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About the Story
""Jarod!" comes the weakened call from the father's room. With a torn heart, Jarod remembers his father of old, a once great centurion. Jarod quickly runs to his father's bedside. When he kneels beside the bed, his father starts to speak.
47th Place - 6th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2000)
As the young pilgrim Jarod, you visit various cities, and encounter a number of situations, each of them llustrating a postulate/commandment of Christianity. Since this game has got neither puzzles nor atmosphere, and only a rudimentary plot, I doubt it can be an enjoyable experience for anyone. For me, its most amusing feature is the HELP command, which, if entered several times, shows the ultimate in getting as close to telling the player "you're a complete moron if you need help for *THAT*" as possible, without actually saying it (in order to avoid offending people).
-- Valentine Kopteltsev
>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
There's one section that I found quite ironic -- Jarod meets a pharisee who is described as "praying loudly. So loudly that everyone nearby can hear him. Even in the short time that Jarod pauses to listen, it is obvious that the man is repeating himself. Is this what pleases the Lord?" From this description, we're supposed to realize that the pharisee's method of prayer is Not OK. But only one location away is a Christian priest who fits this same exact description. Not only that, the game itself fits this description. The deep irony of the pharisee section made me suspect that not only is the game evangelical, its evangelism isn't even well thought out.
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Painfully earnest and rhetorically self-defeating, Jarod's Journey is the canonical example of How Not To Do It when it comes to IF that aims to make a point about ethics, politics or religion.
Jarod is a Christian pilgrim (or possibly evangelist; it's not very clear) in the late first-century Holy Land. The game's themes have little to do with the concerns of first-century Christians, though, and thinking of it as a historical piece would be a mistake; rather, it's consciously modeled on parables. In each section, Jarod visits a city and observes the ways different people express their faith; he then has to decide which of them is doing it right, or rather which message God wants him to derive from his observations. In each case there is only one right answer.
There are several problems with this. One is that the scenes Jarod observes don't always translate readily into parables; another is that the parables don't translate straightforwardly into morals. Yet another is that choosing between the morals is often arbitrary and unsupported; a lot of the morals don't seem to be in conflict with each other, and in places the texts quoted to explain why a choice was wrong could quite reasonably be taken to mean that it was right. In other words, unless you are already familiar with the author's very specific theological concerns and idiom of interpretation, Jarod's Journey is not just unfair as a game but incoherent as an argument.
The game violates a few of its own expressed maxims; one of the obviously-wrong choices is a Pharisee who prays in a conspicuous, repetitive, hollow, bombastic style that closely resembles the game's own approach to biblical quotes. Its text argues for the primacy of simple faith and prayer, but its mechanics seem to say that it's more important to give the correct answers to questions of doctrine.
It doesn't help that the tone is one of clean-cut, sanctimonious enthusiasm. Although the story makes it clear that he has been raised as a Christian, Jarod seems ingenuously surprised at basic tenets of the faith. The Holy Land seems to have been rather cleaned-up since the life of Christ; there are lots of hard-working tradespeople and a distinct absence of lepers, prostitutes, tax-collectors and lunatics. (The most disreputable people are a bunch of nasty-looking street toughs who turn out to be exactly what they look like.)
Games about ethics and religion are very difficult to do well, particularly if they advocate a very specific position. But the most basic design principle for them is that it's never a good idea to give the player a set of choices, then tell them that A is good and B and C are bad; it's boring gameplay and it's unpersuasive rhetoric. Jarod's Journey is worth playing because it demonstrates very clearly why this is.
This game purports to be an exploration of the Christian faith. You are the son of the centurion who stood on Golgotha, and you are sent on a quest to explore various cities.
In each city, you explore different areas, and see NPCs, but you don't have to do anything.
As you leave each city, you are given a choice of three directions to go in corresponding to 3 beliefs. You have to choose the correct belief to progress.
The game seems to me to be a subtle parody. The graphics are at times ridiculous (the meditating shopkeeper); the character is very excited at how clean the angel is; your character ends up suffering quite a bit, but is grateful that thieves left him his shoes; it all seems a sort of fun-poking 'from the inside' the way that Jacek Pudlo troll RAIF 'from the inside' (where you pretend to be a fan of what you hate, and then say things that other fans are embarrassed by).
I'd read of this game as uniquely mediocre in its own way, due to its heavy-handedness. So it seemed like the sort I wanted to attack one day. I was a bit worried it would be long and convoluted and I'd get sick of it.
It's not really that bad and long--there are only three puzzles, and they feel like multiple choice (which direction do you go, and the game cues why.) Before that, an angel meets your character, and I was worried some sort of hideous death would befall me if I didn't ask enough questions, or if I asked too many. Even that introductory part is cringy--the game seems extremely well meaning, but the lack of details combined with spoon feeding the player to push on felt kind of bad. That, and there seem to be two good choices based on if your personality is introverted or extroverted. Sorry, (Spoiler - click to show)introverts! You lose! Thankfully, the ending text gives some explanation, even if it's not too rigorous.
Imagining how huge the game might be, though, gave me ideas how to construct something moral. And the few times I saw this game mentioned, I built it up as a Pilgrim's Progress, and it was anything but. Of course, I could've saved time by playing the game and maybe having all those ideas a bit quicker. And it won't be the last time I'm faked out by a big-sounding name.
So, the moral? (Yes! I have some over-general advice of my own!) If something seems intimidating, and you sort of do or don't want to look into it? Give it a shot and plan to try a few things out, then move on! And that goes for reviewing or playing something old. Don't worry if it might be too good or too bad, or you're saying something too obvious or too obscure.
I think religious and non-religious people agree this is good, if overgeneral advice. Of course, as in the game, there are pharisees who get this principle wrong, but still, it's good advice, and following through will be more gratifying than getting 3 out of 3 on a multiple choice test. I hope I can say this without snark that I appreciated the sort of failure that resulted from this game, and it was easy to see how I might fall into the trap. And it was a less painful reminder than something more robust. Not that it's a good idea to do this all the time.
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