IFComp 2012: Guilded Youth

Repeat visitor Jim Munroe brings us one of the few web-based games this year not written with Twine. Spoilers follow the break.

What we have here is a little story of teenage self-discovery and 80s nostalgia, wrapped in an adventure game interface. It starts off in a faux-BBS, with green text and fake extended-ASCII graphics, where various other geeks get together to pretend to be adventurers and argue about Transformers. You might at this point expect to go adventuring in the game-within-a-game world, but in fact its sole function within this story is social: you use it to meet with like-minded souls for real-world activity, breaking into an abandoned house to loot it for abandoned stuff, an activity that’s pointedly presented as isomorphic to a dungeon raid.

I described Munroe’s last Comp entry as a “railroady story game”, and the same description applies here. It practically plays itself, letting you know at every juncture the simplest thing you need to do to advance the plot. (I was quite confused the first time I had to exit the BBS and was told to “type LOGOUT to continue”.) It goes in a cycle of: recruit allies in the BBS, go to the house that night to use their skills in further exploration, find an object or two, use those objects to recruit more allies in the BBS. This means that you meet everyone’s avatars before you meet them in person, and half the joy in the game is the revelation of similarities and differences between the idealized adventurer archetypes and the teenage geeks behind them. The game states that you can win with only forms of GO, TAKE, and SHOW, and those are often the only commands recognized apart from examining things. That said, there are definitely places where you can do more than the story requires. At one point there’s a KISS that’s so obvious that the author even put it in the otherwise-minimal walkthrough.

It may be worth noting that the end-of-game credits attribute the sound in this game to one Troy Morrisey, and that when I saw that credit, I hadn’t heard any of it. Playing IF and using a web browser are two situations where I don’t normally don headphones unless I’m specifically expecting sound, so it might have been good to have some indication of it here. The blurb mentions the squeal of a modem, so I expect I lost a bit of atmosphere.

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