IntroComp is an annual IF competition that invites authors to contribute partial and unfinished works for feedback. IntroComp 2019 is currently in progress, and if you’d like to check out the work here, you too can judge the entries.
Below the fold, some words on a few of the entries that I had time to play — but you may want to try them out yourself without spoilers.
Voting closes August 31.
Deadline (not the Infocom game of the same name) has you rushing to work to give an important presentation. Pretty much everything that can go wrong does, however, and you soon find yourself chasing all over the Metro trying to retrieve your stolen briefcase. This piece was more of a teaser than a full game, but I liked the presentation details, and the way it creates the sense of a specific environment.
The writing and situations did feel a bit on the generic side — annoying boss, nameless presentation, non-specific promotion you’ve been angling for — and I found myself wishing for a little more observant specificity about the main character’s working life.
Steamed Hams But It’s A Twine Game is a Twine implementation of part of an episode of the Simpsons. It’s supplemented with audio clips and even video bits from the original episode.
You may think — as I did — that this is an eccentric thing for someone to make. It turns out that there is apparently a whole meme around making alternative-medium versions of this content.
So I imagine this is a super-hilarious joke to someone, and I wish many fine belly-laughs to the intended audience. But my response is best described as “…huh?” followed by “…okay.”
Sunder is an interactive poem, read aloud as audio files that accompany the piece. The audio plays automatically and energetically. The scenario seemed to me to be about someone who lives, or had lived, in a tower block, perhaps using or perhaps refusing heroin; or (simultaneously or alternatively) is a monster of sorts; or (again) is a kind of Odysseus trying to return to Ithaca.
Sunder is written in Twine, and on some pages there is text that you can click to expand — a common Twine effect, but the audio presentation always reads that text aloud, whether you’ve expanded it or not, so that the visual screen and the audio layer may be in or out of sync. I’m not sure whether this effect was intentional, or whether the author imagined that the reader would always have clicked the text to expand it by the time the reader reached that phrase.
I didn’t always; on the contrary, I found it was distracting to try to both read the text and listen to it, so I would tend to pause and hear it before trying to read through.
The Devil’s Music (Harkness Munt) is a parser-based game in which you’re a devil come to earth to collect a soul promised to you. In places, the writing is a little more florid than I might prefer, but it is in service of at atmospheric setting: a sunlit evening, a vista over the Mississippi river, steamboats passing. Hints here and there suggest a backstory of angelic and demonic forces. There are a few points where the implementation could be more robust — for instance, the game repeatedly draws your attention to a strong odor, but SMELL says you smell nothing unexpected. Generally, however, this seems like the beginning of an enjoyable puzzle adventure game.
Neurocracy presents us with an Omnipedia, a Wikipedia-like set in its own fictional universe in 2049. In this pseudo-dispassionate frame, it presents a horrifying story: the spreading of a degenerative brain disease due to an under-regulated fish farming corporation; the scientific explorations of that disease; the development of technology that simultaneously helps resolve the disease and enables a more extensive form of global surveillance.
The story has a temporal axis as well, since you can choose which date’s version of Omnipedia you want to read. New articles are added each day (though, somewhat implausibly perhaps, they appear fully formed rather than in-development).
It’s a somewhat dystopian piece, though not really any more dystopian than the reality we currently inhabit.
The article style is pitch-perfect, and the technical content reads persuasively: there’s quite a lot about protein behavior and medical implants that feels plausible to me (though I admit this is not my field of expertise, so I would be unlikely to recognize subtle errors). The world-building feels very robust, covering topics in politics, economics, entertainment, world health, agriculture, climate change, etc.
If I have a complaint or criticism, it’s this: there’s a lot to read, and sometimes it takes some thought to tease out the implications of the medical facts.
I found myself wishing for a reading experience that would allow me to form significant questions (“what’s going on with this plague?”) and then take action to explore for the answers. I think the piece could achieve this without even significantly diverging from its current content if, for instance, it began with less-complete versions of the articles gradually being filled in over time; or if it led in with articles that were more peripheral to the main point of the story.
As it is, I think the presentation somewhat undercuts the emotional power of the story it’s telling.