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About the Story
It all started with a walkthrough of an imaginary game that 8-year-old Ruth typed for Daddy's birthday... then Daddy converted it into a real game, with Ruth's help. It is possible to play it exactly as in the original walkthrough, or to enjoy a very different birthday. A short interactive fiction story written using Inform 7.
15th place - ParserComp 2021
The hoary advice given to authors is to write what you know. It’s not bad advice (though not applicable if want to write games about demons, comic-book supervillains, or financial crimes), but it can be difficult to get other readers invested in something that happened in your own life, even if it was interesting to you. To quote much better advice, personal isn’t the same as important. Especially in a short game with no time to develop the protagonist as a character, it’s tricky to get the audience involved in a low-stakes story without any context or universality. “Daddy’s Birthday” manages to avoid this problem by being charming and short enough to avoid wearing out its welcome.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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This game was co-written by an 8-year-old girl and her father. Having a kid around that age that I've made IF games with, I completely enjoyed this game and thought it was cute.
I never had any problems with the parser, and I think the young author's fresh perspective allowed some surprising responses that weren't in the norm.
The 'puzzles' were simple to follow and interactivity flowed well.
Overall, a very pleasant little game. Very small, and very fun; what a nice experience for a family team.
Daddy’s Birthday is a pleasant and adorable collaboration between a girl and her father, written to celebrate the eponymous Daddy’s Birthday. You can play through the original story as written by Ruth, but it leads to an UNSUCCESSFUL BIRTHDAY, so you’re encouraged to try again and ascertain where exactly you went wrong and how you can help Daddy avoid his tragic fate.
Our author, who quite possibly has a bright future ahead of her in the medical profession, helpfully clarifies the problem with Daddy’s birthday experience: when he falls from the rocking chair, we’re instructed to DIAGNOSE the problem, consider the symptoms (his head hurts), then issue a prescription (he should put some ice on it). Daddy’s also given some keen advice: in the future, try not to rock in your chair, you’re apparently not very good at it.
Another problem that must be overcome is that Daddy doesn’t seem to be the life of the party, as when his daughters surprise him with a birthday celebration, his first instinct is to WAIT and then SIT ON DECKCHAIR. Poor daughters! Perhaps a good present idea for next year is to get Daddy some coffee. (Speaking of the deckchair, we get a slight issue here, in that the walkthrough doesn’t quite line up with the required play pattern: you need to examine the cake first before Mummy brings in the deckchairs for everyone to sit on.) He also forgets to say thank you to his family after they give him his present! Maybe he really has hurt his head!
The one place I really sympathized with our tragic hero is when Daddy attempted, like Orestes fleeing the Furies, to escape the cruelty of his punishment ineluctable, only to be ever tormented by whispery impulses reminding him that “The urge to rock on the deckchair returns…” No matter how far Daddy fled, even unto the precipice of Mummy’s Bedroom, whoops I mean the Big Bedroom, still he yearned for the solace of finality, for he knew no matter how far he roamed his house wild and confused, still “That urge to rock on the deckchair just won’t go away…” At last, broken before the intractable demand, as even his daughters turned against him and suggested “Daddy, why don’t you sit on the deckchair?”, Daddy decided that you just can’t have your cake and eat it too, that with every gift must come a price, that this tie about his neck, much like the albatross of old, hung upon his neck as the symbol of his struggle, thus in despair he attempted to illustrate his conundrum by cutting a slice of the cake and leaving it uneaten as he surrendered to his deckchair doom, a parable by which his family might perhaps learn from his mistakes, but, the moment the cake was sliced, as if by some strange miracle, deus ex machina, everyone gathered around and ate cake and had a SUCCESSFUL BIRTHDAY. So all’s well that end’s well!
As does this game, which glitters with creativity and humor (such as when we find a banner that reads “Happy Birthday Daddy, 21+ today!”), and I’m sure the opportunity for father and daughter to work together and build on each other’s ideas to bring to life such a lovely and thoughtful game is the best birthday present of all.
The comedy IF-transcript is a niche but venerable taste – my favorites are the DISAVENTURE series the late, lamented Scott Eric Kaufman wrote about the travails of academic life – but usually, the gag involves near-psychic levels of reactivity to player commands in order to make the comic timing work. It’s not surprising, then, that Daddy’s Birthday is the first time I’ve heard of someone taking on the challenging task of transforming such a transcript into an actual interactive work (here, the author’s daughter wrote up a silly transcript of her dad’s birthday morning, which has now been turned into an Inform game). It’s a nice touch that you can at any point call up the transcript to measure your progress against the initial inspiration, but what’s nicer is that you can go off the beaten path a little bit and find the game, and the story, still works.
Genre-wise, this is a straightforward domestic comedy – you, as the eponymous father, bumble your way through the house in order to reach your family, and the party they’ve prepared for you. There’s nothing stopping you for making a beeline for the cake and presents, and you can probably finish the game in a dozen commands or fewer if you want, but most of the fun comes from poking around. The house isn’t deeply implemented, but there are usually one or two things to interact with per room on this small map, one of which can wind up giving you an additional sub-objective for the morning. And the party is rendered with a good deal of depth – there’s a solid amount of dialogue for each of the three family members, a variety of interactions available with the celebratory accoutrements, and the possibility of reaching either an unsuccessful or successful birthday end.
The writing is straightforward throughout, enlivened by gentle humor, and stays simple without being twee. It prompts you to make sure you’re staying on track, but it never nags and you’re perfectly able to ignore its suggestions, though doing so might mean you’d miss my favorite joke in the Comp so far:
(Spoiler - click to show)You put the icepack on your head, and feel better immediately. Now that your head is better, you start to wonder about the missing table.
WONDER ABOUT MISSING TABLE
You stop for a minute to wonder about the disappearing table. Maybe it’s outside?</spoiler?
I love that sort of cleverness, where the author rewards a clearly-loopy command – it’s one of the unique joys of the parser, so it’s especially welcome in a ParserComp entry.
Daddy’s Birthday isn’t trying to be more than it is – an enjoyable five-minute slice-of-lifer – but it checks all the boxes it needs to, and then adds a few extra graceful touches on top, without its origin as a piece of static writing every showing through. It’s a lovely proof-of-concept – now to see if someone can take on implementing DISADVENTURE…
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