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About the Story
a personal & public museum
If you want a swashbuckling adventure game, or exciting puzzles to solve, then I apologize, but this game doesn't have that. This Twine contains a museum, which consists of items notable to me during my long period of mental health recovery. I wanted to share my journey in some form or fashion, and this Twine is the result.
This game is a museum, so treat it as such. Peruse slowly. Stop and listen to the music. Linger on an exhibit that you like. Exit whenever you feel ready to. And do leave your name in the guestbook, won't you?
(P.S. I strongly recommend you download this game. The browser is not always the nicest to it in terms of loading pages & images.)
Content warning: This game explores my personal experience with a serious health crisis that affected me physically & mentally. I discuss my terrible mental health at the time, including my intense suicidal ideation & depression. See more in game.
29th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
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Number of Reviews: 2
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This game was good to read. Iíve known Bez for several years, and while I have not been able to be as helpful as some of his other friends, Iíve been able to watch his journey over time and follow along.
This is an interactive museum of Bezís experiences through several different locations, with one exhibit per living location. There are photos, transcribed documents, and music from several indie musicians, which sounds good.
The museum is a well-written and fascinating look into the life of one individual. It is frank and open about challenges like debilitating illnesses (the pseudo-dementia, for instance), suicidal thoughts and impulses, homelessness, unsupportive staff and family, and so on. The fascinating part is how relatable it is; this is a very specific life with considerations that arenít universally applicable, and yet for me the writing was relatable and approachable, and I could connect with it and consider similar challenges in my own life.
Itís not all challenges though. There are many successes and realizations and small happinesses mixed together with the hard times.
Bez has written solid games before with interesting mechanics, as well as interactive essays that are more limited in scope and linear. This game combines a lot of the best of both, with a non-fiction emphasis but with more ways to interact. Thereís no need to make autobiographical fiction Ďfuní, since itís just a story of life, but I think that the features like graphics, music, and navigation improve the reader experience and increase the connection between writer and reader.
(cw: abuse from parents and institutions, mental health, suicide)
Bez realized he's having difficulty remembering things.
This made him feel like he wasn't in control of his life. After an unspecified traumatic incident ("my mother did something terrible to me (which I am not ready to discuss fully yet)"), he tried to end his life. He was sent the ER, later psych ward, and finally through several residential treatment facilities for a total of 14 months. During his time there, he learned that he was suffering from pseudodementia, a range of psychiatric conditions that results in symptoms similar to dementia but is thankfully reversible on treatment.
But 14 months is a long time. This game -- or shall I say, museum exhibition -- charts his time in these facilities as he struggles to recover from pseudodementia and the abuses of mental health institutions.
In lieu of memoir conventions where we simply read scenes like a novel, Bez has selected notebooks, a few photographs, rants scribbled on notebooks, young adult literature, and so on for all of us to see. They are mundane items, but they mean a lot to him. Each object has a powerful history that is detailed on the plaques. Unlike most museum exhibitions, the plaques offer a deluge of text and sometimes hyperlinks to a .txt file explaining the significance of the item to Bez. After we're done contemplating, we move onto the next room and read more text.
As we navigate through this curated history of objects, we learn that Bez was unable to return home after his time in residential care because his abusive father refused to allow him to return. He was reluctantly moved between different residential facilities and each exhibit room represents the length of time he spent in each one. Every step brings him closer to the "real world", but the facilities differ in quality. The first residential facility allowed Bez to connect with a neurologist who believed he had pseudodementia and even tried to accommodate his gender identity. The second consistently misgendered him. There are also different levels of care that he must undergo, resulting in limbo and long waits.
In return, stickers declaring his pronouns become more prominent on his notebooks and folders. More and more objects clarify and deepen his own understanding of who he is, but the end of the exhibition reminds us that there's still a long way to go: (Spoiler - click to show)"Recovery is not a destination you can reach; itís a mountain you can choose to climb."
After writing my thoughts on the guestbook, I thought I had little to say about this game. It was a sweet and poignant time capsule. But I kept returning to it because this autobiography has emotional weight. The objects have so much potency that they feel as important as the historical artifacts I've seen in museums; Bez's folders are just as compelling as a cannon recovered from the Battle of Waterloo. And like other exhibitions, this game has taught me about the inner workings of mental health institutions in the US and how patients are treated especially in regards to gender-affirming care. I really appreciate how honest Bez's depictions are.
And parts of the game resonate with me because my life changed after I contracted COVID-19. While I never suffered memory loss, I was (and still am) constantly tired and could only maintain a "normal" life by following certain routines. I 100% share Bez's thoughts on recovery.
My Pseudo-Dementia Exhibition is a gorgeously personal exhibit that is worth visiting at least once. Although it deals with some painful subjects, it hugs you and reminds you to keep living beyond your doubts. And as you learn to recover, every object you interact with along the way is special and important -- you should take note of it.
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