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Office decoration and mild revelations, December 1, 2020
Academic Pursuits (As Opposed To Regular Pursuits) is a parser-based game by Ruqiyah, published in 2020. In it, youíre a newly tenured professor who has arrived in her new office and has to unpack her things. Along the way, (Spoiler - click to show)you discover that you are not what you seem and have a secret agenda.
Itís a one-room game where the gameplay mostly concerns interacting with objects. You open boxes, take out things and then decide where theyíll end up: on the shelf, on the wall, etc. or straight in the garbage bin. Itís like a small sandbox with a few simulationist mechanics too; for instance, the game keeps track of available shelf space, and you can only hang certain type of objects on the wall.
The storytelling is non-linear and subtle. The player isnít given a very deep motivation at any point - youíre just expected to unpack your things. Examining and interacting with the items you find generates some useful story and flavor text, though, and the game world actually has a lot of detail that rewards the inquisitive player - there is even unique text in response to the multiple different ways you can decorate your office.
This was one of the first games I played during IF Comp 2020, and back then I found that it lacked polish. Dealing with the boxes was a bit awkward, and you could also ďtake passerbyĒ to pick up what should probably be a scenery object. Since then, however, it seems the author has went and fixed a lot of these bugs, so the game probably works much more smoothly nowadays.
Overall, Academic Pursuits is a bit of a mixed bag. The indirect storytelling is interesting, although I do wish the player was given a bit stronger motivation to start with. The gameplay has some meaningful decision making, but it also contains hassle from dealing with dozens of objects and their containers (especially since the coding has - or had - mild roughness here and there). Itís an original idea, at least, so it could be worth checking out if you have 30 minutes and want to try out something different.