Good writing is hard.

I have an ongoing quest to figure out how I feel about hypertext fiction . I admit that I was not thrilled to discover that so many of the entries were Twine or Twine-like pieces in this year’s IFComp. A number of those I wound up liking a lot, so I’m pleased to say that my opinions have been evolving. I’m still much more likely to seek out parser-based IF games over the next ten months than I am to look for more hypertext pieces, though, and here are some of my reasons why.

It starts from this: Good writing is hard.

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[IFComp 2013] Who Among Us

Who Among Us is a web story with some choice-based interaction, coded in Twine/Twee. It is written by Tia Orisney, who also entered Blood on the Heather into the comp. The story is inspired by Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel, And Then There Were None. (I have to pause to recommend And Then There Were None for a moment. It was the first Agatha Christie mystery I ever read, and remains one of my favorites.)

I found Who Among Us much more to my liking than Blood on the Heather, though it also had some issues. I’ll discuss in more detail after the cut. You can find the piece itself here.

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[iOS] Device 6

Since I sat down too late to review another comp game properly and still get to bed in decent time, let me plug another game I’ve been playing and enjoying immensely.

Device 6 iconDevice 6 is a iOS game that the creators describe as “a surreal thriller in which the written word is your map, as well as your narrator.” The game set the mood perfectly with an amazing intro sequence that feels like the opening credits of a ’60s spy film. When it ends, you’re presented with a written story about a woman named Anna who awakes in an unknown building. As you read through this story, the text layout creates a feeling of movement through separate rooms through effects like making you turn your iPad or scroll in a different direction. Interspersed with the text are occasional mysterious – indeed, rather sinister – photographs and diagrams. The sound effects add to the atmosphere as well as directly to the story. Periodically, for Anna to get into another room, you must solve a puzzle such as figuring out a code. This motivates exploring and re-exploring the text, images and sounds to notice details. Since these all cohere to the same aesthetic and creepy mood, the result is deeply immersive.

Device 6 screenshot

Turning a corner…

I haven’t yet finished Device 6 – I’ve been playing it with my fiancé, which means only playing it when we’re both in the right mindset at the same time – but it’s been utterly delicious so far. If you own an iOS device, it’s very much worth the $3.99.

[IFComp 2013] Robin & Orchid

Robin & Orchid is a parser-based game by Ryan Veeder and Emily Boegheim. You can download it here or play it online here (at least for now; I don’t know how long the comp website will keep hosting the games).

Now that the comp is over, I don’t have the same qualms about expressing an opinion outside of the review. I recommend this game pretty strongly to fans of parser-based IF, and especially to anyone who – like me – was in a church youth group in middle or high school.

A not-too-spoiler-y review is below the cut, and then (after some space) more spoileriffic discussion. I am shamelessly stealing this format from Em Short, though I make no pretense of my reviews being as strong as hers.

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A new home?

I’ve been playing interactive fiction (IF) for about five years now, and since 2009 I’ve enjoyed being a judge in the annual IFComp. I’ve been writing reviews of games as I played them, posting them on the LiveJournal that I started in high school.

LiveJournal was good back in the day – a definite step up from the Diaryland diary I kept in 1999 or so! – but I don’t think it really suits my needs well anymore. The breaking point is that I found just about all the free themes ugly, unreadable, or both. Not to mention that “runnerchild” was a good username for a high school senior keeping track of her cross-country workouts, but not for an IF reviewer who goes on a run about twice a year…

Therefore, I’m trying out WordPress. We’ll see how this goes.

I plan to finish reviewing the games I played for the 2013 comp. If WordPress works for me, I’ll copy over at least the 2013 reviews and perhaps some of the older ones.