De Baron

by Victor Gijsbers profile


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Number of Reviews: 18
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful:
Limitations, Will, April 3, 2014
by perching path (near Philadelphia, PA, US)

(Warning: This review might contain spoilers. Click to show the full review.) 5 years on, I find the perspective from which I wrote this review naive and unreflective.
De Baron is about the sexual abuse of a child. I almost completely failed to deal with that (central) aspect of the story, and my concluding paragraph is (as streever's comment pointed out) entirely incorrect.

What I wrote about the piece's structural aspects may still be of interest.

review from August 1st 2008:
(Spoiler - click to show)There's evil in De Baron, and the medieval trappings of the narrative do very little to pad its edges. It's real evil, and it resides primarily in the PC (though there is no character in this story whom a sane person would want to be). Trying to deal with this evil through the necessarily limited choices provided by dialogue menus can be frustrating. I can reject the importance of guilt and forgiveness by typing numbers, but there is of course no way for me to inject my own ideas about the psychological and interpersonal mechanisms of the consequences of wrongdoing.
One can say that these ideas are not things the PC would think of, but I'm not sure Gijsbers would wish to have the universality of his piece eroded in this way.

Pavel Soukenik described De Baron as a psychological test which does not give its results. I think the results can be given by the player throughout their second playthrough of the piece. Even if they choose not to do so, what further analysis could the program give beyond its final series of choices, which try to force the player to think through the motivations behind their (and/or the PC's) actions?

The prose did jar me out of the story at a couple of points. I didn't particularly mind the occasional grammatical errors, but certain phrases were so melodramatic as to undermine the piece's general seriousness. I would be interested in reading a review of the Dutch version.
The mechanics of the game are smooth, though I'm inclined to think that the occasional bits of physical interaction should be either complicated or further simplified. Having to retrieve the torch to read something, though it only took 4 turns, seemed a pointless chore.
As my rating would indicate, these minor technical flaws don't do the piece too much damage.

Why do I think this a very good work, despite its limitations? Possibly because its structure involves both the inexplicit revelation of what one is and the creation of sympathy with an unsympathetic protagonist, my favourite IF devices. Possibly because it's well-implemented enough that I spontaneously (Spoiler - click to show)howled at a wolf and received an appropriate response. Possibly because it treats its victims as humanely as is possible from inside the PC's head. Certainly because it succeeded in its ambitious aim of making me think about human will from a novel angle.

Finally, I'm inclined to think that the content warnings and minimum age requirements associated with De Baron are unnecessary. As with most written works, those who lack the maturity to deal with it will find it neither interesting nor entirely comprehensible.

Comments on this review

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streever, November 26, 2013 - Reply
I thought this was a good review, but I strongly disagree with your assertion that the warning should not be included. I think it should be strengthened and dealt with as a trigger warning.

I think the issue that the game revolves around is far too common to not be presented up-front. Players should have a choice before engaging with work which is dealing with a situation which they may be actively in therapy for.
streever, September 12, 2014 - Reply
I appreciate your follow-up! I still like your original review, too, and am glad it's still available.
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