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Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets

by Naomi Norbez profile and Josh Grams

Slice of life
2023

Web Site

(based on 7 ratings)
4 reviews

About the Story

The members of the Hidden Gems Of Poetry Group are close. Even the move from internet forum to web server can't break their bond. But heartbreaking news could mean the end of things as they know it.

A short game made for SeedComp 2023. The writing is by Naomi Norbez, and the game was programmed by Josh Grams.

Please note that Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets contains discussion of sexual harassment/coercion, and people in positions of power taking advantage of their place.


Game Details


Awards

Entrant, All Games - SeedComp! - 2023

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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Great UI, mixed feelings on story, April 15, 2024
by Cerfeuil (*Teleports Behind You* Nothing Personnel, Kid)
Related reviews: Seedcomp 2023

The UI in this game is fantastic. The effort to recreate Discord's interface, right down to the typing indicators, is incredible. Also love how it switches around depending on which character you're typing as. This is exactly the kind of thing I love to see Twine games do, recreating existing websites and playing with the medium in a way that makes full use of Twine's HTML capabilities and the potential of web fiction in general. Great stuff.

The plot, however, I have some quibbles with. The topic is dark, it's interesting, and it's treated with the gravity it deserves. But as a person who's been in a few close-knit Discord servers, I feel like what the story is missing is a real sense of community with more fleshed-out characters. Since the game is so short, we don't have time to get a sense of who any of the characters are. Name, age, gender, and some vague descriptors is pretty much it. None of them have the time to feel like real people. We don't get to see how the community works and what things were like before the revelations came out, which deadens the impact of it all. We're told that Cornelius is admired and respected more than we're shown that. We only see him (Spoiler - click to show)being a creep, and I guessed that he was a predator almost immediately. It wasn't a surprise at all. I think if there was more detail on the specifics of these people and more on what things were like before it all went down, more of a gradual reveal that there's something wrong with this guy, it would make the revelations and the decision to dissolve the group at the end much more impactful.

Also wish there was more choice involved, though I'm not sure how. I only played once, but there doesn't seem to be a broad range of choices. It's either (Spoiler - click to show)"tell everyone what Cornelius did" or "don't", and what sane person wouldn't pick the first option? I get that in real life there are various reasons people wouldn't want to, but as a reader choosing not to tell just strips you from being able to see the full narrative.

Also, and this may just be a pet peeve of mine, some of the character voices feel slightly off. The older characters especially. Their inclusion is odd in the first place because I rarely see mixed-age groups online and especially people older than 30 or 40, although this might just be a side effects of the communities I'm in. I can see it making sense here with the history of the group, though some more history and notes on how the younger members ended up joining might help. Anyway. A lot of the older characters' dialogue came across as old people talk for the sake of making them look old, i.e. dropping 'boy', and 'dear' all the time. Basically, the older characters rang the least true to me. But as I just said I have no idea how older people act in chatrooms, so who am I to talk?

It's still an interesting game, though. I liked how the flashbacks slowly revealed more of the story over time. And the escalation from (Spoiler - click to show)"Cornelius is acting off here" to "Cornelius is a straight-up predator", coupled with the drama of the car accident, unfolds well. I think if it was longer, and gave us more time to get attached to the characters, I'd feel the vibes more.

[Review written April 2023, edited April 2024]

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Death and dark secrets threaten a discord community, March 6, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a great, character driven mixed-media game that simulates discord while also using additional text and pdf files to tell an overall story.

Bez and Josh Grams teamed up on this one, with Bez writing and Josh programming (according to credits), and I think the division of labor worked great, because the writing is on-point and the coding is very smooth and looks fancy.

The main thrust of the game is a Discord conversation between a group of friends that gathered together over the years to discuss an obscure (and fictional) poet. However, the main leader of the group is in a car crash. While this is being announced, dark secrets bubble up.

You take turns as the various members of the discord group, selecting between different variations of how to respond. It definitely seemed like my choices could influence the story heavily, but I chose a particular path of every time to get more juicy gossip.

