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A Dark and Stormy Entry

by Emily Short profile

Slice of life

(based on 26 ratings)
5 reviews

Game Details

Editorial Reviews

Paean to Wanderings
Written for LOTECH Comp, this depicts, in rather exaggerated form, the process of brainstorming a story. There is no single, unifying narrative; the story can go in a great many directions, and the suggestion is that it could go anywhere. Choices are framed in terms of things like "Choose a setting" or "This isn't working. Try switching viewpoint." The great majority of the stories are never finished; the game ends when the writer either gives up or feels they have enough material to write something. It's consciously Borgesian in that it mostly plays with many possible stories, rather than attempting to develop and detail a sustained one. (One of the major branches is explicitly Calvino-inspired.)
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Number of Reviews: 5
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
If on a Winter's Night a Writer..., October 1, 2023
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

A Dark and Stormy Entry was an entry in LOTECH Comp 2001, a competition in which the most important rule was that the games had to have a multiple-choice parser. The title of the game, and the fact that it appeared under the pseudonym of Lord Lobur-Bytton, suggest that it will be a send-up of the bad, purple writing associated with Lord Bulwer-Lytton and his "It was a dark and stormy night" opening sentence. However, there are only a few story branches (the Scotland/gothic ones in particular) that actually present overwritten prose. And a good thing that is too, because that joke would have worn thin very quickly.

In fact, A Dark and Stormy Entry has less to do with Bulwer-Lytton and more with Italo Calvino's book "If on a Winter Night a Traveller...". In that book, Calvino tells the story of a reader who, in their search for a book, comes across opening chapters of many different books. Again and again a story is started that is then abruptly cut of and never finished. The stories are in widely different genres and styles.

This is what Short does in A Dark and Stormy Entry too, except that the player takes the role, not of a reader, but of a writer. We are looking at a blank page, and our job is to make decisions about which story to tell. These decisions lead us into widely different directions, from Calvino-like stories about a philosopher who ties himself to a kite, only to be rescued by a sensual queen; to autobiographical stories about teenagers having to confess that they have had sex to their prudish parents; to clichéd Macbeth-like stories involving witches on the Scottish highlands; to strange explorations of a world that is a cube. All the branches are short, and we are clearly supposed to play the game many times. Sometimes, we are told that the ideas will lead to a novel. Sometimes, we end up with writer's block, or the writing process fails for some other reason.

It's fun and inventive, but I'm not sure it throws any real light on the creative process. Has any writer ever sat down before a blank page with no idea about what to write? This is the opposite at least of my own experience. But my experience need not be universal. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that anyone's brainstorming process would be as chaotic and random as what happens in A Dark and Stormy Entry.

One's feeling at the end of If on a Winter's Night a Traveller... may well be frustration that the author didn't finish any of the books he started. And that may also be one's feeling at the end of this piece, although it's much less pronounced, since here most of the stories are only outlined, without much of the actual prose appearing. I feel the piece might actually work best for a discussion group, where the topic of discussion is: which branches would you most like to see turned into a real story, and why?

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A clever exploration of the creative process, July 1, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

In this game, you create a story by choosing from menus. This game has a time cave structure, where every chance branches widely into more choices.

This usually is not effective, but the branches are short, the game meant to be replayed often, and you have a general idea of what effect your choices will have.

Options include choosing a setting for your short story, choosing characters, choosing motivations or objects, and so on.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, Funny, and Accurate, August 14, 2012

To be honest, playing this reminds me of all those days I've sat at my desk (or anywhere else), notebook and pencil in hand/laptop buzzing and ready to go--and then nothing happens at first. This game reminds me of a more humorous version of my own mental process as I wait for genius to come. Genius, however, arrives right on time for this game.
The controls are simple as you choose the options by number, selecting the next step in your creative process as you venture forth into the lands of creativity, looking for the ever-elusive Great Idea. Every option opens up new choices, until you either write your idea or lose it.
So, while it's neither a long game nor a profound one, it's a lot of fun to see just what sort of ideas come along.

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A Dark and Stormy Entry on IFDB


The following polls include votes for A Dark and Stormy Entry:

ZCode games with non-standard status lines by Dannii
I'm interested in finding ZCode (primarily those written in Inform, though Infocom games could be ok too) which have a non-standard status line. Whether it's with colours, maps, arrows, or more! With such a list I can investigate what...

No map necessary by Divide
Pieces which can be fully enjoyed without drawing map, ideally without taking any notes whatsoever. Ones which you could play on a bus, on a break, laying on bed, etc. with nothing but a portable player. Games for which you don't need...

This is version 6 of this page, edited by Emily Short on 25 August 2011 at 10:56am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page