i wish you were dead.

by Sofía Abarca

2022

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Sharp dialogue and psychological tension trumps timed text, November 29, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

So, the pet peeves first. I wouldn't do this if IWYWD didn't have a lot to offer, because I try to avoid beatdown-style reviews. The first peeve? A title in all lower case. I'm a bit like the cranky narrator of Julian Barnes's Flaubert's Parrot, here, as I've seen this sort of thing before, and it never ends well (though the ALL CAPS entries recently have been more than respectable,) and I immediately cringe at this sort of thing, expecting--and getting profanity later. (Small spoiler: it's not so gratuitous, as I have some sympathy for both characters in this work.) I'm still going to ALL CAPS its acronym in the review, though, so there.

The second sin? Timed text. Lots of it. I did my usual regex zapping with \(live:.*?\), and Notepad++ said "757 replacements." That's at least 15 minutes of pauses, assuming one second per pause, and it was often more. Running up against IFComp's judging period didn't help, either. That's not IWYWD's fault. But it does add a lot of bloat to people who want to get through it and explore different things to try, if the end could've been changed, and so forth. Because undoing doesn't give you a free pass back through the timed text.

But I'll tell you what. I bucked up and got through it. Because it was worth it. During the timed text, I did some exercises with my rudimentary equipment I have at home. I can't do this all the time, and I don't want to have to, but it was timely. I ignored the screen, thought of things as I did a set, and made my next choice. That's not sustainable long term, but IWYWD knew about the length it should be. Perhaps it was just flat out good enough that, despite my reflexive annoyances, I sat down and said this time, I'm not letting timed text bother me! Perhaps having less timed text than in years past softened me to say, okay, a bit is not so bad.

This digression hopefully isn't me showing off or venting but saying, hey, you too may want to find something worthwhile to do to wait for the text to show. Fix some tea or whatever. And sit down for a story of betrayal in love, though really, it applies to platonic relationships as well.

You, the main character, believe you've caught your partner cheating. They have a good explanation! They didn't mean it! (They never do.) You have the FACTS on your side, though, and you press them. They make confessions. They have excuses. They want you to stop before it's too late. Though it may already be. I was able to guess a good chunk of IWYWD's twist at the end, but not all of it. (Maybe the timed text forced me to sit back and think what might happen next more than I usually do!) That didn't make it any less effective. I've been on both sides of the argument, where I'm sure I'm right, and the other person is sure, and in both cases I know it'll end terribly. Too much has happened. The soda bottle is too shaken.

The dialogue here does not mess around, so I was able to feel the conflict. On reflection, the person you control has a lot of options of soft- or hard-pedaling their case, and the other character has something resembling plausible denials, if they could just explain. But you doubt your character is really open-minded. You definitely have cutting questions: "how could you do this? This was our movie." Then a bit more of the story comes out. This may not be perfectly fair to the player, who doesn't necessarily know the two people in the story have spent time apart. But it certainly can be interpreted as the character thinking certain things don't matter. Other details leak in later. The narrator, it turns out, has been negligent, in ways where you can't bang your fist on the desk and present good cold hard evidence. I didn't see all the branches, but in this case, not having much variance gives the impression that your character came into this expecting a victory, or what passes for a victory in an argument.

So reading IWYWD was useful-difficult for me. I know I can be distant, though I hope I'm not as possessive as the narrator, and I often wish I stood my ground as well as their partner. I've been thinking a lot about jealousy recently, though, about people who were upset I seemed to be having more fun than they did, or that I was able to use my time to do certain things. And the things they said. Some of them were people who should have been my friends on paper, and they'd approached me with similar facts that the narrator did, and I sympathized a lot with their partner. Of course, we probably all hope we have more in common with the partner than the narrator. You also get the sense that the target has had to tell a lot of little white lies to the narrator, some covered, some uncovered.

Maybe it's not so much lies as distortion. I remembered some people asking me why I did something a certain way, or thought something not very commonsensical, and wasn't that odd? And the truth was – I was covering for some of their obnoxious behavior in ways they'd never cover for me, or perhaps I was convincing myself they did care deep down despite some caustic behavior. There've been people I've had to break up with like that long after I hadn't seen them for a while, and I don't quite wish them dead, but I'd like to make them dead to me if possible. Well, except for being able to say "hey, if someone reminds me of X in the future, I want to steer clear of them."

One more thing: I was worried about severe melodrama from the title and I am glad to have been wrong on that count. I'd like to think the narrator's partner's response and frustration will help vindicate some of my own actions more fully and hopefully prevent me from diving in feet first to show I'm right. And I'm impressed about how IWYWD had several potential red flags that turned up far less serious than I imagined. So I, like the narrator, saw several red flags which came to much less than I suspected. But my experience was clearly happier.