Homer in Silicon’s Rejects Pile

I am enjoying writing my column for GameSetWatch, and it’s interesting looking at storytelling in a range of genres. The main challenge is that I can’t write about IF all the time (too niche), so I need to incorporate other material, and that often sends me wandering off looking for other indie/casual games that sound like they might have something narratively interesting going on.

There is sometimes something worth writing about a game that does story very minimally or very badly, but a lot of the time what looked potentially promising is just impossible after all. Latest in the reject heap… well, I can’t believe I even tried this, but Dream Day Wedding claimed to incorporate a “Choose a Story” segment: “Choose A Story – each path has a different outcome for hours of replayability.”

Dream Day Wedding is about as nauseating as you could hope, given the title.

First of all, it’s mostly an eye-watering hidden object game in which you as the maid of honor have to find bunches of things that the bride naturally requires for her wedding — such as a cantaloupe, or a steering wheel. Second, while you’re hunting for objects, it plays the most overexposed classical music it could find in the canon, in muzaky performances. Third, one of the game’s bonus features is that you’re allowed to hunt for bluebirds of happiness in order to improve the married fortunes of the bride and groom. I may be a girl, but I’ve never been this much of a girl. So the first ten or fifteen minutes of play required to reach “Choose a Story” were basically purgatory, while I hunted through the images of a jewelry shop, a salon, and a florist’s boutique for randomly concealed lizards, paint rollers, seashells, and four-leafed clovers. When I couldn’t find something, I was allowed to ask for a “Cupid’s Clue”, whereupon the chubby cherub up in the corner would fire an arrow off at one of the hidden objects to show me where it was.

There is also a concentration-style matching game involving flowers, for any four-year-olds who may be in the game’s audience.

This was not at all worth it. Here’s the thing: in “Choose a Story”, you don’t mostly get to choose the protagonist’s actions or reactions; you’re instead mostly picking circumstantial elements of the story. For instance: in setting up the first meeting between the potential bride and groom, you get to choose whether the bride will (a) go to her job as a teacher; (b) go running; or (c) glimpse something strange (unspecified what). This it seems to me to be the least interesting possible kind of choice, because the reader/player has zero reason to attach any significance to any of the options. The choices don’t serve to characterize the protagonist. They don’t attempt to resolve problems in different ways. They don’t even introduce new conflicts into the story, which might have been an interesting reversal on the usual player/game relationship. They’re dull options, and they belong to a dull tale, and there is no replayability here because after having seen one traversal I have less than no interest in viewing any of the others.

To some extent I get what I deserve; I can rant about the low quality and the way that games aimed at women or games with a romantic theme tend to be terrible, but with a specimen like Dream Day Wedding, that’s a little like ranting because the used Harlequin from 1973 that you got from Half Price Books for 25 cents is not standing up to your critical scrutiny.

What I don’t get is why there aren’t more people doing this better in the casual game world.

5 thoughts on “Homer in Silicon’s Rejects Pile”

  1. Hm.

    You know, I think you’re onto something interesting here, Emily.

    LCD shallowness in computer games has followed us from LCD shallowness in childhood toys. They are similarly gendered: we have pink games (Dream Day Wedding, from your description) and blue games (Halo n); we have a choice between mindless violence and mindless luuv.

    Then again, there are also horror video games…


  2. We actually had quite a lot of fun howling at the deep, deep awfulness of Dream Day Wedding. Making up our own alternatives to the openquote story choices endquote was a source of much crude amusement.

    I mean, not really enough to justify the industrial-grade sappiness or hidden-object tedium. But still.

  3. Re. pink vs. blue games: if you want to see something truly stomach-turning, check out this collection of games for girls.

    There are already plenty of people in the critical orbit of games who are interested in talking about gender expectations and gaming, so I don’t feel inclined to take this up as a major cause as such, but still… ugh.

  4. Well, as you know, Emily, I’m interested more in game studies as it will help me improve my personal craftsmanship than in the lit-crit angle.

    Still, I think there’s some material for potentially good games here. Many times, truly excellent works — works that become classics — work with the stuff of cliche, but use it so well as to result in true art.

    All I think we need here is the inclusion of the realization that men have some interest in romance, just as women have some hostility to vent. We should then encourage game designers to make crossover works:

    For example, consider how broad an appeal would have a crossover game between Dream Day Wedding and DOOM. The player is equipped with a gatling gun, and must fight off the attacking hoardes of chubby cherubs who are invading the church where our good friend is trying to get married. Or conversely consider that we play an alien marauder who is pillaging a jewelry shop, a solan, and a florist boutique for the perfect gift to impress our sweetheart, who is waiting at the alter, in order to convince her to say “I do.” Or perhaps an alien robot has come with dishonorable intentions and abducted our refrigerator, causing us to go on a quest. Or a Hitchcockesque work, _Attack of the Bluebirds of Happiness_.

    I firmly believe that no idea is so bad it can’t be improved on.


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