IFComp 2023: The Gift of What You Notice More

I feel like the word “surreal” gets overapplied in the IF world. I’m as guilty of this as anyone — heck, my very last post used the word when “nonsensical” or “whimsical” would have been more precisely descriptive. So I’m not going to describe The Gift of What You Notice More as surreal, even though the author’s blurb does. Instead let’s call it symbolic. The overstory is about the end of a relationship — the details are left vague, but you’re packing to leave when the curtain rises. But you can’t leave until you’ve done some soul-searching, which takes the form of inventory puzzles in dreamscapes based on important memories accessed through photographs. A party scene turns out to be set on a theater stage, a tiny elephant found in a crevice keeps growing bigger, that sort of thing.

There’s some nice patterning going on. There are three memories you can visit, but your first visit to each leaves a lot of game elements conspicuously unused, leaving me wondering if I had missed something when the narration declared I was finished and kicked me back to reality. It turns out that you visit each of the three memories three times, each time with a different perspective, trying to resolve a different question: first “Where did things go wrong?”, which is at best a starting point but definitely not an adequate resolution, then “What could I have done differently?”, and finally the most practical of questions, “What needs to happen now?” Notably, the difference in what results you can obtain is determined by what inventory items you bring into the memory with you. In the first iteration of the cycle, all you have is a bunch of sticks. The second time, you have stones as well. Sticks and stones! Tools that are proverbially ineffective! No wonder you can’t do anything but dwell on the past until you get something better.

Despite being made of room exploration and inventory puzzles, this is written in Twine. The inventory is constantly present on the screen, and items can be clicked on to reveal situational actions using that item, adding new hyperlinks to the bottom of the node’s text. Most items in most situations are useless, though, and do nothing when clicked. Now, I will admit that there were occasions where I had no idea what to do, and simply went around clicking on every inventory item in every place I could go, hoping something would happen. But when I did have an idea of what to do, it was fairly rewarding to see the new link come up, confirming that I was on the right track.

[Edit, 23 Oct] Come to think of it, sticks and stones aren’t proverbially ineffective, are they? It’s names that will never hurt me. Sticks and stones may break my bones! So possibly I’m reading too much into things there.

2 Comments so far

  1. Jack Brounstein on 23 Oct 2023

    Incredibly small nitpick: The subject line for this post doesn’t start with “IFComp 2023”, as seems to be the pattern.

    I have to say that I quite liked this game—I know “exploration of a symbolic past” is a cliché, but it felt well-executed here. And I didn’t even make the “sticks and stones” connection.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 23 Oct 2023


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