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23rd Place - 16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2010)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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East Grove hills tells the story of a group of friends who go through a school bombing/shooting. Like photopia, it is told using non linear time, and it uses Photopias conversation system.
Unlike photopia, it is told through large text dumps, and doesn't provide many natural actions for the protagonist to take.
Overall, a good story.
EGH is about a shooting during one advanced student's oral presentation for an Advanced Placement class. And I suppose that if a bunch of AP students also wrote an IF game, they'd probably have ones that get more stars and flow more coherently with this, and have more interesting branches, too. Having been in this sort of high-pressure class, it's hard to forget the concern trolls and gaslighters saying "I thought you were smart, but you couldn't even..." to various people at risk of being demoted to mere honors classes.
They'd probably be factually right, not that it makes them better people--the game manages to be badly formatted, disjointed, and crunchingly linear at the same time. You often have just one direction to move. Menu-based conversations make it hard to ask what you want, especially when the "say nothing" option refuses to vanish, and it gets troubling when you have options to be rude to friends with little cause. What seems to be the "best" one discusses (Spoiler - click to show)starting a society of people who dislike being stressed out. Though I did find the school assembly to be good, wicked, frustrated satire. Everyone in high school "knows" those are useless.
But there's too much melodrama, though--the game didn't really need a shooting to discuss the issues of emotion and connection the author really seems to want to deal with. It's all a lot like stories I remember from creative writing periodicals in college where people either drop out and work at McDonald's, write a letter for five pages before junking it, or grow up exactly as unhappy as their parents.
So EGH is about people having to get everything right to get very good grades, and if not, many people will be disappointed. But conversely, EGH got a whole lot wrong, and that's no reason to look down on the writer, who failed to separate the main character's confusion from his own. He said a lot that needed to be said, and was important for him to say. And say badly. I have no idea how much the author suspects or knows this. Hopefully in a few years he can resolve his problems and not be ashamed of what he's written and recognizing that maturing and understanding doesn't have the high stakes and time pressure of an AP class.
I didn't know what teachers were saying when they gave me a B or C and said I really had something and should keep working. I understand they were not giving the same backhanded compliments and encouragement some more competitive students did, but they had to evaluate work objectively, too.
I have to say the same to this game. I can picture the author/narrator being alternately worried he would wind up saying something too stupid or maddening or disjointed to put things together--imagining more "with-it" people holding it up as proof that person was crazy--before just typing something up a few nights before the contest.
The night before I played this, my church had a speaker who was, at the time, Bishop (a pastor) to a number of kids who lived through the Columbine shooting. He recounted two of the survivors' stories. Those stories were on my mind while I played this.
The game calls itself "An Interactive Anecdote"--and I feel that's an accurate assessment. The way it's told, the details it leaves out, and its emotional inconclusiveness (in parts) gives this work a feeling of exploring a memory. Some moments are crystallized; they always happen the same way. Other moments are nebulous and change each time you revisit.
I can't say that I know what this piece is saying. I'm not even sure I liked it, or "got" it. But it was interesting, and maybe you'll get more out of it than I did.
See All 4 Member Reviews
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