IF Comp 2013: Sam and Leo Go to the Bodega (Richard Goodness)

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Sam and Leo Go to the Bodega is a short, choice-based game about two stoners making a snack run. It takes less than fifteen minutes to play. Review after the jump.

Like I said: two stoners make a snack run. During the course of the game, you visit various sections of the bodega and select which snack you’d like in each location; choosing snacks triggers reminiscences about Sam and Leo’s lives. Most of the reminiscences concern smoking a lot of pot and partying, though there are also some recurring characters. The text colors change when you move from text about the bodega (red) to text from reminiscences (other primary shades), which helps keep sudden jumps in time and context from being too confusing. When you’re done, you check out and go home.

Maybe I should be hiding this behind a spoiler section, but I’m not sure it’s the kind of thing for which spoiling is possible: I mean, the plot of the game is right there in the title, and what value it has emerges from the prose and characterization.

This value is non-zero. There are some good sentences. Sam and Leo seem reasonably well-observed but not very deep characters, perhaps because they intentionally avoid engaging with anything serious in their lives and do their best to protect their time from the need to do anything other than smoke multiple bowls a day. They’re not people I’m much drawn to personally, but I can believe that people behave like this.

I was going to remark that a “Clerks”-meets-“Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” riff is not the world’s timeliest joke, and that stoner-slacker humor hasn’t really been edgy since the 90s. Also there’s a Columbine reference, which feels so dated that the datedness must be intentional. But IMDB informs me that Harold and Kumar came out in 2004 (that recently?) and had a 2008 sequel (really?), and that Kevin Smith is on something like his fifth Jay and Silent Bob movie, this one set in Ireland, even though Jay and Silent Bob are presumably in their forties now. So maybe it’s more like my thing with zombie fiction: I keep assuming the trend is obviously over, but the world disagrees with me. Possibly there’s something meta going on here, in that the anecdotes often touch on nostalgia, and perhaps the author is nostalgic for an era redolent of flannel shirts and Teen Spirit and a whole lot of weed.

In any case, this would all have read to me as unambitious but very mildly amusing, were it not for the framing of the game as part of the competition. Here’s its blurb:

Sam And Leo Go To The Bodega is the second most financially-successful Twine videogame of all time. It is the story of Sam and Leo going to the bodega. Sam And Leo Go To The Bodega is a revolutionary example of powerful, personal videogame storytelling.

It’s fairly hard to take that last sentence seriously.

This hinted to me that the game exists partly to make fun of other Twine games for trying to say something personal or serious, and to suggest that they’re all pointless navel-gazing on a par with self-indulgent stoned ramblings. I also wondered, a little, whether Sam and Leo was reaching back farther than that — with its multi-colored text and its up-front announcement that there would be no tragedy in this piece — to poke fun at a much earlier IF game that was also hailed as revolutionary and powerful.

In any case, if the main intention here is actually to snark about the pointlessness of all Twine work, certain other games in this competition provide such a thorough refutation as to make the snark look not only mean-spirited but foolish. What’s more, Sam and Leo doesn’t much resemble the other Twine games this blurb might be supposed to be poking fun at, so if it were parody, it would be incompetent parody. So I prefer to ignore the blurb and assume (pretend?) that Goodness just really wanted to write a Twine piece about two super-baked guys and their feelings about the Oreo product line, that there’s no hidden agenda, and that the blurb sentence was a bit of last-minute grandiosity when he was submitting the game to the comp.

As for the financially-successful bit, that appears to refer to getting people to chip in $25 for the author’s “snacks research”. Snacks I can get behind.

5 thoughts on “IF Comp 2013: Sam and Leo Go to the Bodega (Richard Goodness)”

  1. I feel like I’m always thinking that 2004 was more recent than it actually was. But with zombie fiction, I do feel that it’s always much more recent than I thought; apparently Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is from 2009, when I had figured it was like ten years old. Anyway it marks the point at which zombies were officially Over. Pretty soon zombies are going to be just like pirates, if they aren’t already.

    And that Irish Jay and Silent Bob movie has a listed runtime of 240 minutes? Begorrah.

    …oh it’s just a compilation of two two-hour podcasts or something.

    1. In games at least, I think that zombies are going to be around until a) it becomes cheap and easy to animate realistic-looking human characters, and b) gamers grow up sufficiently to no longer be excited by the idea of morally justified mass-killings.

      1. Well, the idea is not so much that zombies will disappear as that it’ll be a very heavy lift to get anyone to take them seriously. cf. Talk Like A Pirate Day. cf. also Plants vs. Zombies and Shaun of the Dead.

        I guess The Walking Dead and The Last of Us show that they’re not all the way there yet, though even the Last of Us apparently goes out of its way to establish that it’s Cordyceps.

      2. That is, that the zombies aren’t classic the dead will walk the earth zombies but infected by a Cordyceps fungus that makes people exactly like zombies. I hit “post” before I’d said anything coherent.

        For some reason now I want someone to make a FPS adaptation of The Screwfly Solution, just because it would be the worst thing ever.

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