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About the Story
(author is Adam Cadre, but game is unsigned)
You're on the trail of the woman you love, trying to get her to pay attention to you. Very linear--everything is foreordained, and your choices don't alter the course of the story much--though that's inevitable under the circumstances, as you'll see. A nicely done though unedifying portrait of the protagonist--this is not someone in whose shoes you're likely to enjoy being, so it's a mercy that the game is quite short.
-- Duncan Stevens
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Number of Reviews: 4
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In 1981, you play a man stalking a woman. If "play" sounds light, perhaps it's more accurate to say you are almost chained to the actions of a man in the grip of erotomania (a deluded and obsessive romantic fixation). Due to the shortness of the experience, I will omit further description of either of the main characters, as I can imagine how some players may prefer not to know certain fundamental details of the setup going in. What is certain is the strength of the writing, which thoroughly sinks you into the headspace of the obsessed protagonist, and into his vivid fantasy life.
At the rawest level of game mechanics, 1981 caters to very few player actions; it is what is typically called linear. The obsessed PC imparts clear thoughts in the prose about the next important course of action, and it's generally a waste of time trying anything else. What's interesting is the extent to which this approach could be considered to work well with the subject matter of this game. The psychological disorder at work here is characterised by the subject's complete resistance to all attempts to convince them that the situation is other than they believe it to be. Perhaps this is the best "excuse" for linearity that there can be.
This raises the question of what the player's role is here. "Creepy" and "uncomfortable" have been common review descriptions of the experience of playing 1981. Players tend not to like playing "bad" characters in realistic situations, or even facilitating their actions. I think this remains a difficult or weak point for the prospects of certain kinds of storytelling being done with IF. 1981 may again supply its own solution with its subject matter. With the PC's character being presented so monomaniacally, the player is likely to feel a degree of separation from the PC's actions. If you try to break off the path, the PC either doesn't want to do your thing because it's irrelevant to his plans, or your thing isn't implemented, or both.
It would be difficult and tedious for me to try and describe how 1981 could work as easily as a short story as IF. I think it could, and in that form it would be clear of the "playing a villain" hurdle. But it works in this form with the caveats that you must play the villain and accept mechanical linearity, positions which are unpopular and still querulous to many, respectively. What you will get for this is the sensation that you are shackled to the PC's ruinous path and that there's no getting off. This kind of story trajectory fascinates me because being privy to the amount of effort that a human can devote to going entirely the wrong way in life is strangely illuminating about our capabilities as a species. 1981 is a psychologically strong excursion into this territory – though with little extra implementation – and also an interesting demonstration of one way to traverse a lot of difficult IF terrain to do with unlikeable protagonists and realism.
Spoiling background on the game: (Spoiler - click to show)This is an imagined recreation of the real case of John Hinckley Jr. and his obsession with actress Jodie Foster, resulting in his assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. I knew about the case before playing the game, but the game doesn't reveal who the parties are until halfway through. I experienced a minor letdown at the moment of revelation, to an extent, only because I then felt I knew what was going to happen. But inevitability is such a strong part of this game anyway - this was really just my idiosyncratic reaction and no reflection on the game.
I was expecting a game with a lot more charm, genius, and originality, because of the author, but instead I discovered an IF grave. It isn't as if this game doesn't have potential either. The story could definitely be developed upon with the style he is so good at, but the truth is, the story wasn't developed further, and the frame is all that is there.
In the first place, the story was extremely linear. No use of the brain was needed at all to complete the adventure. And being linear isn't a bad thing (indeed such games as Photopia are linear but spectacular), but such a story cannot be so restricted that It doesn't matter what you do. Descriptions were bland and rather tasteless with very little to look at except just what the author wanted you to do, and indeed there were very little objects or actions which could be used.
Characters were one thing the story did a fairly neat job on, especially the protagonist. The knowledge of the protagonist was well structured and developed to give you a slight chill at being this person. Other characters though, were not developed and remained 2 dimensional throughout. The game could have been quite something, but as for now: R.I.P.
This game was entered in Smoochiecomp as a sort of anti-game.
You play a creepy individual who is writing poetry for a girl you like and shoving it under her door.
It turns out that this game is based on a real life person that played an important role in American history in 1981. I found it interesting.
The game is short, but well polished and historically interesting.
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More than it appears to be... by dacharya64
I'm looking for games that aren't exactly what they seem. Perhaps they come across as simple or romantic or anything really, the point is that things take a turn for the worse (or perhaps the better) and everything begins to change....
Artistic Games by WriterBob
I'm interested in games that take the fiction of IF to new levels. These are not straightforward, plot driven games. Think instead of games that play like poetry, or games that focus on a character's revelation.