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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:Dichotomous Mastery and Dominance, November 19, 2015
by strivenword (Utica, New York)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015, blog rerun
(Originally published on the reviewer's blog.)
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Sono, March 5, 2021 - Reply
[The protagonist deserves to be betrayed by his or her slaves.]
I think the slavery conceit is a bit more spacey than you claim. There are quotes about the protagonist trying to keep their memory of the actors straight. It gives me more of a sense of an author repeating their memories of their characters, and the ultimate (Spoiler - click to show)resolution of Inai turning against her master a more of an imagining of what's in-character for her sort of thing, an acknowledging of the protagonist's own guilt for using her as a weapon without saving her people rather than a story about blind and reckless consumption. The antagonist's key spell revealed to Avashi/Inai all the lives they lived before and some memories that the protagonist had that they didn't. And, in that stage, the protagonist is still in control. The game lets you be killed by any other force in the game but does not let you be killed by Avashi or Inai, instead forcing an auto-restart. And so I don't think this tracks well onto how people consume media in real life-- in video games where you are the protagonist and allowed to save characters at no benefit to yourself, people do so willingly and often.
(Spoiler - click to show)
[Perhaps the opponent is morally superior to the protagonist -- the hero come to challenge the evil sorcery with the secret of transcendent Truth. Or perhaps not; while he does seem to prefer impersonal environmental attacks instead of enslaved champions, he begins by summoning an army full of soldiers. Either way, the opponent's secret could be viewed as the true hinge of the plot---making him the real protagonist, and the assumed protagonist actually the antagonist.]
This also feels like a very simplistic reading of the situation. Neither of them have to be singularly good or bad, and the terms protagonist and antagonist refer to position in narrative, not morality. The protagonist remains the protagonist even if they are evil. The antagonist is an antagonist because they oppose the protagonist. Whether their memories are ethically sourced is a different question than how they are framed by the narrative.
[At the moment of glorious revelation, one slave chooses to continue the status quo of power and meaningless rivalry. Transcendent love is defeated by the eternal persistence of hate. Here is the anti-Tolkien. When Truth is exposed, the reality of suffering validates our cheap consumeristic abuse of tragedy over the holistic understanding of real people.]
And extruding this to such a vacuous moral is almost pretentious. The in-game mechanics make "one slave chooses to continue the status quo" an obvious and deliberate manipulation on your own part, where you have to play the game multiple times, trying each strategy to find the optimal timing so that one slave doesn't hesitate and isn't able to be stopped by the other. There is no elite, immutable concept of Truth or Reality at work here. It is a deliberate machination.
[The "win ending" is not presented as a lament. The player character is victorious, and the narrative takes no measure to point out how darkness and suffering or power and slavery have won the day. You just win, and the accomplishment of maximizing the sequential puzzle feels at odds with the extremely cynical implications of the narrative.]
I thought this was a clever play on the author's part-- to the player character, it is just a game. Winning is not the goal here, and winning should be seen as at-fault because treating the situation like the game is what matters and people are only worth anything for the memory of their talents is the problem. The protagonist does not feel bad because they have never felt bad for this, not when they left Inai's villagers to die, and not in the game they play again and again.
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strivenword, March 6, 2022 - Reply
I played it again, and now I notice the pattern about the creative process:
(Spoiler - click to show)Somebody less experienced, someone without your talent, would have remembered the day that the valley had flooded. The grain of that stiff lever in the hands that pulled, and then the impossible speed of the rising waters, the panic of those (foolish stubborn old) who had chosen to remain.
And extracted from this - an essence of what, exactly? The callousness of bureaucracies, perhaps. Something obscure and specific.
But you needed something useful. So instead, you'll remember the day on which the waters began to recede, and you saw what lay beneath, or did not. The nothingness of houses smashed to shards of broken wood. The silence. The emptiness. The drowned bodies of the rats.
It's about the activity of deliberate will involved in extracting creative meaning out of experience.
The game really is a well made little vignette about creativity.
Thanks for commenting on my old stick-ass review. I was stretching the relevance of a few favorite ideas far past their breaking point in those days.