by nespresso

Political art experiment

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Number of Reviews: 10
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A monument to poor understanding, March 23, 2021

Till Lindman of Rammstein was once asked why he sang so many dark songs in the first person. His response, to paraphrase, was that if he was to sing about monsters and victims, it wasn't right to force you into that role, so he took it on himself. This is the exact opposite concept, except written like an episode of 24 that had a commercial for the Milgram experiment.

This is a very poor torture simulator. It has no conversational mechanics (even if you use Arabic) gives you no dossier or background other than "we caught him red handed with a suicide vest," and your only option is to hurt the prisoner despite not being able to understand what he's saying. It's the sort of fetishistic view of "interrogation" people get from watching any of the JB characters.

But wait, there's more. Since the author really wants you to hurt this guy, you need to change verbs every three actions, turning the game into simply guessing what pain the author wants you to inflict. And since you have no choice, there's no agency. You can't even feel bad that you made a poor decision because you never had one. It's basically just a snuff story with quess the verb.

Now, this could be missing some great plot twist once you've broken X bones, but after fifteen minutes of trying to talk to the guy, leave the room, or get the information in any rational way, I broke a few toes, got a message that I needed to try something new, then was told it didn't know what a shin was. At that time I had the Spec Ops:The Line moment and said, "screw it, I can walk away." You should, too. It is utterly devoid of intellectual, recreational, or artistic merit.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A game that requires you to torture someone, June 10, 2016

In this game, you have to torture an Arabic-speaking individual. Quite a few body parts are implemented, and you have to torture the individual 30 times, using each technique no more than 3 times, and affecting each body part some limited number of times.

I feel like it was attempting to be deep, but not very successfully.In the end, it just seems like it's trying to shock.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
How many ways can you torture someone?, June 9, 2010
by tggdan3 (Michigan)

Your job is to torture abdul, a terrorist from "the east". This is basically an attempt to come up with all the humiliating things you can do to a man, and do it 3 times to 3 different body parts. (IE- piss on his nose or hit his left eye).

I get it- it's supposed to bother you by showing how much you can hurt this guy.

The "game" seems empty. You have to do each humilitating action 3 times. (Hit him 3 times in 3 different places. Then slap him 3 times in 3 places) so it gets rather redundant. As you do so, the terroist becomes more removed from reality. Once you've done enough, you may leave.

The style is horrific, but there isn't much meat or plot involved either. It's just snuff- you torture a guy in a variety of different ways. Maybe if you could garner more information from him, or there was more of a point to the torture- or you could offer "kind" interrogation techniques or more conversation this would be "worth it", but as it sits, it should be listed under "abuse pornograpy" more than social experiment.

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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful:
Subverting guess-the-verb for human rights, August 5, 2008

Do you want to torture foreigners in the name of the holy "war on terrorism"? Well, here is your chance. The range of conversation topics with the sole NPC (Abdul, a suspected "terrorist") is wide, but he will only reply in his own language (at least, initially...). If you are unwilling or unable to take the time to examine his responses (I discovered, with the help of some machine translation, that they seem to be genuine phrases that react to his current status and there is more going on than meets the eye), you will inevitably end up resorting to brute force and Lynndie England-style humiliation.

Here, the de-humanizing warlike aspects of the "war" are laid bare, with point scored for each and every creative use of abuse verbs applied to various parts of Abdul's shivering, naked body. It's an incredibly shallow approach to simulating a highly disturbing scenario, likely to be dismissed as "sick" by the easily offended. But look deeper to reveal the pro-humanist agenda. The "entryist" tactic is that of a torture simulator in which the PC enjoys his or her job (again, see Lynndie England), in which the parser begrudgingly rejects sexual abuse as being "sadly less acceptable", and in which the in-game help comes in the form of a "Memo from High Command" that regards the Geneva Convention as a minor nuisance. But disguised underneath is a bleakly funny role-playing game that asks the question: "How far are you willing to go?". And by extension, how far are you willing to let those in positions of authority, the ones that represent you, go? Does your meek head-in-the-sand acquiescence not vindicate and legitimise their warlike aggression?

