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(based on 14 ratings)
About the Story
Your job is simple: do whatever you are told, without question or hesitation. If you don't, people will die. Probably including you.
59th Place - 25th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2019)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Starting with the story of Stanley Milgram's psychological experiments, The Milgram Parable reads like an allegory, using the setting of a corporate militia. All the elements are there: unquestioning obedience, limited information and one to one meetings with superiors. I guess the sporadic binary choices come with the narrative territory, too.
So the game forces you to make increasingly abstract choices. Showing compassion at the start of the game yields the admonishment that you are quick to judge using very little information; this is what the game forces you to do. Ironic? Purposeful? Maybe. The scope of the game is so narrow, the stakes and emotional impact so vague, that the decisions start to feel academic.
This game left me bristling with indignation, and I can't tell whether it was the subject matter or the way it was handled.
The fiction is competently executed. The writing is clear, and the author evokes specific themes and moral challenges without descending into bloated, over-wrought exercises in highly detailed tedium.
Interactively, it's a friendly gauntlet structure. The player has some agency to affect the story outside of key decision points that will always be used to set up specific dilemmas. And that's a great structure! It is often used to effectively provide interactive opportunities while confining a game's scope to a manageable size.
My major grumble is the way that The Milgram Parable works to present pairs of flawed options (or in one case, no options at all) before scolding the player's choice. It kept reminding me that I was in an exercise contrived someone else, reinforcing that the easiest way to win was by not playing. The repeated references to the Milgram experiment, and its concerns about justifying terrible things by "just following orders," undercut the idea of questioning my morality.
I especially resented the way that the game kept telling me how to feel. “What are you doing here? What have you gotten yourself into?” The game does not need to ask me these questions. Reading “You wish you knew more about what was going on” was irritating; there’s a subtle-but-important difference between me wishing I knew what was going on and the author telling me that I wish I knew more. Lines like these kept reinforcing the idea that me, the guy at the computer screen, was not the same person as the character in the adventure.
(Spoiler - click to show)I was exceptionally annoyed when I was told “You have no choice. Truly no choice at all,” after shooting the kid. I was quite aware that the choice was taken from me by the author, which circles back to my earlier point about this game spending too much time telling me how I was supposed to feel.
This game has two parts: a simple introduction and more complicated sci-fi portion.
Both parts are related to the infamous Stanley Milgram experiments, where participants were asked to administer what they thought were increasingly strong electrical shocks to strangers.
This game is moralizing strongly, which isn't bad in and of itself. It offers some nuance: what if we misunderstand the situation? What if we don't really have free will?
But it's slight, overall, and not strong enough, in my mind, to bear up the heavy moral implications it communicates. I think this would be more appropriate as a longer story where we could identify more with the characters.
I would definitely play another game by this author!
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