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About the Story
Content Warnings: Sexual harassment, racism, transphobia.
Entrant - Single Choice Jam
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Number of Reviews: 3
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The Single Choice Jam allowed for one actual choice of branches, with the rest being just pushing through with the equivalent of "next." That's not to say you had to put a choice of two or more paths in, though of course it'd be a risk to.
CFDM takes this risk and is, I think, successful. Perhaps you have little in common with the narrator. You're not a member of any group that's discriminated against. But it's still easy to understand their helplessness, as well as the final climax, which wasn't dramatic but I can see how it's something you might be dreading all evening.
The setting is a family dinner where banal things seem to be discussed. Except in context they are not banal and you have a right to feel very ugly listening to them. Family members are either negligent towards this or actively trying to make things more uncomfortable. It's not a very long dinner, thankfully for the reader, and it doesn't need to be to get the point across. The final bit hit home for me, as it forced the narrator to go along with the whole charade of normality one last time. I found it effective. I suspect most readers have been in the narrator's position before. The alternative seems to be that they have not, because they have created that sort of position for others, which is obviously worse.
This entry was written by someone looking to try Inform for the first time after showing they were handy with Twine and narrative things. It's neat to see this crossover on general principles, being someone who used these jams to look into Twine after learning Inform. And I think it adds a new perspective--based on other potential entrants' notes, I don't think the way through the game would've been something someone experienced with Inform would've gravitated to. It's relatively simple, but it hits a good spot between standard Inform verbs and what to do in this sort of situation.
Also, given the restrictions of the comp, it seemed like a great time to learn something new--"don't do too much," a general good idea for learning something new, is really baked into the comp rules. Plus you have a buffer or ready-made excuse if things don't work out. CFDM did not need one.
I've had a few painful family dinners of my own, with the whole "just sit through it" ethos. Sometimes it would be rehashed afterwards once guests left, with "perhaps you could have participated more, maybe next time, they'll think something is wrong." The author mentions they hadn't had such a dinner for three years due to COVID, which is a small mercy for all the bad things that happened, and I was grateful to be able to add their perspective at this sort of thing to my own. I can say "yikes" now without going into a tailspin, and I appreciated this from CFDM, and I hope the main character gets there sooner than I did.
This is a parser game entered in the single choice jam, which requires that games only allow a single choice throughout the game.
This takes a clever spin on things by making you only capable of one real action at a time. There are many small things you can do: looking around, taking inventory, etc. But only one action really works.
It took me a bit to find what it was, which was frustrating at first.
Once I did, the game took on new dimensions, basically showing everything that could go wrong with a family party when your values and self-concept don't align with theirs.
Short and constrained, but impactful.
We’ve all been stuck in one of those dinners, the one you don’t want to be at but have to, the one where the host mainly organised it to show off, the one where guests came there to make themselves look better than the rest, the one where snide comments are thrown left and right… and the food? well… usually not worth it…
You really want to leave but can’t really, not for a while. You could participate more, but it would mean pretending to be someone you are not (like a man or a meat eater), and that’s exhausting. So you quietly sit through and maybe mumble a few words, or clench your jaw when an aunt tells you your degree is probably useless, or an uncle reminds you never to trust [insert minority/other ethnic group]. Or maybe you just listen, drifting your thoughts somewhere else, or finding refuge on your phone for a while.
Even through this very linear parser, and the short prose, this game manages to encapsulate all these murky feelings of uncomfortableness, stress, and exhaustion. The error messages when trying to engage with others or yourself or the meal is humourous, even if at time self-deprecating (I saw the influence of the Pageantverse in there too). There is not much to do, mainly because you don’t want to do much as the character either…
And this worked quite well as the author’s first try in parser and Inform!
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