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About the Story
All these years later and I still think about you.
50th Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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This short, choice-based game feels to me like someone baring his soul, with all of the accompanying awkwardness, pain, and poignancy.
The story is about Michael, a lonely, shy gay man, recalling his first junior high crush - ten years ago - on a straight boy, Billy. He reflects on the intensity of his feelings for Billy, the things he did to impress Billy, the poetry he wrote for Billy, Billy's smile. He wonders what would have happened if he had ever confessed his feelings for Billy.
So, they're both adults now, and Michael decides to go visit Billy and tell him about the crush that he had all those years ago. Michael seems to want closure or acknowledgement - or maybe he just wants to prove to himself that he's a braver man than he was back then.
A story like this could come across as maudlin, but Time Passed did not feel that way to me: The continual self-reflection and raw honesty of the prose save it from that. In fact, Time Passed has my favorite writing out of all the IFComp 2018 games.
There's only one real choice that I can tell. It's (Spoiler - click to show)not Michael's but Billy's, actually. As the player, you get to choose whether Billy claims to remember Michael. Remembering Michael is the more interesting of the two options and spools the story out longer.
The ending text for the longer of the two options captures the self-reflection and raw honesty I mentioned earlier:
(Spoiler - click to show)"On the walk back to my parents' place I try to keep my thoughts blank, but soon enough one comes to me anyways: I wish I'd told you earlier. But of course I don't. If I had, if you had kissed me in our youth and dissolved my pain, so many things in my life would not be where they are now, and I'm happy now. I'm in a good place. I wouldn't want that to change.
"Then I scold myself. I don't have to think about the sequence of events. I can wish you'd kissed me and want to keep my life the way it is. I'm allowed to have uncomplicated regret. Aren't I?
I really resonated with Time Passed. It reminded me of unrequited love, the times I said something, the times I didn't, the times I wondered whether I should have said something, the times I second- and third-guessed myself. It even reminded me of the times when I've had someone confess love to me and I had no idea they felt that way, leaving me wondering "How do I respond to this?"
Even decisions that aren't about romance - that job I might have taken, or that chance I had to move to that city. We all do this kind of thinking back and wondering "What if...?"
A short, awkward, raw, and poignant piece of IF.
This is the third game I played in the 2018 IF Comp in which the protagonist’s not being (strictly) heterosexual is important, making it something of a theme in the competition. That said, Time Passed actually doesn’t make a big deal about it. The story is essentially about an unconfessed teenage love and the protagonist’s desire to find out, years afterwards, what would have happened if he had found the nerve to speak out; the fact that the object of desire was another boy does not heavily impact the narrative.
In terms of structure, the first few pages gives us some links that lead to optional extras; and then we arrive at a single choice moment that determines which ending we get. (Spoiler - click to show)We either never meant anything to the person we had a crush on, or it turns out that they might have responded somewhat favourably.
The writing is quite good, although I felt that the diary entry didn’t really capture the tone of a teenage diary. For instance:
It’s true that I would give anything to feel Billy’s love, but I’d also do anything to avoid the feeling of rejection, and those two desires are in conflict with each other.
That sounds like a pretty detached analysis, not like something you’d write if you were in the middle of it. But this is the exception -– the other parts, including the terrible poem, were good.
Time Passed ends up being a nice little slice-of-life story that is interesting because it puts the protagonist in a somewhat uncomfortable situation, a situation that most people would probably avoid in real life. Having us play through it in fictional form is, in an unassuming way, enriching.
This game is fairly short, and can be completed in 4-6 clicks. Each page has some ‘asides’ that take you into a few paragraphs from your past, and one ‘real link’ that takes you to the next page. The shortness, combined with the absence of strong choices, are why I’m taking a point off. The styling is spare, but color transitions and positioning of various link types show signs of careful thought and polish.
Otherwise, this is an emotional short story about a school crush and a chance to meet them after many years, one complicated by gender preferences.
It’s hard to go into more detail, because there’s just not that much there.
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PollsThe following polls include votes for Time Passed:
For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Writing of 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best Writing in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to suggest...
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