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+ = x

by Chandler Groover profile

Science Fiction

(based on 23 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

An equation is a language, which is a road to move information. All matter is information. Even a crust trimmed from a sandwich. Even a planet's crust, adrift in space, with its core blown. Those lights are the last cities, sparkling in the dark. That crescent husk is what remains, floating between the stars. Everything is an engine, and every planet is a vehicle.

Game Details


57th Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)

Editorial Reviews


The story is able to leverage its unique take on interactivity to enrich its dystopian satire, allowing the reader to share first hand in the helplessness of its unlucky characters. It succeeds because its interactive elements remain invisible and fluid as they integrate seamlessly with the themes of the underlying piece of short fiction.
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Kirjallinen suunnistaja

Groover tarjoaa vinksahtaneita ja absurdeja näkymiä, mutta tällä kertaa hyvin pelkistetyssä ja lyhyessä muodossa. Teoksen muoto ja sisältö vastaavat yksinkertaisella tavalla toisiaan: Texturen "lappuset" ovat ennustuskoneen nielemiä kortteja, joita lukija syöttää sisään henkilöhahmon puolesta. Leikkisää, mutta sanoisinko oivaltavaksi? Ehkä, mutta teoksen filosofinen ulottuvuus jäi minulle hämäräksi.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A twisted Texture tale. Short and obscure, a sci fi story, March 12, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This was a controversial IFComp game. Chandler Groover, known for writing well-received games with dense, descriptive writing, released a short and cryptic game for IFComp.

After listening to the author talk, and playing it myself, I now think I know what it's all about.

The clear part is that there is a fortune telling machine. People are 'added', which summons them to the machine. There, they are either equalized or multiplied.

After finding the easter egg, I realized on my most recent playthrough:

(Spoiler - click to show)The fortune telling machine is the engine for a spaceship/planet. Each person who is 'multiplied' is erased from existence. The energy from erasing them is used to rewrite the timeline to one where the planet is in another space. Movement by not moving, just changing the timestream.

Figuring this out made me like it more, otherwise I'd give it a 3. Nice presentation and good use of the Texture format.

I still don't know what being Equalized means.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
As mysterious as a blank card, March 27, 2021
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

[Note: this review was written in 2018 during the competition. I have now played more Chandler Groover games, especially the brilliant Eat Me. Also, I believe that Groover wasn't impressed by most interpretations of his game, this one included, so possibly it misses the point!]

Chandler Groover has been a massively productive author in the past few years; but I have been a massively absent reader in those same years, so I can’t compare +=x to his other games. (The only Groover game I’ve played is Rape, Pillage, Makane, which has few obvious connections with the current effort.) I originally thought that I would be in a good position to compare +=x to the 1994 game <a game=1z2lxiqua980sedk>+=3</a>, but the affinities between these games end with the title. Conclusion: I’m going into this game like a blank card into a fortune telling machine. What will be written on me?

The production values of +=x are high, from the very nice cover art to the smart drag-and-drop interface. We quickly catch on to the fact that Groover is exploring a sort of inverse of the standard choice-based pitfall of ‘fake choices’: instead of differently looking choices that in fact lead to the same text, +=x gives us identical looking choices that do not lead to the same text. It’s a nice idea, and it suggests a world in which we are mere playthings of some nameless force we cannot comprehend. It reminds me of nothing so much as of a great passage near the beginning of Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens:

God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players (i.e. everybody), to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

That’s exactly what +=x is, right down to the blank cards. Although in this case, if we are diligent and perceptive enough, or just read the spoilers on the forum, we find out that the dealer is not, perhaps, a personal God. For in the source code of the game, we find this hidden message:
Here I sit amongst the cogs, amongst the code, dealing my cards. Some say that I’m a wizard, and some say I’m a machine. I strike two lines, and those two lines determine what I mean. And what I mean is time, and what I mean by time is space, and what I mean by space is who and how and in what place. It’s faster to travel by not traveling. It’s faster to be when you already are. All it takes is a shift in the continuum to make something near turn into something far. And to make something far become something nearby. To move through the galaxy, just multiply. One atom, one hour, one lifetime displaced, and everything as it exists is erased, replaced by another existence equal to the fuel that I burn when I dip my quill pen. Again, I’ll deal another card. Again, I’ll strike another line. These equations are games in the game I’m inside. Now you’re down too inside the text, where numbers crunch, bullfinches nest. We are the stars, the universe, Alpha Centauri, Betelgeuse. Wherever you or I might be, you’re here right now, and you’re with me.

There is a sense, then, in which the two lines are time and space – the + symbol being, of course, not only a symbol of arithmetic but also the basic form taken by a space-time diagram; and the wizard that determines our fates is revealed as the cold, blind, merely calculating laws of nature. We are not the masters of our fate, +=x seems to tell us; we are merely what everything is, playthings in the hands of underlying forces that care about neither us nor meaning. This universe may be beautiful, but it is a beauty cold and austere. It is not human. No wonder, then, that the characters in the game are not truly human, but indeed characters, to be replaced at a moment’s notice by the characters of mathematics: + = x

The game surely contains enough ambiguity to support interpretations different from the one I have just given, but this is one way to make sense of it. Interesting, yes. Compelling in its portrayal of the universe, certainly not. We have free will, mathematics is best thought of as a human activity, and there cannot be a universe without meaning. Call me a humanist, but I resist being equalised.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short and weird, October 19, 2018
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: Less than 15 minutes

Kind of an interesting premise, but in the end it is just a quick 15 minute game where nothing really happens. Your choices don't feel like they make any difference. Certainly not as good as "Eat Me".

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This is version 4 of this page, edited by Doug Orleans on 25 November 2018 at 5:46pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page