The Warbler's Nest

by Jason McIntosh profile


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
Quiet and contemplative horror, February 19, 2011
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Many pieces of interactive fiction have played with a difference in knowledge between the player and the protagonist. Often, the protagonist knows more than the player, since he or she is supposed to be familiar with the fictional worlds; but sometimes, the protagonist is so naive, stupid or self-deluded that the player understands things the protagonist does not. The Warbler's Nest falls into this latter category, although this time the knowledge difference is generated by the protagonist living a long time ago and having beliefs that we know (or at least strongly believe) are false.

In a sense, this is a horror piece, but horror of the most quiet kind. The horrific "revelation" is obvious well in advance, so the interest of the piece has to come from a contemplation of the beliefs, fears and hopes of the protagonist. Jason McIntosh conveys these very clearly, and the fact that they are simultaneously so understandable and so alien, and are combined with the potential for disaster, makes for a stimulating experience.

If one had to complain, one would probably point out that there is not much of a game here, but given the short time it will take you to traverse this piece, this is not a very serious complaint. I would like to see more pieces that are as quiet and contemplative as The Warbler's Nest.

One question that this piece has raised for me: can a story be considered a tragedy if none of the people in the fictional world consider it to be such?

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Andromache, April 15, 2013 - Reply
My immediate answer to your question about the nature of tragedy is that yes, I believe a story can still be deemed tragic even if the players do not agree. Or put another way, something is still immoral no matter how the characters rationalize the behavior. The neat thing about'Warbler' was that the protagonist's thoughts and beliefs felt so natural that my own sense of ethics could be suspended long enough to understand the differing code of her time. I cannot and do not fault her for the expression of her more cruel nature, and I like how the decision she ultimately makes is in the player's hands. Each ending is plausible and all have rather grim implications.

I think the real horror lies in delusion - in the ability to make excuses and believe them so completely that atrocities can be committed without remorse. This is the best kind of horror, really; the kind that's so subtle. And I guess it says a lot that a game that takes less than half an hour still has me thinking hours later.
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