp cycle. With a bunch of games to go, and not being sure if I could make it, it worked very well, but I think it would've done so anyway. We all have those deadlines, or we should. We've all seen things die and had people say "oh don't worry, there'll be something else. Enjoy the ride." And there will be something else, and we can enjoy the ride, but we really don't want to hear these people anyway. They're not helpful.

I think CtS did a very good job of projecting controlled emotions. It reminded me of times I'd gotten close to freaking out when I shouldn't be, which put me dangerously close to "why am I freaking out over something not worth freaking out over" territory. I was pretty sure I didn't need a stark reminder of mortality when I started, but once done, it seemed appropriate and good.

I spent time making sure I'd hit the main branches, because I wanted to draw out the CtS experience a bit more, but not too much. I knew I was sort of staving off the inevitable, and I felt slightly bummed it ended so soon, which is better than things ending too late. This is in contrast to the actual end of the world, most of us would probably want to drag it out, even if there was just woe and pain left, and there probably wouldn't be much time or energy reserved for making sure you've seen what you want to. After seeing what the author had to say, I guess I was, well, ready for the end of it all, and not in the "geez I hope this ends" sort of way.