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About the Story
Relationships can be disastrous.
2nd Place, Best Overall; 1st Place, Best Story; 1st Place, Best Prose/Writing; Entrant, All Games - SeedComp! - 2023
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Hush... Be still... Be tender...
This is a story to be read with quiet care. Until vicarious anger kicks in. But also sympathetic understanding. And most of all deep empathy.
[since this is a heavily story-oriented game, spoilers will follow]
Ending a story about a love-relationship with a car-crash is about as subtle as an anvil-drop.
Beginning that story with the car-crash however, and then working backwards is a deeply captivating narrative technique.
After the Accident's detailed and thoroughly implemented opening scene serves as a gateway to an ever expanding exploration of memories. The more the main character observes what is left of the car, the deeper she delves into the debris of a broken relationship.
Memory by memory, scene by scene, the twisted dynamics between her and her lover become apparent. Apparent to the reader, that is.
The protagonist herself, she has flash-backs. Dropped in the middle of defining episodes of her life with her lover. While these episodes cause caution, perhaps alarm, in the reader, the protagonist is caught in an anger-but-love forgiveness cycle.
The author captures these ambiguous feelings in a series of small storylets. She uses everyday objects which convey a depth of information about the ambivalent nature of the protagonist's feelings. Particularly strong story-writing is the description of a present from the lover. It's an object imbued with contradicting symbolic meanings. (Spoiler - click to show)The sweater is soft and comforting in itself, she accepts it as a token of love, but the smell of the fight that came before still lingers.
I am very impressed at how deeply Amanda Walker can see both sides of these feelings from the protagonist's point of view, as well as translating them with deep-felt empathy to the reader.
This piece shows a deep feeling and understanding for the intricacies of love, even when that love is skewed.
The car-crash, symbolic and real, is a cathartic ending. I wouldn't have wished for the protagonist to endure more of the loving manipulating gifts.
This is a Seedcomp game, where people leave inspiration for others who go on to make games based on it.
This game is based on a poem by Sophia de Augustine.
Amanda Walker is one of the most successful authors of the last few years, having won Spring Thing, the XYZZY Awards, the IFDB Awards, and placing very highly in IFComp, Ectocomp, and Parsercomp. She works especially well with adapting poems into games.
This game is a shattered series of vignettes, mostly on rails but that's the way memory is some times. You are driving down a road--or, were driving down a road--with a boyfriend that you have been fighting with for months.
The game jumps around in time, moving simultaneously forwards and backwards. There are pedestrian segments of daily life made beautiful (or terrible) by the emotions present behind them.
I write this as I'm in a bad mood due to feeling a bit ill, but this game really made me think of the past. I had a divorce a few years ago, amicable in the end, but divorce can't happen with some scenes like that shown in the game. And the gory parts, the description of the blood, remind me of the early parts of our marriage, when I was at her c-section; birth is wonderful but it was terrible to see the doctor's hands bathed in her blood pulling out our kid. The memory stuck in my mind for a long time, together with the rest of the day of course. So this game made me think of that a lot.
I had some trouble here and there. I tried things like (Spoiler - click to show)bind wound, compress wound, tie sweater to wound,etc. before I realized I just needed to do what was in the hint. At the end, I somehow messed up the final action and got stuck. Before I tried to (Spoiler - click to show)answer phone, I tried stuff like (Spoiler - click to show)x phone, x message, x tree, run and then it just gave me a generic message whenever I tried (Spoiler - click to show)answer phone. So I restarted and speed ran to get to the end again.
Overall, I found this game polished (the hiccups were minor), had enough interactivity for me to enjoy, and obviously impacted me emotionally. It is lushly descriptive. I could see myself playing it again.
The struggle is never the moment but all the ones that have to come after. Context constricting which kinds of moments can thence arise, what can ever be found again in them, but in the moments before they calcify to context lie vibrancies bleak and beautiful, shivers welling up inside you such profundity beyond the summons of these passing days.
This tension between a moment, its kindling, its freedoms, its capacity to believe in enduring, and memory, immutable definitions pressing you to the edge, simmers the wistful anguish of After the Accident. It flourishes into “gold fire touching the place where the road meets the sky,” it winces from “The sun smoldering ahead, as if you are driving into a fire.” The pain of a relationship breaking the more of each other we once made starkens in flashes of physicality skinbright, literalizations of the tempestuous phrases that haunt the mind away from such raw shape and color: “such unforgivable things said as the rain roared and the wind shrieked”. In the oscillation between car crash and the slow motion up to it, we find in each grip the white knuckle implied, the tumbling expands to exceed the speed of your own heart beating: “and you lean over and kiss him and suddenly the ground is shaking, the earth moves and books tumble from the bookshelf and you both leap from the bed as the earthquake echoes the thunder in your heart.”
Carried away by the intractable stream of choices unretractable, inevitability after it’s happened stirring the moments into fireworks of eidolon: “the light streaming in, and it’s blinding, and the air is filled with noise and you hear a snatch of the song about a landslide, about an avalanche, and then you are in the avalanche and your eyes are filled with stars and light and dark and you are floating and then and then and then”. Thens which follow from each other, so you don’t need to, you will go where they lead, flaring up and flaring up until the fire catches, and every otherwise melts away, smoke of the irretrievable occluding whichever horizon you were heading to: “You run in that direction, seeking, seeking, but lost, unable to leave because you didn’t leave that night and so you can’t do it now, circling the fire.”
Yet, paradoxically, in the eye of the storm, a certain pretty of calmed, “The quiet of an aftermath, of the intake of breath before the song.” After the Accident sparkles its violent rupture, a painterly nod at the ambition of your own devastation, as all the follies collapse emerges a wreckage as grand in scope: “You are standing on a sparkling carpet of broken glass, like diamonds on the black asphalt.” In the anguish of irretrievable, a certain tenderness emerges, more selfless than when bewitched by giving your self up to the motion: “there he is, lying curled” so you “curl around him like you have so many times, like an angel to guard him from hurt although you’ve hurt him so many times and a memory is wrapping around your throat, darkening your eyes and calling to you.” You are being called away, you know you cannot stay, suddenly you remember why you once tried to.
In that severance, however, slithers out a surprising lightness, a sudden anew: “You were somewhere else a moment ago, with him, and he’s not here, but you are, glittering in the last sunlight as a memory whispers in your ear and strokes your cheek.” Though you are called back into the old motions, you are also called forward into a new direction, possibility as it oozes from your wounds: “Panicked people push against you, you lose his hand, you’ve lost him (do you want to find him?) and people are running in every direction, away from the destruction.” It’s not that it feels good, but that, having followed feeling bad as far as you could, you try to let go, refuse it the future once drained of color in its sway: “your head hurts and you want to leave, to avoid the future, the past, to do the opposite of remembering…” In the absence, “you can’t see him / and you’re glad / and you’re sorry.” As the irreversible takes hold, simply “watching the transformation as the ingredients become a new thing”. Will it be better, worse? Tomorrow often is better, worse.
That emotive dynamism compels the game beyond the obvious framework that a literalizing the metaphor concept can sometimes threaten. There is enough heartfelt wisdom to wreathe the anguish genuine. Occasionally the trundling force of the text can hiccup: at the very end of the game, your phone buzzes, so I tried “>read message” as I had in an earlier sequence, which accidentally teleported me back into the old sequence, statelocking me out of progress, so that I had to restart from the beginning to do a single move differently. When the landslide does bring you down, Walker’s scintillating sadness strength carries you through landscapes beautiful for the burial.
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