IFComp 2016: How To Win at Rock Paper Scissors

OK! Let’s do this! First game on my randomized list! Spoilers follow the break.

And right off the bat, we’re into the absurd end of the pool. The high concept: You’re preparing for a major Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament at your school. You do this by wandering around, looking for people whose hands are in the appropriate positions for whatever reason — someone flashing a V-for-victory sign, say, or making a fist to knock on a door — and throwing the sign that counters it.

That’s already a humorous premise, and lends itself well to a small, highly-focused game like this one, but there’s a horrible twist as well. Whenever you successfully counter someone, it produces a swirling dimensional vortex that swallows up your unwary “opponent” as a sacrifice to the gods of your trivial sport. Get enough people and the gods will guide you through the tournament.

The really striking thing about this is that it all comes without warning. The first person you sacrifice — and the game forces this, not letting you leave the room until you’ve done it — is David, a friend of the protagonist, who’s just trying to fist-bump you as a show of support. If you just reply with a fist-bump, David says “That was weak” and tells you to try it again, until you get the idea to apply the game’s theme, and discover the results with shock and guilt. David is described as your best friend since elementary school. Destroying him for the sake of winning at a mere sporting event is just about the purest evil I’ve ever been asked to perform in a game, and could easily come off as mean-spirited on the part of the author. But the preposterousness of doing it for the sake of rock-paper-scissors keeps me from taking it seriously enough to be upset, and makes me willing to seek out more victims.

The game actually gives the player a lot of latitude about how much you want to follow where it leads. If you want to ditch the whole business and enter the tournament without further preparation after sacrificing David, you can do that, although you don’t get the guidance of the gods that way. You can even meet your quota of sacrifices and gain the gods’ blessing, then go to the tournament and deliberately lose, in which case everyone you sacrificed is brought back. This is probably the best ending, even if everyone is mad at you afterwards. But if you do that, the game says in the end that you lose. There’s a hint of Undertale here, or possibly Far Cry 3, the game asking you how far you’re willing to go, how deep you’ll sink, in order to get a full score and a victory message. But the whole thing is slight and silly enough that the question doesn’t carry the same kind of weight here.

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