Creating Goncharov

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A deep dive into Goncharov lore., June 26, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: goncharov

Following the Goncharov (1973) meme storm taking over Tumblr during November 2022, Creating Goncharov takes an alternative reality approach where this fake movie existed - though, you do not remember ever seeing it. Set to create a pitch for a remake, the game takes a deep dive into the lore and the many theories regarding this shitpost. More than that, Creating Goncharov is about finding passion in your work and creating relationships.

[Spoiling the story below]

(Spoiler - click to show)At the beginning, all is dull and irritating. The path to your place of work is slippery from the snow, your desk is in a cubicle nowhere close to natural light, and you expect today to be as boring as every other day you've had so far. 'Tis the life of an office drone. Except... find an interesting proposition from your boss in your inbox - one you cannot refuse* - you are tasked to create a pitch for a remake of Goncharov and 1973 totally real and acclaimed movie, coined as the 'best mafia movie ever created'. Which is great, since you've been trying to get that kind of opportunity. But... you cannot for the life of you remember ever watching that movie.
* hahaha like in mafia movies

You are also forced to work with Al*, a co-worker you look down on - even though they are your superior - because you don't believe they deserve their job. Through exchanges with Al, it is not really clear whether they have seen that movie either, or whether they are competent at all (would they take your idea as pass it as theirs?). Still, they have readied some bare bone documentation to help you start.
*the author self-insert - do they believe the criticism/jabs they wrote about Al B? I hope not...

There is little time and not much to go on, but you still push through and ready a pitch for your boss by the meeting time. And... fail. But, this was expected, considering your lack of knowledge about the original piece and of concrete information about the plot, themes, or scenes even. As if, you were meant to fail... who gives a remake of a well-loved movie to a newbie...

At this point, you can end... or, if you believe in this remake and your ideas, push through and proclaim you will make the movie by yourself if that's what it requires!

This is where strange things start to happen...

You go to work the next day, and things feel more... vibrant? The air is not as stale, the office is brighter, you even notice other people during your commute. More than that... your computer boots to the same day as before, showing the same unread email as when the game first started.

In some weird Grounghog Day scenario, you are given a second chance at putting your pitch together, retaining (partly) not only your previous found knowledge about the movie but also the (now-edited) documents Al had sent you the day/loop before. Speaking of Al, they are in this loop more forth coming with their view on the project, their knowledge of the movie, and their friendliness toward you.

While the first loop focused on the general overview, discussing the themes, or (re-)naming the characters, this loop gets into the nit and gritty of the plot. You and Al spend hours ironing out some details about the sequence of events and highlighting potential strong points. There is a lot there you can edit, and show off your creative liberties (with cycle links).

But again, this is not enough to sway the investors. You have not gone deep enough. You're still missing something important: you have not pitched the scenes!

And this is where the final loop comes in.

Yet again, the descriptions about your environment changes once more, and you notice how beautiful it is. It is also then that you notice the building's receptionist (and even remember her name and exchange some words!). The people in your mail box also change from jokey puns to actual names - they are not just nameless cogs but actual full human beings.

The exchanges between Al and you are also more developed and much more friendly. You even seem more passionate about the project than you ever were before! Even as you wait for your boss's email at the end of the day, you have the option to do something outside of work, even grow your relationship with Al.

Obviously, this time around, the pitch is a success (on my run at least, it is possible to fail a third time apparently). The movie is made, and wins tons of awards, setting you for a fulfilling career path.

With over 50 thousand words, the game covers most if not all of the "lore" created during this meme craze. In the many edits you can make, it manages to essentially give an overview of what had been discussed on Tumblr about this fake movie*. Depending on your choices, you may see quite a lot of change in variation down the line (inserting 'Marting Scorceses' as your name for example).
*with the plot document in the second loop especially, it felt a bit like those Archive documents the community created to keep track of all the lore.

The attention to details is both a major part of the gameplay, enabling you to "win" the game, and of the prose, through the subtle change in the environment/your behaviour outside of work. This is also a major point of the "movie", as recurrent details embodying time, religion, and change, were put in the forefront of the Goncharov discourse.

The change in tone in the interactions between Al and the player throughout the game feel believable, as you become acquainted with them and find a shared passion in the "movie". The exchanges of emails in the third loop is particularly lovely, and the scenes with them while waiting for that final email is quite sweet. Albie has a great command of their writing style in that area.

There were a few icks that made me tick a bit:
~ While the inclusion of a Martin Scorcese timeline (if you enter your name as MS) garners some fun responses and variation, it felt a bit out of place when other characters behave in the same way they would if the player has chosen any other name. It was funny that Mr. Scorcese failed the pitch, but the joke becomes a bit stale past the first loop.
[In the same vein, no one questioned me when I chose the same name as existing characters/employees]
~ Some formatting of the text made it sometimes hard to follow along. The fake shared GoogleDoc you edit in the second loop reloads multiple times but doesn't indicate clearly where you last left off (maybe a small translucent horizontal bar?). The email exchanges between Al B and the MC in the third loop could have distinguished better the bits between a description of a scene/dialogues and the emailers just discussing it (indentation, italics, change of font...). I didn't particularly liked the browser errors (a screen popup would have been a bit nicer and easier to close) or the lack of contrast when a popup was on screen (a slightly shaded overlay would have helped separate the elements).
~ The lack of discussion of the day restarting felt a bit like a missed opportunity. It might not have needed much, just the player getting a bit of anxiety or questioning their sanity from reliving the same day. Even if it can be brushed off because the player can have a do-over on their pitch, the fact that the player doesn't even flinch at the emails they receive is strange*. It could be interesting to have the player fail forever and only manage to break the loop if they give up on 'creating Goncharov (2023)' or it turns out their "win" was just a dream...
*there is just the words "Déjà vu" at the end of the second loop...
~ With the edits of the second loop being so extensive (building on the smaller edits of the first one), the gameplay of the final loop felt lacking. You essentially read through threads of emails between yourself and Al, discussing the scenes, but you have no choice in how they are described (they do have some variation depending on previous edits). I think it would have been nice (maybe for a future update?) if Al or the MC disagreed on some points (e.g: plot points contradict each other) and the MC had to make some choices. There is a bit of an unbalance in player input in the current version.
~ While time is of the essence, having to scramble to create a pitch in a few hours, the game doesn't "punish" you for taking all the time in the world (e.g. discussing every scene, even though Al presses you to wrap up).

Considering this game was made in less than 3 weeks (during finals!), includes this complexity in story, the high word count, a custom UI, and interactive elements further than simple choice lists, Creating Goncharov is very impressive. It is clear the author has put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this project.

From essentially using every fan theory out there about the fake-movie, to creating full scenes based on fan-edit posts on Tumblr, using the motifs (the clock, the apple, etc...) reblogged by hundreds of users, or including music created for the meme, Ablie has done their research and dove deep into the lore of the meme. They seemed to have spared no (effort) expense in creating... Creating Goncharov.


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