On Optimism

by Tim Lane


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Dashboard Confessional in the credits..., March 5, 2009
by madducks (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2005

The fifth sentence of the introduction of “On Optimism” by Tim Lane begins ‘A tear rolled from my eyes’ and we soon find that the protagonist's tears are rolling onto the laminated love letters of his ex. It seems she is no longer writing him back and so, before the first prompt is presented to the player, he decides to kill himself with migraine medicine and alcohol. Textually speaking, the tears do not stop from this point until the ending prompt. I stopped counting the seemingly endless repetitions, but the following is pretty emblematic:

"And there I wept as though my tears had never flown, I added to the waters around me through the pumps we call eyes."

The whole game is written in first person, past tense, and that probably works better than being told in second person that “you are crying” or that you hate the ex of your ex. Aesthetically, this was the game’s only good decision.

This is important because for me, at least, “On Optimism” fails entirely for aesthetic reasons. I found few overt typing or spelling errors (though plenty of clumsy phrasing, mismatching numbers and tense problems), I encountered only one bug, near the end of the game, which does not effect your ability to complete it, and in fact most people probably wouldn’t notice or encounter during a normal play-through. So in many regards it would appear that Mr. Lane did all the right things: he had beta testers, he clearly spent some time putting everything together and making things work.

But it does not work. The PC is practically a cipher except for the fact that he feels quite sorry for himself and he seems to at once worship his former girlfriend as perfect, while in the same scene he is examining physical embodiments of her flaws and lamenting them (despite this she is hardly characterized any better or with more specificity). There is no indication that the protagonist is intentionally written this way to make a point or illustrate a real character, or that the work intends to be anything more than an emotive description of a breakup. I would not recommend playing this one.

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