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by Allyson Gray profile

Slice of life

(based on 23 ratings)
9 reviews

About the Story

Sometimes talking is easier said than done.

Game Details


16th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

Winner, Outstanding Educational Game of 2023; Winner, Outstanding Slice of Life Game of 2023 - The 2023 IFDB Awards


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Number of Reviews: 9
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Game depicting struggles of stuttering, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This piece was good for me, I think. I’ve encountered different people with stuttering over time, and some of them I was kind too and some not. I had a group when I was younger that was both in church and scouts together. I never hung out with them alone but it was essentially my “friend group”. There was one guy who had a strong stutter. As a whole we often didn’t treat him well, and I regret it looking back.

Now I have a student who stutters a lot, due to having a stroke in his youth. I find it a lot easier to have patience with him and listen to his thoughts. He’s also an incredibly prolific writer (having written over 200 scripts each over 20 pages for a tv show idea he has.)

This game presents the experiences of one person with a stutter. They have a day to go through a list of chores and tasks.

I thought it was effective. It does have timed text but I made it work by playing it on my phone during a very boring work meeting where having it long and drawn out was a benefit. And I imagined the game itself as someone with a stutter and practiced being patient with them. After all, a lot of things that you would never do or like normally are acceptable or good when dealing with disabilities (like someone with IBS having frequent smelly farts).

My ex wife and son both use wheelchairs so it was interesting to see how similar some experiences are across disability, especially with other people under or over estimating the difficult of tasks. (Like “come to my house! It only has one step up, a few inches, that shouldn’t be a problem, right?)

So overall, lots of polish and good work and helped me reflect on life and saved me from a boring meeting.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Very effective, October 6, 2023
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Allison's game is a very effective piece that puts you into the role of someone who stutters, as they get through a day in which they need to perform several tasks that involve talking. Interactivity is key. By giving you the choices that the protagonist faces, and letting you live through their successes and failures, Dysfluent does more to generate understanding of what it's like to stutter than a non-interactive story does. The use of slow timed text, usually a big no-no, is actually something you are not allowed to complain about in this case. To complain about it would be to refuse to put yourself in the protagonist's shoes -- and while that's fine for, let's say, some random horror game, it's not fine for a piece that is all about generating understanding of a real-world phenomenon.

I love the use of colours in this game: green dialogue options are easily said, yellow ones will come out with some difficulty, red indicates a full-on block. I assume that it's a good reflection of how the protagonist experiences their stuttering. It's not a complete surprise; there's some premonition of what you'll be able to say, and what you won't be able to say (as easily). And it generates some excellent dilemmas. The best of those is during the job interview, where you can choose fluency (green) or accurateness (yellow). Of course you choose accuracy. And then you get another choice, but not fluency is green and accurateness is red. Ouch. What do you do? It's a tough call, and of course that's precisely the point. (I also enjoyed the sense of dread when, after telling the game what my favourite food was, I also had to tell it what my least favourite food was...)

If I have any criticism, it might be that the way the world reacts to the protagonist is so insensitive that it strains incredibility. Especially the flashbacks are all just straightforwardly horrible. I hope they weren't taken from real life, though they have something of the autobiographical about them. It seems to me that even when I was a kid, stuttering was explained to me in terms that were far more nuanced than those used by the supposedly professional specialist we meet here in the therapy scene.

But overall, I think this is simple a very good piece of interactive fiction. It's solid as fiction, built on smart design decisions, and it's effectiveness as a tool for generating understanding boosts it further.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Communications breakdown, December 5, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).

Dysfluent is part of a subgenre of IF that foregrounds the experience of living with a disability. I’ve played a number of such games, focusing on autism, OCD, social anxiety, and I’m sure there are many others I’ve forgotten, and beyond the subject matter they tend to have common threads: they’re most often short, choice-based, and allow the player to engage with the disability via a central game or interface mechanic. I’d also say that much of the time, their focus on the subjective experience of a particular challenge understandably gets prioritized over traditional IF elements like narrative, character development, or gameplay; they tend to be immersive and dramatize short, intensive events that don’t leave much room for such things. There’s nothing wrong with making those choices, in my view – I’ve found many of these games effective and memorable – but I think I’d internalized the necessity of this tradeoff to such a degree that it felt deeply surprising to me when Dysfluent demonstrated that it’s eminently possible to depict a disability in an informed, sensitive way, while still including a plot arc, impactful choices, and a well-characterized protagonist, without any significant compromises required.

As the title suggests, Dysfluent’s main character lives with a stutter, which makes the quotidian tasks that make up game’s plot – picking up a gift for a friend, attending a celebratory lunch, and interviewing for a new job – a bit of a minefield, and one with a lot of minute-to-minute uncertainty. While sometimes your speech impediment manifests in very intense ways, other times it’s relatively minor, and you’ve developed a host of workarounds and other strategies to help manage it. This means that the player’s actually given a fair degree of agency, since the interface allows you to see the likely difficulty level of the various dialogue options you’re given; you can decide that in a particular situation it’s more important to be understood quickly than to take the time needed to get out exactly what you intended to say, or just wave at someone rather than say hi to avoid the dilemma entirely.

I never felt like there was a single right approach, as the different contexts the game offered for these interactions shifted my sense of the tradeoffs. Dysfluent also does a good job of making these decisions important both internally and externally. The protagonist appear to have had their stutter since childhood – and per some flashbacks, are carrying around some trauma from some callous and clueless behavior from parents, friends, and teachers – and feels a lot of pressure to avoid discussion of, or calling attention to, it. As a result, the choices aren’t simply cold-blooded exercises in optimization; they also impact how authentic the protagonist is able to be, both with themself and with their friends.

It’s nice that the game doesn’t make this too one-dimensional on the other side, either; I didn’t feel judged when I decided to give a fake but easier-to-say name when picking up coffee because I just wanted to push the easy button. Dysfluent also isn’t a total misery-fest – I certainly respect games that lean into that approach, but it’s also nice to see protagonists in these sorts of games get a win. Despite a little bit of difficulty communicating, I was able to get exactly the right present for my friend’s birthday, which helped get the game off on the right foot and reassured me that my choices could have an impact. And while some of the other interactions didn’t go so well, I was OK with that; when bad things happened, it generally seemed like a logical consequence rather than the game trying too hard to make a point.

The elephant in the room is the omnipresent use of timed text. This is unavoidable given Dysfluent’s subject matter; it’s the obvious mechanic to represent the stutter, and it definitely helps the player experience the frustration of not being able to get out what they want to say. Still, there’s no two ways around the fact that this design choice does mean intentionally frustrating the player, and I do think the annoyance factor could have been tuned slightly down without harming the marriage of gameplay with theme – in particular, timed text is sometimes used when it doesn’t seem necessary, like delaying your internal thought processes or dialogue from other characters.

On the positive side, the game does allow you to turn off the delay after finishing it, if you want to go back and try to make different choices or gather some of the achievements you missed your first time through – again, it appears that there’s a lot of branching, and that achievement section is quite robust. So those “new game plus” options are a nice convenience, but also an indication that the author’s thought about who Dysfluent works as a game, not just as an experience, and it’s all the better for it.

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Dysfluent on IFDB


The following polls include votes for Dysfluent:

Outstanding Slice of Life Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best Slice of Life game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

Outstanding Educational Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best educational game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

Outstanding Debut 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best game of 2023 by a new author. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

See all polls with votes for this game

This is version 16 of this page, edited by Ally on 13 July 2024 at 11:35pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page