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About the Story
A dinner with your friend. Strange words. Stranger books.
45th Place - 23rd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2017)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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This is a game about forming words and the nature of language. You can flick through clusters of syllables to form nigh unpronounceable words which later form the names of languages and places.
It calls to mind, for me, Emily Short’s procedurally generated almanac, The Annals of the Parrigues, as well as the style of 500 Apocalypses. The style is slightly formal, as one might find in a Borges short story. Polysyllabic words dot the prose like raisins in a bagel. HSQ includes the phrase “it's [sic] decipherment like a feverish hallucination”; the same applies to reading this game sometimes.
HSQ will probably make more sense if you’re familiar with linguistics concepts. Languages can be formed with different “basic units of thought”, and so on. And all this would be fascinating if there was a chance to use this knowledge practically.
Dear reader, there was not.
HSQ presents some rather interesting and original ideas, but without a narrative arc to bind everything together, remains an idea - an interesting one, but not quite a story.
This game is centered around a language or collection of languages that the protagonist is trying to study.
The central mechanic is that you are presented with 3-syllable words that you can alter.
The discussion centers on the idea that language influences our thoughts and actions, and vice-versa.
I liked this game, but it didn't draw me in emotionally.
Presents the concept that people's thoughts can be shaped by their language. Yes, its the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis as seen in the 2016 film "Arrival". So, what cool narrative does this game wrap around the central idea? Well, none. It simply presents a variation of that idea, gives you some clickable links to play with, and sits back. Job done? Not for me. It needed more than just some nice mock-19th century writing to engage me. A beginning, middle and end would help.
Having encountered a linguistic mystery in a fictional language that intrigues them, the protagonist dives down a rabbit-hole of more mystery. What they discover is up to the reader to interpret.
The piece reminds me of If on a Winter’s Night A Traveller (it feels descended from Borges, also, but I am more solid in my Calvino reading). The player is given the ability to manipulate the languages and words to create cryptic sentences, which unfurl further to illuminate (or not) the sentences in question.
As an exploration of fantastical language, it’s curious and interesting, but I found myself wanting more. I’d have been excited to see more about the fictional cultures, their histories and societies, to give the piece more richness. As it is, I found it a clever piece relevant to my interest, but one that didn’t leave much of a mark. I’d love More Of This In My IF, Please, with extra depth and bite.
I think I also need to reread If On A Winter’s Night, because I’m having a serious hankering for it.