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Nose Bleed

by Stanley W. Baxton profile


Web Site

(based on 20 ratings)
10 reviews

About the Story

Please, stop embarassing us.

Content warning: Excessive bleeding, mild gore, social anxiety

Game Details


27th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)

Winner, Outstanding Surreal Game of 2022 - Author’s Choice - The 2022 IFDB Awards


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Number of Reviews: 10
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Hell is other people (and a bloody nose), December 20, 2022
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp).

I feel like I’ve seen enough games like Nose Bleed to posit that a mini-genre of choice-based IF – the short, abstract game that’s light on concrete narrative content and is all about simulating a mental illness or disorder. The best recent example I can think of was fix it in this year’s Spring Thing, which trapped the player in an OCD loop, and now there’s Nose Bleed, which takes on the social anxiety/imposter syndrome combo pack (apparently this is a fairly common linkage, which is something I learned from post-game Googling; I’ve got a touch of social anxiety, albeit it’s receded substantially from what it was like when I was younger, but as you can probably tell from how much I spout off on this website, for better or more likely worse I’ve never suffered from imposter syndrome).

(While I’m making parenthetical asides, it occurs to me that if you dropped the “choice-based” and lightened up the low-narrative-content criterion, you could recruit Rameses into this subgenre, which might lead to an interesting hybrid lineage to trace. For another time!)

This Texture game is laser-focused on what it’s trying to do – every single passage, if not every single sentence, is dripping with crippling self-consciousness. Much of this is just dramatizing the awful but quotidian experience of these disorders, as the dream-like plot shunts the nameless, ageless protagonist from one stuff-of-nightmares scenario to another: there’s feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing at work, not being able to figure out how to join a conversation, worrying that everyone’s expecting you to do something but you don’t know what it is…. But beyond setting up these situations, the game also takes a more visceral approach to communicating how folks with these conditions suffer. And of course I used the word “visceral” advisedly – also “dripping”, back at the beginning of this paragraph – because per the title, the um, somewhat on-the-nose metaphor here involves spewing blood out of your schnozz when you feel the anxiety coming on.

This is a smart choice, because I think the situations on their own probably wouldn’t be as effective. Even as someone who can struggle a bit in large group settings where I don’t know anyone, I found the protagonist’s mumbley, low-self-esteem flailing occasionally annoying – even when there’s a coworker who seems to want to seek you out to put you on the spot, it still seemed to me that the protagonist could have met some of these challenges with a bit more assertiveness. But when they’re depicted as spewing blood over all and sundry, the idea that everyone would be looking at them with dismay and revulsion lands much more intuitively.

Choice is used effectively to underline the intensity of these episodes. When each attack hits, you typically have a choice of two or three different ways to try to cope – you could try to wipe away the blood, or hold your head at a weird angle to keep it dripping, or mop it up with your shirt – but of course they all look equally unpromising, which I think accurately evokes the feeling that here, unlike other issues like OCD or depression, the problem isn’t that your choices are constrained, it’s that nothing you do can soothe the anxiety (the fact that the nose bleeds are repeated, and per the protagonist’s comments something that they’ve previously struggled with too, makes me wonder why they don’t just carry around a ton of tissues all the time, but that would ruin the conceit so I think it’s forgivable that the game doesn’t even mention the idea).

The visuals work well too; without giving too many of this short game’s surprises away, I’ll just note that there are some arresting graphical effects that helped make things feel substantially more engaging than the prose alone would have managed (speaking of the prose, it’s fine – it does what it needs to do, but it’s not especially evocative. I’d have copied and pasted to show some examples, but Texture apparently doesn’t let you do that, so I suppose you’ll have to take my word for it).

