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Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2007 XYZZY Awards
1st Place - Spring Thing 2007
Play This Thing
Fate is a piece I come back to again and again in my thinking about the interactive potential of narrative, because it attempts something rarely done: It allows the player to craft a character who is not just "good" or "bad" or "aligned" to one or another ethical philosophy, but the representative of a more complex morality, one without labels. And there are a few strong moments where the player comes face-to-face with the cumulative implications of her choices, and they surprise a little.
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Despite the lack of a set time limit, a sense of urgency is created by the impending birth of Catherine's son. The player is periodically reminded that Catherine is very pregnant, often by painful descriptions. This sense of urgency blurs some of the moral and personal decisions Catherine must make in order to change her sons fate. Not wanting to spoil anything, I'll just say that some of these moral dilemmas are quite effective at disturbing a player who feels complicit to the wrongdoing.
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Fate initially appears to be a somewhat typical text adventure. As you play, though, more layers begin to appear as you decide just what you are willing to do to protect yourself, your unborn child, and your country. Your first couple of choices are quite morally unambiguous, but later choices are not so easy at all. Are you willing to sacrifice an innocent life to save a country? Does a man who committed a murder decades ago and sincerely repented still deserve to be punished for it? These are the sorts of questions you find yourself grappling with. You always have the choice to say no, to say that the end does not justify the means. However, the stakes are high for you and yours as well.
One might argue that the game is a bit manipulative. At several points when faced with what the game obviously wanted me to regard as a stark binary decision I thought of a more morally acceptable third way, but was refused the freedom to act on my idea. Nevertheless, Fate dares to ask the sort of big questions that conventional IF seldom gets near. A must-play for everyone.
Fate is an exploration of player choice and moral dilemma in interactive fiction, and as pioneering work, it's worth a play.
I’m not sure how much “Fate”’s moral dilemmas worked for me, though. The central question always comes down to balancing suffering — are you willing to hurt X in order to save Y? — and while there are many permutations and many outcomes possible in the game, the choice often felt essentially arbitrary. Gijsbers does attempt to sketch in story, to provide weight and characterization to some of the characters, but I felt there was not enough meat here to make the major decision points really powerful.
So I enjoyed the game, and I thought it was an interesting essay in designing IF. I also thought it did not quite accomplish what it could have if it had framed its dilemmas a little differently (pitting different principles against one another) or else developed its characters more deeply (to make more interesting the choice of who has to suffer).
As soon as I read the premise of Fate, I found it exciting. As you immediately learn, you are a pregnant queen about to give birth; you also have the capacity to see your child's future. Your goal is to change that future.
Gijsbers' game has excellent writing, reminding me of the best parts of Ian Finley's Kaged and Adam Cadre's Varicella. But what I appreciated most was something else; no matter how many IF games I play, I still seem to need walkthroughs for everything. But I didn't have this issue for this game, because:
1. You can always reach some sort of ending in the game, and your endings improve as you go on. So if you can't get more than halfway in the game, you get a halfway-decent ending.
2. Almost all of the puzzles seem to have multiple solutions.
The game has a dark theme, and includes violence. But your character is clearly motivated by a positive goal, and the game rewards you whether you choose violence or not. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you can reach what I consider the best ending without (Spoiler - click to show)injuring the pixie. However, I didn't find a way to avoid (Spoiler - click to show)killing the gardener; but as I said, the game doesn't force you to do anything you don't want to.
The moral choices seemed a bit easier to me as well, since your character is (Spoiler - click to show)a prisoner, and (Spoiler - click to show)her family is at war with her husband, who stole her away and won't promise to stop her child from being killed.
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