Rendition never spells out it's affiliations: Abdul is simply from "the East". You are one of the self-proclaimed "chosen people". All we learn from About/Credits is that the game is a "political art experiment". Rendition, like the best contemporary art, makes the player think about the issues they'd rather not think about. Yes, the results are both disgusting and offensive... yet it somehow brings you closer to the truth than any number of "balanced" news reports could ever do.

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22 of 31 people found the following review helpful:
Squandered opportunity, June 8, 2008
by Beekeeper
Related reviews: subject

A short prologue indicates that the coalition has a terrorist in their 'clutches' who has been sent here to be '"questioned"' (for which read 'tortured'). The player is then permitted to brainstorm abuse verbs to apply to the various parts of a rag-doll in a bare room. Nothing else is possible, except to consult a poorly-written memo which instructs the player to limit repetitions of an abuse verb.

In any other context, players would quit and pan such a game as boring and meritless. Under the heading of protest, it elicits partisan scuffles and elaborate rationalizations. What all this controversy over the nominal premise conceals is the artistic and political failure of the work.

My reaction was not one of shock, horror or outrage, only disappointment and a sense of tedium. That is not because I disagree with the author's political views; it is because the author has passed up an opportunity not only to write a competent game, but to make an insightful or at least politically effective statement on an important issue.

No attention is paid to place, plot, or characterization. Given that interrogation under torture is one of the most dramatic situations available, it is remarkable that none of this emotional power has been harnessed. Andrew Plotkin's seminal Spider & Web centered on an incandescent interrogation scene to great artistic effect, while George Orwell's 1984 used character and a horrific interrogation scene to drive home a political point. rendition does not give us a chance to understand or empathize with any of the characters. Nor does it draw our attention to any dimension of the actual problem. No attention is paid to the psychology of evil, the moral and personal dilemmas of war, or the social pathologies which allow institutionalized torture to happen. We are only given blithely one-dimensional stereotypes which dictate exactly what we should think:

'It [the door] seals your activities from the prying eyes and ears of do-gooders.'
'an operative may choose to proceed for as long as he or she wishes.'
'Yes the Geneva convention is a pain in the backside isn't it?'
'His foreskin appears undamaged.'
'Having filled yourself up with beer several hours earlier, you have no difficulty bending over and pissing all over his left thumb. Abdul screams in horror.'

The result is inept propaganda which can only preach to the choir. That is a profound failure of execution. But there is an incredibly rich vein here for a sensitive author who can attend to the details - emotionally intense, thought-provoking, relevant, and convincing. I hope that we will see some thought-out and researched games which attempt to cast real light on this and similar issues of social justice.

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4 of 37 people found the following review helpful:
Terrorist Propaganda, April 30, 2008
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

Yes, it's a game about terrorists, but this one takes the side of a would-be suicide bomber. (Like you didn't see that one coming, right?) Everything from the name, to the intro text, to the only puzzle in the game, is about painting coalition partners in the worst possible light, in an attempt to make your heart bleed for the poor guy whose homemade bomb didn't go off and kill lots of people. Utterly depraved.

Ok, since it's fair game to comment on other reviews, here's mine.

1) "liberal neocon" is an oxymoron, and says more about the person pastiching together such an epithet than it does the original reviewer.
2) As far as "neocons" go (which is anti-semitic argot for "right-wing Jews"), ignoring abuses is not their claim to fame. However, many of them are skilled in sussing out bigots.
3) As far as people being angry about the game, they're angry about it because it lies.
4) Condemning reviewers because they refuse to take action on something that they're not convinced exists is illogical.
5) Panties on someone's head, disrespecting their Islamic masculinity, and psychological fake-out (as the cover clearly represents -- if you knew the story behind it), are not torture, yet they have perpetually been referred to as such. The very same people who claim that are the ones claiming that torture is widespread.
6) Finally, as far as this stuff actually occurring, once you get down to any actual, verifiable cases, you're talking about something that is statistically irrelevant; thus all the rhetoric about it empowers only one group of people -- those who want to take America down a notch for either their own twisted pleasure (keyboard cowards everywhere) or for their own empowerment (Hamas, Al Qaeda, national Democrat leadership).