In between the choices, there are interludes with additional information over the years.

I think this is some of the strongest writing I've seen in a while: a diverse cast of characters, realistic scenarios, people reacting the way they do in real life. It was especially jarring because I've lived through or seen a few different variations of the events depicted in this game.

There were a few quibbles I had; I was torn about the timed text, because it does make it harder to fit a game in during a busy schedule, but it definitely contributes to the overall feel of the game. Also, I feel like the game could have been just a little longer or have a firmer resolution. Otherwise, this is a game that I felt joy to play.

Edit: Apparently the poet Dorn is real. Who knew?

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not so hidden secrets, April 2, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: seedcomp

Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets is a Twine game set in a Discord server, where members of the Hidden Gems Of Poetry Group interact, led by Dr. Cornelius Harper, a retired professor with a passion for poetry. Prior to the creation of this space, each member had some sort of connection with Cornelius (who calls himself Corn), many seeing him as a mentor. The server is also moderated by his trans grandson.

But on that day, two collisions shock the group: a literal one, leaving the life of Cornelius in the balance waiting for surgery, and a more metaphorical one as a secret threatens the bond of this small community. Obviously, the two events couldn't have come at a worse time...
In between beats of conversation, we are able to see personal exchanges between Corn and each member, during different time periods. These, coupled with the live messages in-chat, allows you to paint a clear picture of the man and his actions. There are hints from the start to what is going to happen, and what has happened (Spoiler - click to show)who knows how many times. The implications are pretty damning.

Honestly, I thought this game was completely linear at first. Before sending the first message, I tried clicking on the side arrows to see what it would do, but since nothing happened, I chalked it off as just "for show" (turns out, not every message has a choice, but the arrows always look the same). So I had, for better or for worse, the "middle ending" right off the bat. I've checked the other two endings, and I'm certainly glad I got this one first. Though none of the path feel "good", one feels realistic but disappointing (in the other members), the other quite uncomfortable (though it could probably lead to a "better" outcome for most).
Though I think most players would favour the more salacious choices, with how they are listed on the screen...

I think it would have driven the point further if we were able to go through previous conversations in the server. From the first live conversation, it is clear the users know each other well by now, and have created strong bonds with one another (and with Corn). But the only channel with potentially substantial discussion also starts with Sorry, older messages can't be loaded, per the settings in this server., which wouldn't make sense if you are a member of a server (why would all the messages be hidden every time someone logs off? especially for the purpose of discussions), but also thwart the possibility of understanding who the users are (what do they like? what kind of writing to they do? etc) and how they usually behave with one another (do they fight and make up? are they always friendly? how does Corn fits into their dynamics). Instead, you end up as an onlooker peering into what is happening right now and also controlling the members as puppets (I mean, you kind of are for the purpose of the story) - kinda weirdly voyeuristic?

On the interface side, I would have preferred if it had been a bit closer to the actual Discord interface, whether it is the palette use (I know you can change it on browser, but it would have been suuuuper unlikely everyone used the same green palette, especially considering how different the characters are) or the placement of elements on the screen. Though it was smart to keep the messages of the "playable" user separate from the rest of the chat, and each user getting their personal pfp.

Definitely a confronting game, thought not completely unrealistic. Interesting mechanic and interface wise, discomforting story wise.

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Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Extremely Online Games by autumnc
Games about being Extremely Online. Games that take place mostly on a simulated internet UI of some sort, games about online culture and relationships.

Polls

The following polls include votes for Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets:

Games exploring trauma and other messy subject matter by Kastel
Looking for, as Nathalie Lawhead puts it, art caught between “everything is horrible”, “everything is survivable”, and “this is too hard to talk about”. I'm interested in how people explore the messy things in life through IF engines.

Outstanding Slice of Life Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best Slice of Life game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

Games which take place in chat messenger systems or on a digital interface by grimperfect
Specifically, works where the main mechanic is either exploring a in-game digital interface(ala Secret Little Haven) or communicating using a type of chat/text messenger system(think Emily is Away).




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