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How Dare You

by alyshkalia profile


Web Site

(based on 3 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

Your partner's just told you ey's done—ey's leaving you. But you know you can convince em to change eir mind. You just have to show em how much ey means to you. How much you care.


This is a short, one-room work of parser-based interactive fiction, written for the Love/Violence Jam and the 2024 Anti-Romance Jam. It's a loose adaptation of my choice-based work Cycle from last year's Anti-Romance Jam.

Game Details


Entrant - Love/Violence Jam


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Number of Reviews: 3
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Not taking no for an answer, July 7, 2024
by Zed (Berkeley, CA)

How Dare You? has a cringeworthy premise: you show up at the home of our partner, Heron, who communicates very clearly that it’s over and you should leave. Yet…

…No, you can’t. You’ve got to convince em to change eir mind. You just have to show em how much ey means to you. How much you care.

You refuse to leave. The game requires you to try to win Heron over. It won’t let you leave prior to making some sufficiently dramatic gesture (and it’s a parser game, so you don’t know the options).

From the opening, we get strong hints that Heron had good reason to call it quits, and this is borne out by the options available to us, our internal dialogue about the situation, and Heron’s reactions.

If this were a romcom, you could probably turn things around: an egregious disregard for boundaries at the final act climax is always a winning move. But this was written for the Love/Violence Jam and the Anti-Romance Jam 2024.

The cringeyness of the premise and ugliness of the situation is redeemed in that it does end badly. The story doesn’t sugar-coat toxic behavior and pretend it’s sweet: it recognizes the toxicity, which is refreshing.

It’s an extremely quick bite-sized story and worth a few play-throughs.

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No means no., July 13, 2024
by Kastel
Related reviews: review-a-thon

How Dare You puts the player in a strange situation: they must find the verbs that will hopefully resolve a potential breakup between the player character and their partner.

It doesn't take long to realize that there's no way to move the conversation forward. The (ex-)partner is simply not interested in reconciliation, leaving the player to wonder what kind of transgression the player character has committed that makes them so beyond forgiveness.

I've always found parser games like this interesting because they suggest that communication is much more than language in action. There is, of course, the interpersonal communication as explored in the game, but there is also the relationship between the player and the parser.

Whenever I encountered errors or silence from the parser, the friction seemed to unfold a wordless story in my head. As I pondered what else to type, I began to imagine nice dates, arguments, and all the little things that couples tend to do. There is a sense of mystery, of something terribly wrong that has torn this couple apart.

The game gives no clues as to what this history might be, but the limited agency the player has in navigating the game provides more than enough clues. There is no need to observe the build-up of tension: I think the player can intuit the "solutions" to this puzzle by simply struggling with the parser a bit and wondering what the parser is trying to say about the relationship between the characters.

The parser in How Dare You is almost like a character in this standoff, an intermediary between the player and this unwritten history. Given life, it wants to write the friction between these characters into parser errors. While the prose uses second-person narration, it's more fruitful to see the implemented verbs and responses as a translator trying to get as much nuance (written and unwritten) into the small space the game has.

And I believe the parser has done a great job at it. When I finally entered one of the many correct solutions, I didn't feel a eureka moment -- it was more like a confirmation that I was on the right track, and I felt like the parser and I were on the same page. While I can imagine players being upset by the game, I wasn't surprised, and that's okay: the "translation" served its purpose because the clues to the tragedy are so well foreshadowed.

But there is something to be said about how opaque this same dynamic can be in real-life relationships. There are no parsers, no puzzles to indicate that something is wrong. People only realize they're in shitty relationships after the fact. We're all unreliable narrators, unaware of the genre we're in.

The fantasy (for lack of a better word) of How Dare You is that it can make such dynamics legible to the eyes of the parser player. I found temporary catharsis when I read the last lines of the game. But as I wrote my thoughts and reflected on life, I realized that this was a pyrrhic victory and the game seemed to ironically acknowledge this: if the player tries to undo an action, the response is

"If only you could undo whatever it was that led you here. But you can't."

I read this as the player character's inability to diagnose what actually went wrong. Instead of discovering a systemic problem that defined their abrasive personality, they searched for the one action, the one incident, the one verb that caused everything to spiral out of control.

The real world is full of scumbags like the player character. They'll never learn to read their transcripts and become someone better.

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A brutal breakup, July 8, 2024
by OverThinking
Related reviews: Love/Violence Jam

This one is rough, emotionally. Your partner (Heron) is breaking up with you (Tiel), and you are NOT taking it well. Your goal is to change eir mind. There are several implemented strategies to try, ranging from the desperate to the manipulative to the despicable.

The world feels deeply implemented. Of particular note is that taking inventory gets the response You are carrying nothing but a broken heart. You can then examine the heart. That’s the kind of detail work I love in a parser. “Undo” also has a poignant response in place of its usual function. There are a few disambiguation moments that could be smoother—both your and Heron’s hands are implemented, and doing something to “hands” doesn’t default to Heron’s, unlike most other actions.

One thing that didn’t quite work for me was that trying one of the “game ending actions” precluded trying any of the others. The picture I’d built of Tiel in my mind was of someone who wasn’t about to take ‘no,’ and that he takes one particular ‘no’ over another doesn’t quite hit for me. On my first play I tried to kiss Heron, and then after ey rejected me finally I tried crying—a reasonable response in my mind’s version of Tiel’s mind. But I was told I couldn’t do that and must simply leave. I know the suggestion does risk a bit of combinatorial explosion and a less tight form, but unique responses for those kinds of pathetic or petty reactions after the goal is already lost would go a long way for me.

It’s a very short game, and worth playing multiple times to explore all of the options. It knows what it wants to do and does it well. The author’s notes say it’s based on a game from last year’s Anti-Romance Jam—I may have to check that one out next.

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