I remeber, a couple of semesters ago, going through this piece in a course I had with Scott Rettberg, so when I went through the collections to pick out a piece for my presentation, this one sort of triggered me. Back then I got, after lots of trial and errors, it to work on my Mac, unfortunately this wasn’t the case now. However, there’s a lot of videos on YouTube going through this game for a variety of reason, because due to the artificial intelligence and random generated both conversational topics and plot twists, the narrative can go in so many directions. But let’s start from the beginning…
It’s been a long time old friend…
The game starts with a black screen and you hear an incoming phone call from an old friend, inviting you over for dinner at his and his wife’s place at 8pm. In the next scene you are standing in a hallway outside of what appears to be the door to their apartment. You can hear someone argue inside, it’s obvious that Trip and his wife Grace has trouble in their paradise…
You can choose to wait, or you can go right ahead and knock on the door, either way, your old friend from college, Trip, will come and greet you and invites you in.
You very quickly realize you have been placed in the middle of a rather uncomfortable marital struggle that clearly isn’t just a rough patch. We’ve probably all witnessed couples like this, or even been in one ourself? Either way it’s a pretty uncomfortable situation, and like in real life you have the choice to either try to intervene to smooth things over, help them, make things worse or just ignore them.
However you choose to play a role in this stage play the scenario will evolve differently based on your involvement, their moods, or through random events.
You move in a simplistic 3d spaces with your arrow keys, using your mouse to interact with items, or Trip and Grace, and writing commands with your keyboard. The game understands a impressive amount of commands, and even though correct parsing is somewhat critical, and your commands not always contribute to the flow of the story, it still gives a good sense of being able to change the direction of the narrative. You are pulled back and forth by the couple, who clearly do not get along pretty well, putting you on the spot on several uncomfortable topics, more, or less asking you to pick a side. Based on the conversations and their directions you’ll almost always get a different ending, most often some sort of reconciliation, or one of them (or both) admitting to having an affair. But if you act to rude, or decide to be a little too “friendly” to either one of them, Trip might get angry, or uncomfortable and kick you out. There are rumors that you can get one of them to kill the other, that you can seduce one of them, or even that the player is invited to partake in a threesome, however none of these seems to turn out to be true.
The game, after it was released on Windows in 2005, received a lot of praise for it’s AI (artificial intelligence) throughout the tech industry, and is said to have been way ahead of it’s time in this field. It even got the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Slamdance Independent Games Festival, in addition to have been featured in a variety of magazines. In 2010 it even made it into the book “1001 games you have to play before you die”. But when the impression it made in the tech industry is unanimous, the impression among the players of the game were more divided, and with the theme being what it is many felt it hit to close to a painful experience. But many also found it too one-dimensional, due to the “no-matter-what-you-do” downward spiral of depression and marital struggle.
I found this piece rather interesting. In these kind of “closed-room” scenarios the impression of “world outside” it’s usually pretty obvious where the limitations are, nut this game covers most “leaks” in a rather satisfying way. This might just simply because of the simple graphics and that you just don’t expect too much from it. But the narration, and nit to mention the massive amount of voice acting creates a very good impression of infinite outcomes. But if you play the game enough times, you start to see patterns reappear i.e. Grace’s obsession of redecorating the apartment and Trip’s “Europe fetish”. This peice intrigued me enough to play through it enough times to “learn” how to respond to them to get a desired outcome, but even then it turns out slightly different on every playthrough, and to me, this does exactly what this game was made to do. It sort of gives me the feeling that I can go back in time and revisit the moment, and that what I say or do, and other random events will affect the outcome even though the “stage” is already set before you arrive. Thumbs up for this one
In this course we are also required to create our own elit piece, and I wanted to do something that would feel personal and draw on my own experience. And since I’m kind of fascinated by the big trends in the tech industry right now, namely AR and VR, I wanted to do something in this space. And the fact that I have suffered from Stargart’s Disease, a vision impairment causing severe focal vision loss at a very young age inspired me to wanting to show people the world from my view instead of just telling them. Putting the user in my position in situations that are more difficult to me than people might think, but still showing that my life is just as full and functioning, because if you think of it, no one’s life is without obstacles, and we all have to find our way to maneuver through them – this is just one of mine. The name of my project so far is “Blindfullness”, playing off the words mindfulness, blind and fullness. So Far I’ve bought a 360 degree 4K camera and found a platform for it using Google’s Cardboard concept, now it remains only to find a way to execute this without too much of a hassle ;P
But until next time; Dannyboy out!