Grayscale (D. Fox Harrell et al)

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Grayscale is a short piece about harassment and appropriate behavior in the workplace, conducted through an email interface (which makes it one of a smallish category of epistolary IF). As the HR representative, you choose which of several responses to offer to each complaint you receive. Do you intervene between coworkers? File harassment reports when you have only tenuous evidence to work with? Allow employees special assistance because of issues in their personal life?

The framing of the game implies that many of these would be tricky judgment calls:

Tales of sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are bubbling angrily through the wires. In late 2017, the media attention to this perpetual ill and the harrowing #metoo stories sparked us to share our own computational tale of fiction that we humbly hope can participate in this dialogue… The experience is intended to provoke players to reflect critically on sexism in the workplace, both overt & hostile and more subtle.

In practice, I found myself relatively unambivalent about most of the events in the story. Where I was uncertain, it seemed as though a real person in this situation would be aware of applicable laws and corporate policies. (It’s possible that I’m not quite the target audience, of course: as a female manager, I’ve had occasion to think about a variety of sexism-in-the-workplace issues from multiple angles by now.)

As to the characters — they came through distinctly enough to keep me engaged for the (short) duration of the game, but there wasn’t really enough time for them to develop extensively.

In terms of interface and pacing, though, I found it worked very well for me. The email interface means it’s easy to review past interactions. There are times when several urgent emails arrive at once, and others when things feel relatively quiet. The protagonist’s private experiences are tracked in a “notes” section (which also includes a diagram of the company hierarchy — useful when you want to double check whether one character is the boss of another, or merely a sniping colleague). As UI, it sufficiently replicates UI I’m already using all the time to feel comparatively transparent.

3 thoughts on “Grayscale (D. Fox Harrell et al)”

  1. I just played Grayscale (it hits a bunch of notes of the kind of stuff I’m interested in at the moment) and I really, really liked the email interface. I haven’t played many games that rely so much on an email UI but I really like it? Thanks for sharing this game with us, Emily.

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