The Best Man

by Stephen Bond


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A glimpse into the mind of a 'nice guy', October 17, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

I know Stephen Bond entirely from his two earlier games:
-Rameses (from IFComp 2000), a popular and influential but controversial parser game about a young Irish teenager which was notable for not allowing the player any real agency, and
-The Cabal (from 2004) a joke game about how all of IF is run by a secret cabal that decides who's in and who's out.

I assume it's the same Stephen Bond, unless there are two Stephen Bonds writing interactive fiction stories about unappealing young Irish IF protagonists and agency.

This game combines a main storyline (from the viewpoint of Aiden, a young man) as well as numerous other snippets from the personal lives of bystanders, which kind of gave me a Spoon River Anthology vibe.

Aiden is consumed with love for for a girl named Laura, and has been for a long time as one of her friends. While they have an actual friendship, he spends most of his time imagining a happier future or a potential deeper love. Unfortunately, Laura is marrying another man. Today, in fact; and you've just been asked to be the best man at the wedding.

The gameplay feels pretty linear, although that's a bit belied by the complex web of Twine code you can see if you open it up in Twinery. There are numerous changes of viewpoint with corresponding changes in text color, a couple of images and some digital music sequenced from real songs.

This game falls in the category of 'very accurate representations of insufferable people', kind of like Savoir-Faire or the original Rameses. Aiden's mentality is that of a classic 'nice guy', and the ending suggests (Spoiler - click to show)that Aiden becomes involved in a bigger community, possibly incels or red-pilled stuff or MRAs.

I find Aiden understandable. I think Bond has done a good job of taking regular human weaknesses and amplifying them to a high level. Who hasn't had a crush in high school or on a distant celebrity that was unrealistic? But those come and go. This is a story about an enduring obsession, and that's what makes it more chilling.

I find this game polished, descriptive, and it had emotional impact for me. The level of interactivity worked for me for this specific story (with the different perspectives adding another layer of richness), but somehow the whole thing never completely gelled for me into a complete experience in a way that's hard to pin down.

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Andrew Schultz, October 17, 2021 - Reply
After seeing all these thoughtful reviews about how Aiden did not become a better person, I'm a bit worried about my own interpretation, that perhaps he did manage to turn his back on "all that." "All that" is pretty ambiguous, I guess. In his case, I'd like to think he saw that all the sniping wasn't real friendship.

I do sort of wish The Best Man had let you back up to see how Aiden trying different things at the wedding ceremony might affect the resolution. After all, it takes a while to get there--or even to cheat and read the source code once you're done.

(BTW, proofreading note, the spoiler closer tag is missing a greater-than, so the review is temporarily truncated.)
Spike, October 20, 2021 - Reply
FWIW, I had a similar take as Andrew: (Spoiler - click to show)Aiden eventually came to understand that his treatment by Laura and her crew wasn't real friendship. He was also able to grow and make changes in his life so that the people he cultivated friendships with appreciated him for who he really is. I didn't read anything sinister into his new group of friends.

I still had the title "The Best Man" in mind, so I was assuming Aiden became a better person.

That's interesting that others had a different interpretation.
MathBrush, October 21, 2021 - Reply
I made a post on intfiction about this in general to see what other people think! It's fun to have a game like this with multiple interpretations
Victor Gijsbers, October 28, 2021 - Reply
I guess I'm more in the Andrew/Spike camp, though one could also argue that the game leaves it deliberately ambiguous.
MathBrush, October 17, 2021 - Reply
Thanks for the tip! And yeah, it seems ambiguous, maybe itís kind of a Rohrschach test? Perhaps you in this situation would have become a better person, while I imagine I would have become a worse lol
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