IFComp 2020: What the Bus?

Subtitled “A Transit Nightmare”, and I can’t think of a better description. It starts off sedately, with the sort of snafu that we’ve all experienced. A bus is delayed, and you have decide what to do about it — wait twenty minutes, take a different bus that comes sooner but takes you to a different place where you’ll have to transfer to a train, walk to a different station that has different options, that sort of thing. Every choice leads to more problems: schedule changes, missed stops, buses that zoom past without stopping. Before long, things start getting weird. You wind up on a bus or rail line you’ve never heard of before, with stops you’re sure don’t exist, or glimpses of bizarre prodigies out the window, or passengers that aren’t human. You wind up irrevocably lost — in an alternate universe, or in Hades, or just circling the tracks endlessly, unable to get off. There are ten endings. Is there an ending where you actually reach your intended destination? I don’t know. There doesn’t need to be.

This is one of those ideas that seems so elemental, I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen it done before. In fact, maybe I have — just as a single element of a game, rather than the entirety. The ride into the fantastic seems like it would make a good first chapter, a way to get into the otherworld where the bulk of a game takes place. But this work gives it focus, explores that liminal experience of getting lost in a sort of vehicular labyrinth, without subordinating it to something else. Making it about the journey, not the destination.

The setting isn’t positively identified, but of all the municipal transit systems I’ve experienced, it mainly reminds me of Boston.

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