IFComp 2019: The Surprise

It’s been a busy day, and I only have the energy for a few brief comments on a similarly brief game.

The Surprise is an autobiographical story of a woman self-administering a couple of pregnancy tests in an office bathroom, learning that she’s pregnant, and notifying her husband through joyous tears. That’s it. Just a little episode from the author’s life that meant so much to her that she wanted to share it with the Comp judges, to whom it will probably, in most cases, mean not quite as much. It’s made of Twine and minimalist, functional prose, with a little freely-roamable map of sub-locations.

There’s some use of real-time delays, which is something I’m going to complain about in every game where it occurs. The longest such delay here is used to reproduce the 20-second wait for one of the tests to display results. Can I just say that I do not find this to be an effective way to build the sense of anticipation that the author probably intended? I can’t speak for others, but my reaction to a deliberate 20-second pause in an interactive work is pretty much always going to be annoyance.

Anyway, that’s not what I found interesting about this game. What’s interesting about it is what it shows about the state of Twine. This is, as I said, a short and minimalist piece written in Twine. And yet, it’s implemented adventure-game-style, with rooms and inventory and objects that can exist in multiple states. Apparently this style is now easy enough, or perhaps just expected enough, to do in Twine that people will choose it over stateless branching text for tiny personal games like this one. This was not the case just a few years ago.

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