IF Competition: Freedom

Another IF Comp review, following my format for this comp. There is a cut, then any spoiler-free comments I have, and then spoiler space, and then more detailed feedback that assumes the reader has tried the game.

But first, we have some obligatory filler to try to make sure that the RSS summary does not accidentally contain any review. Filler, filler, la la la…

Okay. Here we go.

Actually, I don’t have much of a non-spoilery nature to say about this. It’s unusual, in that it’s using game format to do something other than entertain; so if your question from the non-spoilery part of the review is “is this a fun thing to play?” then the answer is no. But that’s not what the author was trying to achieve.

On to the spoilers, then:

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The use of IF to demonstrate what life is like from someone else’s point of view for pedagogical rather than fictional reasons is an interesting idea. It ties in a bit with some of the work on teaching history via IF that high school teachers and college professors have been contacting me about recently. The pieces of educational IF of this kind that I’ve seen so far are mostly student projects in which the student is challenged to write about (and therefore to research thoroughly) a setting and the attitudes of the people who would live in it.

“Freedom” takes that same kind of idea — IF as insight into other ways of seeing and being in the world — in a new direction. It’s a clever concept, and particularly well-suited for interactive text; it would be harder to get the same effect in a graphical work.

I also applaud the author’s courage in pursuing that goal.

What’s unfortunate is that the implementation didn’t convey as much as (I think) it was intended to, because most of my interactions weren’t actually all that awful. More rigorous handling of the grocery store scene (I managed to check out without getting in too much trouble, which may have been a bug) and writing that went into more depth about what this condition is actually like, and you might have something pretty compelling on your hands.

4 thoughts on “IF Competition: Freedom

  1. The most “awful” thing I could find was that if I chose the express line, people would glare at me and yell at me to stop holding up the line. Which wouldn’t make me bat an eyelash in real life. Nor would the light changing as I’m crossing the street… I think what was missing was an internal dialog on the part of the player character to signal that this stuff was really getting to him (well, I mean along with a lot more fleshing out of everything).

    But I think mostly what one can learn from this game is that the stuff that mortifies a person with S.A.D. is stuff that really doesn’t raise concerns with other people. I had a friend with S.A.D. who swore off ever going into a Subways ever again because the girl at the counter would grin cheekily at him because he would always order the exact same sandwich. I would try to explain that it was normal and that the girl probably maybe even LIKED him, but it affected him so much that he really did never go into ANY Subways ever again. Can a piece of IF really convey something like that?

    Anyway I’m sure that for the author, the game as it is represents some truly scary situations. It just needed other testers to detect whether it was really communicating that to other people.

  2. Harry’s observation was matched by some reactions to my own (rather more negative) review; the author is trapped by his own perceptions such that he can’t recognize what does or does not qualify as actually affecting.

    Strictly from an interactivity standpoint, I think you wouldn’t be able to implement a believable version of Freedom unless you knew the difference between baseline assertiveness and S.A.D. and implemented that difference as command refusals. (Rameses and Muse being the obvious examples here.)

    The writing has to carry it too, but it’s not sufficient. If you really wanted to produce a world that validated the fears of S.A.D. at the “normal” level, you would end up producing a world that the interactor would reject as unrealistic. (And, indeed, I was unconvinced of the apparent fact that in the world of Freedom traffic lights turn against you in the middle of the street even if you run flat out from the start.)

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