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Huh?, May 9, 2010
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".