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About the Story
"Have you ever dreamt of playing a game in which you could control just everything (the plot, the setting, the way it reacts to your commands, the score you get, etc.)? If you have, your dreams are fulfilled now! (Well, sort of...)
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This sounded more interesting than it turned out to be. The work (itís certainly not a game) belongs to a group of experiments in IF—or at least in the use of IF interpreters—that one way or other test the limits of playability, the most infamous one possibly being Pick up the Phone Booth and Die.
This particular work consists of two pieces that belong together. Each piece of the pair is said to represent one extreme of interactivity.
So, one of them promises absolute interactive freedom for the player to control just about every aspect of both game world and game play. Thatís quite a tall order. If you believe any game that makes such a claim, youíre certainly bound to be disappointed. But even if you do not believe it, you might have been less disappointed by a work that failed in interesting way than in a work that, like this one, actually achieves that very goal but in such a trivial way.
(Spoiler - click to show)This piece lets you do anything. But it does so by not heeding to anything you do. The program does not model any world whatsoever: instead, as player, you are supposed to imagine any world you like, and whatever you wish to do in that world is fine to the parser. The program doesnít have to keep track of what you do in a world it doesnít model, so it can let you do anything. The idea is kind of good, but itís not very exciting reading.
The other piece of the pair, then, should represent the other extreme of interactivity. Well – it does.
(Spoiler - click to show)Whatever you try, you get the same response from the parser—at least until you decide to quit (or ask the game forhelp). Actually, the surprise effect of that part made it the most rewarding aspect of the whole diptyk.
Upon reading the introduction, I was thoroughly baffled. First, if you represent 3-D objects by common 2-D representations (a circle for a sphere, for instance), how is that new? Why create a whole new term to sum up common painting techniques? Second, I was baffled by how a painting style could express itself in words. Playing the two games only confirmed my generally dismal impression of abstract art, especially abstract art as interactive fiction (fiction presumes a narrative, after all). In any case, the two works, Black and White, purport to represent two extremes: no freedom and unlimited freedom.
White places you in a world that you have created and gets away with generic descriptions by claiming that you have made these things, so there's no need to describe them in detail. However, White has bugs. Typos abound and the room title never matches the status line. The interaction consists of an ELIZA (artificial psychologist) approach that is somewhat less interactive than that AI experiment. Here, the narrator comments in glowing terms on everything you do, but nothing you do has any effect. This is unlimited freedom in an abstract and ultimately purposeless way.
Supposedly Black represents the other extreme -- an utter lack of freedom; however, White didn't represent freedom in any meaningful sense, and Black doesn't represent lack of freedom in any meaningful sense. The opposite of freedom in IF would be a static story, but Black presents no story, only a one-room exercise in frustration. (Spoiler - click to show)Every single command generates the same response, except for one. After typing in "QUIT", Black responded, "There is no way out of this darkness." "Yes there is," I said, and quit the interpreter.
Philosophical struggles can fuel great prose and make for engaging interactive fiction, but "Suprematism in IF" completely forgot about the "fiction" aspect of IF. Neither Black nor White addresses the fundamental nature of story; both focus strictly on puzzles, and as a result, come off as cheap, cynical, and ultimately, unsatisfying philosophical experiments.
Neither experiment delivers anything original as far as philosophy goes, either, serving up only the reheated dish of nihilism. Saying that there is no hope in either freedom or lack of freedom, both are chains, both are prisons -- that itself is a false equivalence; many, many people have given their tears, their sweat, and their blood to be free. They were not satisfied by such simplistic equivalences, and neither was I satisfied by "Suprematism in IF".