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About the Story
A new government's coming. A populist government looking to shake up the status quo. Your job in the Advertising Corrections Team is safe enough, but as tensions rise and regulations tighten you know that the only way to get through it all is to keep your head down and focus on your work. Isn't it?
14th Place (tie) - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
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Number of Reviews: 2
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I'm giving this 4.5 stars, rounding up to 5 on IFDB.
Ostrich is a multi-day Twine game set in a country similar to modern-day America.
In this story, you play the role of government censor, deciding what does and doesn't pass into the news (and later, branching out into further works).
The interactivity has a nice pattern to it: an ongoing saga in your daily commute, with choices remembered over time; your actual job which is graded and performance mentioned; and your evening rituals, which gain importance as the game progresses.
The first few times I played this game, I had the impression that it was fairly linear, but after multiple replays, I've realized that it has quite a bit of freedom. I felt like it did a good job of balancing hard choices in some bits.
There was something just a bit missing from this, though, that would would have made it a classic. I can't identify what it is.
I recommend this author's other games, as well.
Ostrich is a choice-based political thriller. You work for the government's "advertising corrections" team. A right-wing populist leader with strong fascist tendencies comes to power. As the story progresses you have to decide how much you want to continue to support the government's increasingly restrictive rules on what is allowed to be printed and how much you want to support the movement protesting the government.
I had two strong, opposing reactions to Ostrich. One had to do with the gameplay, which I found to be quite good at conveying the feeling of participating in a repressive regime. For example, the mechanic of slowly adding more and more restrictions was particularly effective. The cumulative feel of all of that censorship was overpowering in ways that I think were intended. Also, the game has one particular location be the source of more and more events that illustrate the consequences of the new regime's oppressive policies. Some political issues can feel abstract; showing how one's daily routine is actually influenced by political decisions is a good way of dramatizing those decisions. In addition, the PC's continual notice of whether the trains were on time or late was interesting. I kept thinking of that old saying about Mussolini that at least he made the trains run on time, which I'm sure was the intent here.
The other strong reaction I had was to the game's political voice. My preference for art that tackles political issues is for them to engage multiple perspectives. I think it's fine to take a strong stand on an issue, but (in general) I think political art should at least show that it understands why people may think differently on that issue in addition to taking that strong stand.
And I don't think Ostrich does a good job with that. The kinds of policies that a repressive government attempts to force on its citizens can fall all over the political spectrum; all you need to do is look at 20th century history to find repressive left-wing regimes and repressive right-wing regimes. The new government in Ostrich, however, feels to me to be repressive in exactly the kinds of ways that a 2018 progressive most fears. It's like the embodiment of a left-wing nightmare. At one point the text even gives you the option of choosing "progressive" vs. "dangerously unpatriotic" in a newspaper article that you're editing, with the clear implication that "progressive" is good and anything else is bad. This feels too easy to me. Since it seems the primary intent of Ostrich is to give the player the experience of being complicit in a repressive political regime, I think the game would have been stronger if it were more universal and not so clearly aligned with one side of the political spectrum.
Of course, other players' mileage may vary on politics in art, as well as on Ostrich's political voice.
In sum, I found Ostrich to be a technically strong political thriller whose effect was somewhat marred by the fact that it only presents one side of some important political questions of the day.
If you enjoyed Ostrich...
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PollsThe following polls include votes for Ostrich:
For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Story of 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best Story in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to suggest games...
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