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by Ruo

Action, Thriller, Science Fiction

(based on 13 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

Who is the player?

Welcome to the 5th annual broadcasted gaming competition known as GameCeption, where you compete in duos to win real money!

This year, it seems like the producers are shaking up the format to something a little more exciting and a little more...high-stakes, we shall say.

Content warning: Mild flashing images and text, some coarse language

Game Details


48th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)


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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Mind = blown, but maybe not blown enough, December 30, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).

I think anybody who has a job or area of expertise that’s routinely depicted in popular media has a pet-peeve list of things that are continually and hilariously flubbed in said media. As someone with a law degree, I’d put the talismanically-powerful contract waiver near the top of my list: you know, someone’s about to do something ridiculously dangerous and/or ill-advised, but since they agreed to a generic waiver, all is good. So it goes for Ziyan, the protagonist of this stylish choice-based game, who signs his name to a vague waiver saying “We are not responsible for any liabilities and damages that may occur during the games” before entering a reality-TV videogame competition that immediately goes way off the rails. As the battle royale gets way too real and axes, grenades, and body-parts start flying, the question isn’t who’s going to be left standing to claim the million-dollar prize – it’s how fast the survivors and the family members of those who don’t make it out will sue everyone involved back to the stone age, waiver or no waiver.

Okay, okay, that’s clearly not the point – and to a certain extent, the ultraviolence isn’t really the point either, as GameCeption’s thankfully more focused on the relationship between its two leads and the game-theoretical implications of its twist than it is on rendering a Battlegrounds-style game in IF form. Ziyan’s best friend, and partner in the competition, is Airen, an affable, supportive guy who provides a nice counterweight to Ziyan’s occasionally moody nature. There isn’t much time for the two of them to hang out before they decide to sign up for the TV show in hopes of making enough money to pay the rent, but the introductory scenes are enough to establish an easy rapport between them that raises the stakes once things go pear-shaped.

The signs that that something’s off about the production company come early, as the initial interview delves into some oddly invasive questions about how much the duo trust each other – this is effectively lampshaded, though, in a bit that showcases the early, laidback vibe:

“Dude, same,” Airen agrees, scratching his head. “Like are they gonna make us do a trust fall off the side of a building?” Ziyan punches him. “If that really happens, I’m blaming you.”

This introductory sequence does feel fairly long, and doesn’t have too many decision-points, but once the competition starts, things pick up. As you play the game, you’re presented with a series of mostly binary choices; I’m not sure how on-rails this sequence is, but it feels authentically tense. The writing does go a bit over the top, and having the gameplay narrow to determining whether you die or get to continue the story, but this section moves quickly enough that it doesn’t wear out its welcome. And then comes in the twist, which I found fairly predictable but which I’ll spoiler-block nonetheless.

(Spoiler - click to show)It turns out that you’re not piloting a polygonal avatar around, but rather (through some unexplained technology) your buddy Airen; likewise, the other players you’re fighting are real people who are being killed and/or maimed by the ultraviolence everyone is deploying in pursuit of the prize. This ironically brings the video-game battle royale genre back to its cinematic roots, but shorn of its original thematic heft; GameCeption doesn’t seem interested in interrogating the economic, political, or cultural systems that created such a horrifying competition, but instead uses its premise to put pressure on the traditional understanding of player identity in IF: if you’re making decisions for Ziyan, and Ziyan is making decisions for Airen, who’s actually the player?

It’s a superficially clever turn, but this twist didn’t do much for me. Again, it’s pretty heavily telegraphed, and questions of players’ complicity or agency in a narrative are old hat for IF by now; I don’t feel like adding the second-order complexity of one character piloting another did much to unsettle the well-understood IF triangle of identities (narrator, protagonist, player). Even a somewhat-stale theme can still support a good game, of course, but I felt that GameCeption put too many eggs in the metafictional basket: the rapport between Airen and Ziyan largely drops out as the action picks up, and the simple gameplay isn’t enough to hold the player’s interest. And then the ending doubles down by having Ziyan reup with the competition, and using his interest in game-design to implement an even bigger twist for the next season that makes even less sense, and has even less emotional impact.

Bringing things back as we return for spoiler-town, I’d summarize by saying that the game becomes over-reliant on a meta idea that isn’t quite as clever as it seems to think, and becomes a slender reed upon which to rest the second half of the game. There’s some excitement to be had, but I think GameCeption would have been stronger if it had either gone smaller, by staying grounded in the best-friend relationship between the two characters, or even bigger by leaning into the implications of its twist and dialing up the questions it raises about agency and control to 11. As is, I found the game a little too lukewarm to make much of an impact, like boilerplate contract language your eye just skips right past.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Game within a game, with lives on the line, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Hmm, this game is really intriguing! I had a bad experience at one part and good experiences at the other.

The idea here is that you play as a guy who, together with his best friend, enters a high-stakes two-player video game competition.

Except, things are not as they seem…

The intro is generally a linear story, although there are definitely opportunities to add your own flavor to things. There are extensive images and some background music; it seems like your characters are designed to look like anime high school protagonists.

Once the game starts, you have a lot more freedom. I had fun playing a character playing a character (the ‘Gameception’) and felt like I had real options.

But then…the game changed. And man I got really frustrated!

It becomes a ‘gauntlet’ where you have two choices at a time. One is right, but the other makes you die.

I was worried I’d have to play the whole game over. But it just took me to the start of the gauntlet.

But that’s the only checkpoint! And the gauntlet is really long with some timed text!

I tried 9 times and got so frustrated I had to quit. I ended up opening up the code; I guess I was really close to the end. And also there’s an almost entirely complete other game in the code too, which is pretty wild.

So, mostly fun game, with one super frustrating part. If that part just added some more ‘checkpoints’ I could have done better. Literally everything else was fun though.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Who's playing who?, November 14, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: ifcomp

GameCeption is "a game within a game" action thriller, where the goal is for you and your friend to win the gaming competition, and win the much needed prize (money!). The game you must play, however, is really not what it seems...

I'll say it out of the gate: I liked this game. It was nicely paced*, with engaging gameplay and choice, and a pretty stylised UI (I'm a sucker for a sci-fi-esc interface). Even if I saw the twist coming from a mile away, I was still pretty entertained, and felt vindicated when proven right! I thought the game knocked it out of the park.
*timed text on replay was a taaaaad annoying, esp when trying to speed run the last part

I liked the differences between the two parts of the competition, both in terms of styling of the page and the text itself. As both parts sort of mirror each other, especially in terms of action, there is just enough distinctiveness between both parts to make it feel fresh. The "parser"-like actions with the links added to the game competition aspect.

While characterised as an action thriller, I think Survival, à-la Battle Royale, might fit the game even better, especially considering the gameplay when the competition starts. Though the interface of the game and the cover art would maybe give the expectation of a more sci-fi like entry.

For a game with multiple "losing" state, I appreciated "respawning" at the last major point, avoiding replaying the whole game to get back to the action.

Maybe a less positive point, it would be in the characterisation of the protagonists' relationship. It was maybe left a bit too vague for the question at the 'interview' to hit harder.

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GameCeption on IFDB


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