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Being Andrew Plotkin

by J. Robinson Wheeler profile

Screen, Satire

Web Site

(based on 55 ratings)
6 reviews

About the Story

"Zarf? you think to yourself. Could it be? The one and only Zarf? Xyzzy Award winner? IF Competition winner? The mighty Inscruitable One?

Gosh. What it must be like to be Zarf...

You begin to crawl forward, the tunnel floor oozing and pliable under your knees and palms. The secret door bangs shut and disappears. The tunnel begins to shiver, and from up ahead a roar like a waterfall issues from the darkness."
[--blurb from Competition Aught-Zero]

Game Details


Winner, Best Game; Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Individual NPC; Nominee, Best Individual PC - 2000 XYZZY Awards

3rd Place - 6th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2000)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide

A parody of the movie Being John Malkovich; here, the target is IF luminary Andrew Plotkin, a.k.a. Zarf, author of Spider and Web, So Far, and other well-regarded games. In-jokey, to some extent--you'll probably get more out of this if (a) you've seen the movie and (b) you're familiar both with Zarf's games and with the IF community as a whole--but still playable without knowledge of the in-jokes. Highly linear with very few puzzles; you really can't get very far from the path the game sets out. This is a very funny effort, though, and it's amusing in a knowing way--the fights over identity that the movie depicts are adapted to the IF context in a way that acknowledges the confusion of the player-PC relationship.

-- Duncan Stevens

>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction

I was the perfect audience for this game, or near-perfect anyway. I've seen and enjoyed Being John Malkovich, the film by Spike Jonze. I've hung around the IF scene for a long time. I've played every Plotkin game, even Inhumane. I've also played every Infocom game, which turns out to be helpful as well. Even with all that, I'm not sure I caught every reference (especially given the prodigious list of such references provided by the author in the endnotes), but I think I caught a lot of them. Consequently, I'm not sure how somebody who doesn't fulfill some or all of the above criteria would react to BAP, but I can tell you this: I thought it was a delight.
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[...] it turned out that the author very carefully both stuck to and deviated from the movie, in exactly the right way so that he could work economical fragments of humor by referencing the movie, and yet deliver jokes all his own.
-- Sean T Barrett

I found the execution of the idea hilarious (and I'm beginning to think I may have to go rent the movie if it's -anything- like this) and particularly with the bits and pieces that let you see the world in different ways (again, more under "NPCs"). To be perfectly honest, I didn't get the optimal ending, and I was in too much of a hurry to try replaying and fixing this, but for some reason that didn't faze me; perhaps just because what I'd experienced up to that point was... cool.
-- Tina Sikorski
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Being Andrew Plotkin is meant to be a humorous game but I failed to appreciate it or to understand most of what it was about.
-- Dorothy Millard
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Good and funny game, June 9, 2009

The concept of the game is quite funny : it transposes the movie Being John Malkovitch into the interactive fiction world. I saw the movie before, and when I played it I could see all the references to this (odd) movie ; however, because of an imperfect knowledge of IF classics, I missed some other references to other interactive fiction games (the author provides a list of those references at the end of the game). The game is quite funny in itself too ; the story is linear (not a drawback for me though), and you can sometimes have the impression that you are watching a movie ; the implementation is good (though (Spoiler - click to show)you can take the copier in the early scenes because you can take it afterwards...). Not exactly a classic, but certainly a great game.

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
An in-joke, but suitable for a wide audience, November 10, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: J. Robinson Wheeler, ****

Being Andrew Plotkin probably makes a good deal more sense if you've watched Being John Malkovich; so if you haven't seen it, you may well enjoy the game a lot less than I did. I'd definitely recommend watching the film first, if possible, since a fair bit of the amusement I got from the game came from remembering similar scenes in the film. I don't think playing the game first will make you enjoy the film any less, though; and I don't think it counts as a spoiler to note that it's certainly not a direct transplant from screen to, er, screen and the ending is quite different.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A postcard from Zarf's insides., November 18, 2022
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

Quick recap: the protagonist of the movie/game finds a magic door that leads into John Malkovich'/Andrew Plotkin's mind. Shenanigans ensue.

For the most part, the game follows the plot of the movie quite closely. The biggest alterations are jokes and references to IF in general and Zarf's games in particular. Since I wasn't around in the era of sizzling and bubbling creativity on the intfiction newsgroups in the 90s, a lot of the references went over my head. I'm also not intimately familiar enough with Andrew Plotkin's work to recognize all the jokes and shout-outs.
However, having roamed the internet for IF-history sources, a lot of the game did ring a funny bell.

For a text-adventure about a PC who's a hobbyist text-adventure writer entering the mind of one of the most renowned text-adventure writers of the era, there's actually precious little actual text-adventuring to do.

Most of the game pushes you along the rails laid out by the movie, with frequent conversations where you can choose to say a silly thing or an even sillier thing. Only in the very last sequence before the epilogue does a puzzle show up. And it's a rather mediocre one at that. (One could call it a callback to the classic puzzles, if one were generously inclined...)

The writing and tempo are great though. Exciting scenes zip by at rollercoaster speed, the descriptions are detailed and evocative, the conversations are very funny indeed.

I enjoyed the ride.

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Being Andrew Plotkin on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Being Andrew Plotkin appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Games about interactive fiction itself by MathBrush
This is hopefully my last list. These are games that comment on the nature of interactive fiction or the interactive fiction community itself. The quality of these games varies wildly, and this list doesn't attempt to sort by quality....

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I wanted to do a list of comedy games, but I think people rarely think "I want to play a comedy game"; to me, the phrase brings up some kind of jokey, goofy game, like many of the poorly made Twine games that people make now. Instead,...

Games with great NPCs by Reeah
Exactly what it says on the tin. These games include some of my favourite NPCs. Games are in no particular order.

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The following polls include votes for Being Andrew Plotkin:

This Is Who We Are by Sam Kabo Ashwell
A considerable number of games exist largely as the commentary of the IF community (or some subset of it) upon the medium and the community itself. These works are likely to be befuddling to outsiders, but provide windows onto blah blah...

Games with Chases by Jeremy Freese
The chase scene, a staple of Scooby Doo and action movies, but how often has it been done in IF?

Outstanding individual puzzles by Jeremy Freese
I'm interested in examples of excellent individual puzzles in IF. In other words: not 'Spider and Web' so much as 'getting out of the chair' in 'Spider and Web'

See all polls with votes for this game

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