IFComp 2013: Our Boys In Uniform

Spoilers follow the break.

Okay. This? This is the kind of hypertext I was griping about.

It’s structured as a fixed sequence of six nodes, mostly quotations, each with scattered hyperlinks on specific words. Most of the links lead to a bit of commentary and then back to the node you came from, but one link in each page leads forward while one starts you over from the beginning. (You don’t really need to go through the whole thing again if your browser has a “back” button.) According to the instructions at the beginning, the forward link will be on a word that is true and the start-over link on a lie, while the rest of the links are “pure propaganda”. But the author’s judgment of which words fit into which categories are kind of arbitrary. For example, one passage states “World War II was a vastly inclusive war. Women were accepted into the military for the first time, into the WAVES, the WAC, and the SPAR. Minorities of all kinds, including the Japanese, fought in both theatres.” “All kinds” is linked as true, “inclusive” as false, and “accepted” as propaganda. A hint file reveals the author’s questionable and sometimes hair-splitting justifications — in this specific instance, “inclusive” is considered a lie because minorities were not treated equally. Why is this unstated connotation more of a lie there than in “accepted”? The author’s blurb describes this work as a “logic game”, but there’s no real logic to it, in construction or in solution.

There are basically two things keeping it from being satisfyingly interactive, and keeping the player from exercising agency: that it’s linear, with one correct choice at each juncture, and that it’s a guessing game, with no way of predicting what the author thinks the significance of the choices will be. But not only is it hardly interactive, it’s barely fiction. It’s told through the voice of a disillusioned WWII veteran who’s tired of patriotic lies, but it’s more concerned with expressing opinions than telling a story.

If I had more faith in the author, I might conclude that the structure was meant to mirror the content — that it makes a false promise of freedom, then leads you towards fixed conclusions instead of letting you exercise your own judgment, in order to illustrate what propaganda does. But that honestly feels like a stretch to me.

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