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About the Story
You're giving a talk at a big important tech conference. But do you really deserve to be here, or were you selected just to fill a diversity quota?
18th Place - 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2013)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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I enjoyed this--the writing is good, the points it makes are done well--but I was a bit leery about it when I first read the brief. I thought this might be an attack on minorities entering the tech world from the brief, and was glad it was not.
It does not feel particularly game-like--there aren't recognizable challenges nor are there puzzles--but it is well-written and engaging. Perhaps one of my favorite of the non-choice/non-puzzle entries in ifcomp 2013.
Reading this back in 2013, I felt this piece was a bit too rough or raw. But I couldn't put my finger on what I would do better. It feels too direct at some times, as if it doesn't give me room to breathe. Georgina feels like she is humblebragging to start out. Perhaps one may find her a cipher, or not likable enough, or whatever. But that may be part of the point. Targets of harassment are chosen because, well, they're putting themselves out there too much, or they're trying to hide from real judgment. They're acting too nice, or they're acting too brash. There's always something. So I think some melodrama can be the point, and whether or not we have a big or small win, there's always a worry that it's tripped up, or it's denigrated after the fact. And this is, indeed, not "all in our head." It's placed there by people who tell us we need to listen carefully to what they say, but all the same, their one offhand comment? Blowing off steam. As if you need to pay dues for basic human respect. That Georgina does not get it, both from clear louts and more sophisticated-seeming types, is the crux of Impostor Syndrome.
Because people can, indeed, be awful in many different ways. The place where Georgina feels the worst is a Ted-Talk style speech. There's a lot of anxiety. She aces the first slide, which has her name and experience. Everything else seems to be going okay, even as she remembers small things that went wrong with her process, nitpicks her boss found. Perhaps she should not even be here? Part of a minority quota? Ignoring, of course, the roadblocks that pop up for being a minority.
What strikes me about the dramatic moment is how crude and cruel it is, and how it is done by people surely nowhere near as smart as Georgina. She knows it's better not to look, and she knows it's not original, and she knows it's something she should be able to deflect, because it's been done before. She also knows it's aesthetically wrong. And we do, too, and it's not "freedom of speech" or anything like that, that people can do this with impunity. It's as if there's an unsaid voice saying "seen it before? You should deal with it. Not seen it before? Well, be lucky you haven't until now." (There's a parallel to "You never really listened to Trump" and "Trump lives rent-free in your head" taunts.)
Another thing that hit me--the same guys who micromanaged Georgina noting small things she did wrong (they probably let you know they don't suffer idiocy) do let the big stuff slip through at a talk she put effort into. It's a logical inconsistency and worse. I could picture them, after the presentation, say "Yeah, they were out of line, but you could respond better." Or suddenly forgetting talks they made about taking the initiative to build a positive culture, or whatever.
And Georgina has a chance to, near the end, to dare to get out of her lane and talk about non-technical stuff, but then she's worked so hard to focus and not waste people's time. This is the main choice in IS: you can skip it, or you can have a link-maze. If people are too critical of the aesthetics of a Twine link-maze, they are missing the big picture, but it is a relatively weak point. (I saved, but I still guessed the top five words most likely to do something, then looked at the source. It feels like link-mazes could have a way to be navigable, and I've seen Twine tricks where URLs turn into plain text, which I like a lot. Maybe that could happen here, blocking out similar words. But I sense I am turning into the same people who micromanaged Georgina.)
There are other things, too, placing harassment side-by-side with coworkers flat-out ignoring Georgina or uninviting her from important meetings and projects. Again, it's easy to imagine a voice saying "Oh, so you're mad when they bug you and mad when they don't. You seem to need things just so, don't you?" This is something I don't think I saw on the first reading, but it seems more natural now, and we really need more ways to bounce back quickly.
Working through IS I was reminded of a teacher or two who put me on the spot more than they should have. I think of how I was told others had it worse, just as Georgina was, and yet how I should be impressed by that teacher being so uncompromising! I'm older than they are now and have more access to information, so I can work through the past and know people who remind me of people like that are bad news. But they do seem to gain power.
Still, fight-back strategies are way more at our fingertips in 2023 and 2013. YouTube videos have discussions where even the most generic or overwrought descriptions of mistreatment bring people together. The techniques, short- and long-term, have lagged behind trolling techniques, because the second are much easier to develop. Looking back I'd be more interested in the small moments and victories and such--they are there in IS but intentionally muted.
The author said that this was intended to make people think, and I think it did, but it led me the wrong way at first. That's not malicious like the antagonists in the story leading Georgina the wrong way. But it is enough to say it is an opportunity missed. This should in no way preclude the author to keep fighting and tell stories that need to be told. It's been ten years. Sadly, there will have been more data to help hone said stories. But if we say IS is a bit too direct and the author has the talent to write something more powerful, one thing we can't credibly say any more is that the plot, or the narrator's feeling, are too exaggerated. It's not perfect, but it's very good it's there, as it addresses issues well beyond standard angst.
The author of this game has specifically said that they did not intend this work to be a popular game, but that it was intended to provoke thought and discussion, and to be seen by many people.
This work is mostly lielnear, with a sequence of side comment links and a single story progress link at the bottom.l, until the end when you get some binary choices.
The piece is about imposter syndrome, the feeling that you are not competent at what you do, especially in the context of women, trans individuals, and other minorities.
As a description of imposter syndrome, it excels. As a mindless diversion, it is only mildly successful, but that was never it's goal.
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