IFComp 2011: It

What is It? It is a game by Emily Boegheim. Let’s take a look at It. Spoilers follow the break.

Remember how, in last year’s Comp, there just happened to coincidentally be two games based on the idea of player character as zombie? Lots of games share ideas, but this one stood out because it was a fairly unusual premise, and because the two examples developed the idea in such different ways. Well, it’s happened again, only this time the unusual premise is little girls playing hide-and-seek.

This time around, the variant is the one sometimes called “sardines”: there’s only one hider at the beginning, and seekers who find the hiding-place join the hider there. Play proceeds until the last remaining seeker finds them, or, in this game, until you give up and do something else, which is a real option, because this is more of a mood piece than anything else. There are only three other players (including the hider) and a limited number of hiding-spots (mostly under bushes), all of which are explicitly described as hiding-spots, so it doesn’t take long to finish the game for the first time. The author recommends playing multiple times, but the hiding-place always seems to be the same, and the other players go through the same scripted actions, modulo reactions to the player, right to the end. So the hide-and-seek game itself stops being the focus of your attention after a couple of iterations at most. The upshot is that wandering away and climbing a tree and watching baby chicks in a nest seems like as legitimate a way to spend your time as pursuing your stated goals.

I don’t want to overstate the player’s options here. This is a small game. It mainly just presents one small everyday event with a great deal of focus, and in as much detail you could reasonably expect. You can talk to the players about each other, but they don’t say anything surprising. The prose is genteel, and its treatment of the play of children is almost Victorian in feel, although the setting seems to be modern suburbia. Parents are notably absent. They’re waiting for you inside, and joining them there ends the game, just as joining the adult world ends the childhood idyll depicted here. There’s always an ending of some sort, but you can always play again. I suppose that’s the game’s central fantasy.

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