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37th Place - 7th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2001)
Free-association IF--essentially a stream of apparently random images and ideas, some interesting and many not. Virtually no interactive possibility and no way to win or anything, but hey, it's got interesting images. From the farthest edges of avant-garde IF.
-- Duncan Stevens
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
There was very little interactivity, but that's hardly the point in a piece like this. Ultimately, I think it was apple's lack of cohesion that failed me. When I reached the end of this game, I blinked, and then I shrugged. Some people can look at a Pollock and see emotion made visible. Other people just see chaos. This game may be similar, and while I enjoy surreality and even randomness, I don't think there's much here that will be sticking with me.
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Dreams are difficult material for a writer; most often, literary dreams are just narrative laziness or cowardice, and resemble actual dreams very little. apple, however, attains a sort of Lynchian semi-coherence -- a faint shadow of the senseless power of actual dreams, but about as good as can be expected in a waking state.
The author was in his teens when he wrote this, and there's a definite adolescent feel to the whole thing: Tarantino-slickness, transgressive (though not porny) sex everywhere, the cool-meta vibe that Hollywood went frantic over in the late 90s and early aughts. It's very much a beast of that era, back when school shootings evoked controversy rather than resignation.
It's not much of a game; the interactivity is slight, more about engagement and focus-changing than about altering the course of events. There are one or two cool use-of-medium tricks in here -- as when the narrative turns into a TV script -- but they come across as throwaway and irrelevant. There are great big textdumps. At the time, to a sceptic, it would have looked like the logical extension of the malign influence of Photopia: short stories trivially dressed up as IF, cheap pressing of the audience's buttons. Formal purists, people who see the game/puzzle aspect of IF as essential, are basically going to hate this.
What's striking about apple is that it does a pretty decent job of representing a sense of the dreamlike: fractured hints of narrative, a looming feeling of inevitability, a lurching unease. It's not perfect at this, it's not even great; but it's good.
This game is surreal, psychedelic and dreamlike. The author plays freely with punctuation and capitalization. Scenes proceed generally no matter what you do.
The scenes generally center around the phrase "you know what?" along with sexual encounters with an elderly woman, an eighth grader, and a computer-woman hybrid.
I didn't enjoy the tone of the game, and I don't plan to play again. However, it is polished and descriptive, and the interactivity works.
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