External Links

Have you played this game?

You can rate this game, record that you've played it, or put it on your wish list after you log in.

Playlists and Wishlists

RSS Feeds

New member reviews
Updates to external links
All updates to this page

Ex Nihilo

by Juhana Leinonen profile


Web Site

(based on 32 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

In the beginning there was nothing.

From nothing light and darkness were born.

Game Details


Nominee, Best Use of Innovation - 2013 XYZZY Awards

Entrant - The ultimate not numbered New Year's Speed IF


- View the most common tags (What's a tag?)

(Log in to add your own tags)
Tags you added are shown below with checkmarks. To remove one of your tags, simply un-check it.

Enter new tags here (use commas to separate tags):

Member Reviews

5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 3
Write a review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful:
Manichee Business, January 15, 2013
by Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle)

Ex Nihilo sits on the cusp between IF and e-poetry: a very short, very abstract, highly atmospheric CYOA in which you make choices about a deity. It will take perhaps five minutes to play, but you'll want to play a few times.

The core plot is always the same: a divine being creates the universe, abides alone for eons, encounters a race of lesser beings, and finally meets a being that is something like an equal. The value of interaction is primarily about the attitude and tone of the piece: depending on your mood and tone choices, the lesser beings and your relationship to them will turn out rather differently. God's mood is the shaping force of the universe. Events are described in terse, cool tones, at a high level of abstraction; and when you meet your counterpart, at the end, things are left massively wide open.

The game's colour choices and the decisive nature of the final encounter, which determines the fate of the world, suggest a kind of Manichean universe*, in which the nature of the two sides is always different. The suggestion of these strange dualisms is the main thing I took away from the piece; it has the weirdly fruitful nature of procedural generation about it, and in this context the awkward juxtapositions that this kind of thing often throws up seem more like the product of minds alien to one another trying to communicate.

To be more specific: the final choice of the game is a text entry, the first thing you say to the Other Being. From what I can make out, the game stores the entries of everyone playing the game, then feeds them back out as the Other Being's responses. Like letting players choose their character's name, this is the sort of thing that you'd expect to be tone-breaking, and often it is; when you encounter a divine being who greets you with "Eat at Joe's", you're kind of catapulted into a Douglas Adams cosmos. But at best, the disconnect that this creates, the feeling of talking at deep, unbridgeable cross-purposes, makes for a pretty good suggestion of cosmic conflict: Heaven and Hell fundamentally don't understand one another.

All this is rendered in a smooth, simple, effective graphic style with appropriately vast-and-lonely-sounding music.

* that is, a world shaped by the struggle between two roughly equal gods or cosmic forces: in classic Manichaeism, these are the forces of good and evil.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Ex nihilo duo, July 10, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: Juhana Leinonen

Play it if: you've sort of failed to see the point of hypertext up until now, for this is an accessible and wonderfully creative use of the medium.

Don't play it if: if you roll your eyes at any poetry that tries to deal directly with the concept of transcendence.

This is the first hypertext game I've played that really made use of the medium in such as a way as to make me feel the medium itself was necessary to the story. This probably says more about my shamefully lacking experience with hypertext than it does about any transformative aspect to this work, but contextual considerations aside Ex Nihilo is more than worthy of praise.

The title is a reference to the Latin phrase creatio ex nihilo, literally "creation from nothing" - a rather slippery philosophical and theological concept about how we came to be. Appropriately enough, the game takes an immediately theological bent with the introduction of the PC as a godlike entity; progress is made less through actions and more through the determination of the entity's moods.

The game - I know it's not the best term for this sort of thing, but I dislike the term "work" and try not to use it - isn't particularly long or detailed. What it has is emergence. A major theme here is symmetry, and it is both explicit in the visual presentation and implicit in that the choices you make are mirrored, though not in any straightforward way - down to the final move of entering a text message and thus actually adding something to the world of the game (which, if you consider the universe of the game to be a closed system, really is an instance of creatio ex nihilo).

The result is that we have here something which feels genuinely responsive, where you really are being asked to participate in something rather than spectate. A lot of interactive fiction pulls this off like a magic trick by getting the player into the head of the protagonist and providing them with moral agency; Ex Nihilo is almost breathtaking in how much more real the creativity feels.

Will Ex Nihilo transform your life? Not really, no. But it's a beautifully elegant, elemental use of the hypertext form, and it feels complete in a way few stories ever do.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | View comments (4) - Add comment 

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short and charming Vorple game about omnipotence and loneliness, February 4, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This beautiful web-based game (made with Vorple) tells the story of an omnipotent being who is alone and comes into contact with ordinary beings, before a more significant encounter.

The text shifts and changes on a white and black screen, with background decorations and smooth panning of screens.

The game, as others have said, seems to save the responses of previous players, and integrates them into the current game.

It's so short that you could play it 2 or 3 times in 15 minutes. Recommended.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

Ex Nihilo on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Ex Nihilo appears in the following Recommended Lists:

2013 XYZZY Awards Nominees by Molly
Here are the nominees for the 2013 XYZZY Awards, roughly by order of appearance on the finalist page. Note that this list does not cover the Best Technological Development Award.

Great "lunchtime length" games by MathBrush
These are games that can generally be completed in 30 minutes or less. Some can be completed much faster. Included in this list are games that have multiple endings that can individually be reached quickly. It also includes several Twiny...


The following polls include votes for Ex Nihilo:

Non-human Perspectives by Rhetta_Lynnea
I'm looking for IF narrated by aliens, animals, anything.

Best text effects (parser, Twine, other) by MathBrush
What games have you played with great text effects (animations or styling or so on)?

"IF with, wings of poesy" by A. I. Wulf
I would like to explore the IF works with a pinch of poetry. I want to find the IF games with a good dose of emotions collected in tranquillity, heightened by wings of poesy.

See all polls with votes for this game

This is version 4 of this page, edited by Juhana on 25 September 2021 at 4:36pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page