IFComp 2012: Eurydice

Spoilers follow the break.

I’m really starting to think that the dream-story is the essence of modern IF, its dominant genre and biggest cliché. We’ve already seen several in the current Comp, but they were prominent last year as well. I suppose it’s because it’s a way to fit the riddle-nature of the form, the challenge of the familiar made strange, while at the same time keeping the story highly personal, about human emotional reactions to human things.

In this particular case, the central human thing is mourning, and the dream is of the hospital where a loved one spent her final days, combined with the myth of Orpheus. I actually don’t have a lot to say about the main part of the game — it’s decently put-together, it has multiple endings, it supports a “TURN AROUND” action which is kind of essential to the story. It doesn’t really actively tempt you to use that command, though, except by repeatedly telling you that you’re tempted to use it, so you’re only going to do it because that’s the ending you want or because the ending you want was cut off by your earlier actions (which happens sometimes and I don’t know why). I do appreciate the way that the tunes that you play on the lyre that mysteriously appeared in your bedroom at the start of the game aren’t uniformly described as entrancingly beautiful, though. This is more a device of self-expression, so when you’re feeling raw and angry, raw and angry is what comes out. The result is always as effective as entrancing beauty, though.

The part that really struck me, though, is the mundane stuff beforehand, in the dingy little house that the PC and the deceased shared with a couple of other young people. The people gathered there in commiseration strike me as very true to life, figures like those I remember from college, not quite knowing what to do with themselves in the circumstances. The PC is perhaps unfairly hostile to them, but that also rings true to me: needing their emotional support but not wanting it, and resenting their reminding you of that need. You can skip over interacting with anyone at all there, just grab your coat and slink away, and this would be quite in-character, but you’d miss out on the best parts that way, or at least the best characterizations.

One other point which is probably idiosyncratic to me: For some reason I got the impression very early on that the PC was female. Something about the prose style just read better to me that way, I think. I didn’t see any definitive statement on his gender until quite late in the game, where it took me by surprise, even though it really shouldn’t have. Probably my perceptions of the social interactions back in the house are somewhat off from the intended as a result too.

2 Comments so far

  1. Alex on 3 Dec 2012

    I actually kind of thought the PC was a woman too. A couple of things lead to that impression, aside from the general writing style: the PC’s room has a stuffed animal (well, elder god) and tinsel in it, the PC seems to feel that Celine’s parents don’t really acknowledge the PC’s grief and relationship with Celine (there are lines about how they took all her stuff and how the family members’ loss is considered more important than a lover’s), and the PC also mentions being attracted to Twitch, which means we know the PC isn’t the “default” heterosexual male.

  2. Sam Kabo Ashwell on 31 Dec 2012

    In communication with the author (interview forthcoming in SPAG) I’ve been told that the PC was meant to be fully gender-ambiguous, and the thing that identifies them as male was a mistake that will be fixed in the next release.

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