Reviews of Interactive Fiction

Reviewed in this post:
Dear Esther
The Stanley Parable
Gone Home

I had the three best days of computer gaming in my life.

I used Steam (an app store, mostly used for Windows games) for the first time when it was required to use Half Life 2. My experience was so bad I’ve not touched it again for a decade.

But in ten years, a lot have changed.

Steam is now an awesome app store for computer games of all sorts, including interactive fiction. Unlike game which focus on fighting, shooting, or twitching, Modern interactive fiction focuses on telling a story thru the interface of a computer game.

Each of these “games” took between 2 to 5 to play. All were haunting.

The Most Haunting: Dear Esther

Dear Esther, a gorgeous video game that takes place outdoors on the Hebrides, revolves around three texts. The first appear to be written by the protagonist to a woman, Esther. The second is a fictitious history of the island, written by Donnelly. (A similar device is used in The Third Policeman, which constantly refers to works by the imaginary de Selby). The third is a passage from the Acts of the Apostles

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.g

After finishing Dear Esther I felt much older, and much sadder. The feeling stayed with me for some time.

dear-esther-2

The game has a beautiful soundtrack, that you can listen to for free on Spotifiy.

The Most Thought-Provoking: The Stanley Parable


(note the trailer above starts like a typical review. It’s not. It’s made by the people who created the game itself)

It’s extremely hard to describe The Stanley Parable without giving it away. The game is subversive in that word’s best sense — the best description I have heard is “Stanley is game that knows it is a game being played by those who know they are playing a game that knows it is playing a game.”

the-stanley-parable-start-screen-970x0

Fortunately, Stanley Parable also has an amazing and free demo, which teases the meaning of the game without giving it away. You can play the free Stanley Parable Demo on Steam.

The Most Political: Gone Home

If I had not played The Stanley Parable and Dear Esther the day before and after I played Gone Home, Home would be one of the top games I’ve played in years. As it is Home is a fine game, and the story stays with you.

You begin Gone Home on your parents front porch after a trip abroad. A note from your sister tells you that she has left, and not to follow her. The dor is locked, and no one is home. While walking through the house you gradually discover what has happened — both in the last year and the last decades — with the artifacts left behind by the overlapping stories of your father, mother, and sister.

gone-home

As the pieces fit together, Gone Home takes on an increasingly strident tone, and you’re left with a very clear impression of which politicians and issues the authors support, and which they despise. The focus on issues that matter a great deal to many now — and will be largely irrelevant to those in the future — limits the appeal of Gone Home both to those who are around now (effectively excluding those of different voices) and in the future (who simply won’t care).

Conclusion

Interactive fiction is a beautiful, moving, and even controversial form of art.

The first video game was made in 1947. That means video games are 66 years old. By comparison, the first moving pictures were shot in 1841. 66 years later was 1907.

We are in the 1900s of video games.

The future is going to be incredible.

3 thoughts on “Reviews of Interactive Fiction”

  1. “I used Steam (an app store, mostly used for Windows games)”

    While Steam is mostly for Windows, The Stanley Parable is also available for Mac while the other two grace Windows, Mac, and Linux (Ubuntu). Buy once, get the game for every platform that the game is available for on Steam.

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