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About the Story
In the near future, the world will be changed by a machine that predicts how a person will die with 100% accuracy... but not clarity.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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I say "actually" because I was skeptical at first. The premise (a CYOA of the Machine of Death webcomic concept) just seemed too derivative at first.
Actually playing it however was a novel experience. The author has managed to present the CYOA as an engaging, witty, and surprising work of fiction. The outcomes of my choices frequently surprised me in pleasant, consistent, novel ways.
The surprises and twists made perfect sense in the structure of the story.
Well-written, comedic, and a strong effort.
We've all read a story about someone who was told how they were going to die, took steps to avoid it, and had it happen anyway. Or that someone they loved would die a certain way. Years ago Ryan North built on this to say, what if there was a machine that could tell anyone how they were going to die? It spawned a short-story collection I read and enjoyed. One I didn't find out about until I played Machine of Death. I don't remember any of the stories, but I remember MoD, maybe mostly because it was part of IFComp, and so naturally I read what others had to say about it, and I remembered details.
But I think MoD's interactivity allows us to remember certain things. Anyone who got a card from the machine would wonder about all the details and start what-iffing. It must feel awful to know the walls are closing in, and you aren't even near. So should you? Well, in MoD, you're hanging out near a machine, wondering just that. Or maybe you'll just engage in Deathspotting, a wonderfully evocative word MoD uses that I don't think I need to define. You even chat with someone who got a card. It all seems impossible, even in this enlightened day and age where we can evaluate risk factors for a certain sort of cancer or whatever. But the moral and emotional import is pretty clear. We'd change what we do and who we are. It would be on our mind. Knowledge would not bring power.
So yeah there's a way to sneak out of the mall and say "nope nope nope." You can still learn a lot in the process. You can waste your remaining $5 at a fast food restaurant that gives discounts to people with certain death cards. There's a story of a famous person who did well by embracing his cause of death and another who lied about theirs.
But what if you choose a card? Well, then, there are three scenarios. I don't want to spoil them, because they're quite different and worth seeing, and with something like your own cause of death, it's a surprise. The game lets you restart from the beginning of the death scenario, or you can go back to the machine, where you can loop to the next choice. It doesn't directly allow undos, which might feel artificial given the theme, but this feels about right, since we all do trace through the past and think "could I have done better" and sometimes even hope for verification we did as well as we seemed to.
Suffice it to say one is pedestrian, one is absurd, and one contains a corporate slogan of sorts that can mean anything. This variety allows MoD to poke at certain tropes or obvious considerations without beating on them too much. For instance, if you're in a normally life-threatening situation, you can be risky because, well, you can't die THAT way.
I found the absurdist one to be the least effective, though it gave me the most laughs on the surface. There's some celebrity doppelganger stuff in there, which only goes so far, and because the cause of death is so specific, you really do try to do everything you can to avoid it, which weirds some people out. But hey, it wouldn't be weird if they KNEW. Still, there are ways out.
The corporate slogan is a bit different--you have a boss at work who knows their cause of death, and they let you know "I know my cause of death and I'm not letting it stop me! So I don't want to hear any whining." It's like "there's no I in team," but far, far worse for underlings. One of the main dramas here is getting to work on time. The bad end is lampshaded quite effectively, but the good ending blindsided me a bit and yet still made sense. The author, of course, wrote a lot of stuff to just make people laugh, but I appreciated the twist here, after skewering awful corporate types, to take some sting out of them abusing a catch phrase.
The pedestrian scenario makes a few things obvious, but the thing is--you know you aren't going to die violently! At least you're pretty sure. So everything's okay, right? But then you have a chance to look at someone else's death card. There are some implications there of what you might have to do. But one neat bit is that if you think you can do or avoid something because you're invincible, you only sort of get away with it. You aren't told what state of mind you'll die in, and that's something you have control over, for better or worse, with certain drastic actions.
The author is good at stringing juvenile jokes together without being cruel, and here he's a bit more profound than in In a Manor of Speaking. I can't say which entry is better, but I appreciate them both a lot, and it's neat to see the author have two drastically different successes from one IFComp to the next. MoD contains a lot of deep thoughts and worries under the jokes. It'd be ideal if we didn't need that to explore serious matters, but we often do. Replaying MoD almost ten years after its original release, I felt relief I hadn't found any stupid ways to die. I remembered the ways I worried I might die, instilled by teachers or peers or whomever because I was too careless or conservative. But I do think MoD is one of those things that help you worry less about dying so that you can, you know, pack more life in. And the whole concept of the Machine of Death turns out to have been prescient--ten years ago, we knew that machines knew a lot about you, but with political campaigns and so forth, knowledge of microtargeting and such has expanded to where it seems like machines can figure everything except how we're going to die. MoD lets us join in the fight against that sort of fatalism, or at least imagine how to, which would be worthy even if it weren't well-written.
I really enjoyed this game. It starts in a mall with a few stores and the Death Machine, and later branches into three possible narratives.
The message seems to be about fate and free will. The big idea is that there is a machine that prints out how you will die, and most people have tried it.
The genius of this game is that the author has thought through how the world would react to this development to a very high degree, so that the game is rich and believable.
Short but fun. Very infrequent strong profanity.
|Lost Coastlines, by William Dooling|
Average member rating: (11 ratings)
> SHARE all your stories...
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Average member rating: (18 ratings)
A simple, if peculiar, love story where not much seems to happen. The Moon wed Saturn is a short narrative experiment. Computer or tablet is recommended.
|Erstwhile, by Aster (formally Maddie) Fialla, Marijke Perry|
Average member rating: (54 ratings)
The neighborhood Thanksgiving party was going pretty well until you keeled over and died. Now you're a ghost, and you're going to figure out who killed you. But you can't exactly interview people or search for clues when you're dead, can...