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13 of 22 people found the following review helpful:
Horrifying and scary... but I think that's the point..., April 25, 2008

I was inspired to try this by the comment "Whoever wrote this sick piece of **** should be banned from Interactive Fiction for life. It should be removed from the IFDB and the archive, and quickly". Anything that can inspire that level of extreme reaction must be worth playing!

I realized that the game is intended as a kind of mirror for those who play it. It is very opaque, and doesnt spell out its intentions at all, so any judgement about its worth, or offence at its subject matter, says more about the person playing it than the game itself. So the comment about banning the author and deleting the game indicates a "liberal neocon"-type personality, the kind of person who turns a blind eye to the atrocities being performed in their name by western regimes, and when confronted with the truth wants it hidden away from sight.

The most horrifying thing about Rendition: this stuff is actually going on, today. If you feel uncomfortable playing it, why are you allowing your government and military to do it? I'm glad this game exists, and is being distributed. "They hate us for our freedom!", right? So let's ban the author and delete the game, that'll show 'em!

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6 of 20 people found the following review helpful:
Nothing to Be Done, April 18, 2008
by Jim Aikin (Northern California)

"Rendition" was recommended to me because I was looking for games that lack happy endings. Unfortunately, "Rendition" lacks everything else too. Specifically, it lacks writing, it lacks implementation, and it lacks basic human decency.

The setup is, you're an interrogator. You're alone in a cell with Abdul. Abdul is naked. You are carrying nothing. There is nothing in the cell except a door to the south. If you try to open the door you're told, "You have not yet done enough to Abdul."

The problem I have with this setup is, I'm not interested in torturing Abdul. And there seems to be nothing else that can be done in the game except torture him.

A single hint is implemented. It implies that you can damage Abdul's body parts one at a time. And indeed, Abdul's fingers, toes, eyes, testicles, and penis are separately implemented as objects. Hitting one of Abdul's body parts increases your score by one point.

Whoever wrote this sick piece of shit should be banned from Interactive Fiction for life. It should be removed from the IFDB and the archive, and quickly.

No stars.

--Jim Aikin

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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
Ineffective Politcial Commentary, January 17, 2008
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
Related reviews: politics, short

Rendition is nominally a portrait of Abdul, failed suicide terrorist taken captive by a Western army. However, it is impossible to actually get to know Abdul as a person, since the two of you don't speak the same language and the only way of interacting with him is through violence. This, of course, is exactly what the work is all about.

Although it is hard not to sympathise with the political message behind Rendition, the work suffers somewhat from being too obvious. After the first few moves, the player will have formed a pretty clear idea of what the piece is about and what limits to her own actions are, and there is little left to actually shock the player or make her think about political issues.

I think the piece will be more powerful if it is incorporated into a larger work that poses as a game. It could be the epilogue to a thrilling, puzzle-based chase after Abdul which allows us to understand why both Abdul and the protagonist think their causes are good and righteous; then, the sheer pointlessness of the interrogation and the impossibility of communication might have more shock value. My advice to the author is to think about extending Rendition along those lines.

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7 of 19 people found the following review helpful:
Repulsive, January 10, 2008

A repulsive, sadistic game where the only puzzle is to find different methods of torturing a prisoner. A game with similar themes might be succesful, exploring the dark side of human nature and philosophical and ethical side of modern day torture, but this game is as far from that as north pole is from antarctica. On the other hand, for those who take pleasure in snuff and similar "entertainment" this is just the right game.

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