In my analysis, then, I think Nose Bleed succeeds at what it sets out to do. I’m not sure I liked it as much as it deserved, though? Maybe it’s because, unlike most games of this type, in this case I do have some direct knowledge of what Nose Bleed is about, and as a result the depiction didn’t seem as revelatory as it otherwise might have. It could also be that the one-note nature of the protagonist’s characterization did start to get on my nerves after a while, even while conceding that they kind of have to be a perpetual wet noodle for the game to work. I think my reactions here were unfair, though; it’s a well-crafted piece, and has a nice button at the end that indicates a goodly amount of self-awareness, and avoids the trap games in this sub-genre can fall into, with the ultimate message of the game reducing to “look at people who suffer from this disorder, doesn’t it suck” – instead the final note is a subtly hopeful one, pointing to the possibility of connection despite everything.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A gross game about nosebleeds and social anxiety, October 28, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I had heard rumors about this game before I played it.

This is one of many Texture games entered in this competition, and it's probably the best-put-together one out of the bunch.

It's a visceral body-horror game in a limited sense; you have blood leaking out of your nose while at work but you feel desperately like you can't pay attention to it or fix to it or you'll be letting everyone down.

I'm sure there are many interpretations of this, but I definitely feel like it touches on social anxiety/impostor syndrome (actually, looking back, one of the content warnings is social anxiety).

The visceral text is accompanied by excellent animations that make the spreading drip of the nose bleed a lot more real. I had some trouble, though, with a completely black screen, taking a long time to find the right way out.

This game grossed me out and I didn't enjoy playing it, but I think that speaks to its quality.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
This one just didn't work for me, October 19, 2022
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes, IF Comp 2022

In this choice-based game you play as... someone. A non-descript person with a desk job, whose nose continually starts and stops bleeding throughout the piece, without much explanation. The ending intrigued me and put a new spin on the story that came before, but it wasn't enough to redeem it.

This one didn't work for me on several levels. The first was the interface. Instead of clicking on a word or sentence to make your choices there would be 1-3 verbs in boxes at the bottom of the screen and you had to drag them up to the proper noun to make your choice. At first it seemed unique/fun, but in the end it just took me out of the flow of the story. Clicking a hyperlink is easy and keeps my mind focused on the text rather than the logistics, and if you missed dropping the verb tag on the noun by a little bit it would drop back to the bottom and you'd have to do it again.

Another thing that didn't work for me was the game basically telling me "No!" when I made a choice. Sometimes I would pick a verb and the next screen of text would tell me why my character couldn't do that. In other games I've played in the past this mechanic has served to emphasize the helplessness of the character, but I didn't feel like that was justified here. Also, sometimes it works to interrupt your character in the middle of the action as a change of pace, but it happened too often in this story for that to be effective.

Finally, the story just didn't grab me. When you start you have no idea what is going on and the same it true right up to the end. The writing is vague, on purpose I'm sure, but it didn't work for me. If I never know what is going on, even a little bit, I can't get in to the story. And it seemed like the story repeated the same cycle of (Spoiler - click to show)nose bleed -> deal with it somehow -> get ridiculed -> be confused too much.

Clean interface and programming, but nothing about the game worked for me.

ADDENDUM: I've since learned that the interface isn't unique to this game. I thought it was a Twine innovation or something, but it was actually made with Texture Writer, an authoring tool that came out in 2014, but that I hadn't encountered until this game. That said, do to my other issues with the game, I'm keeping my star rating the same. Just an FYI.

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See All 10 Member Reviews

Nose Bleed on IFDB

Recommended Lists

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The following polls include votes for Nose Bleed:

Outstanding Surreal Game of 2022 - Author's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best surreal game of 2022. Voting is anonymous and open only to IFDB...

Outstanding Short Game of 2022 - Player's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best short game of 2022, where the definition of 'short' is left up to the...

Outstanding Use of Interactivity in 2022 - Author's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for a game in 2022 that felt truly interactive. Voting is anonymous and open only...

See all polls with votes for this game

This is version 6 of this page, edited by EJ on 20 May 2023 at 4:10pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page