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IF Comp ’08 – Simon Christiansen’s Grief!

October 8, 2008

I am getting this one over with. I don’t want to play it. I don’t think I’m going to like it. When I told Riff I was saving it for the last of the z-code games, he said “Is that really the note you want to end on?” and that is not very promising at all really. I would just skip it, but I have my journalistic integrity to consider. Also I told myself I was going to get on the treadmill today, and this game might make that seem like a really fun idea in comparison. So, here we go. Simon Christiansen’s Grief.

[spoilers begin here whether they like it or not]

Oh, good, this is exactly the sort of thing that starts making me think I’m in the refrigerator. Fantastic.

It is a beautiful morning. The sun is shining, and everything seems perfect. Today is Thomas’s first day at school and you are almost as excited as he is.
He’s going to die, isn’t he.

Thomas will need a good healthy breakfast to get through the day!
Won’t matter much. If he’s not dead already I give him half an hour, tops, and that’s generous.

If I stop playing right now, do I win?

The weather is beautiful. The birds are singing. You have a feeling it’s going to be a wonderful day.
STOP IT

…well, I dropped him off at school. Since he’s the sole focus of my thought process, I might as well just hang around the schoolyard until he’s done.

…no? Okay.

My job is so boring that I don’t even know what it is.

You survive. Thomas is not so lucky. If only you could have avoided the accident somehow…

*** You have died inside ***

CALLED IT! Not that it was difficult. I bet I have to take him to work and put him in the broom closet and NEVER LET HIM OUT BECAUSE THE WORLD IS SO DANGEROUS. My dad would have liked to have done that. My dad once told me to be careful in parking lots because the other drivers were trying to kill me. My dad is pretty well fucked up.

Well, no matter how I try to tell Thomas to get in the broom closet, he doesn’t understand what I want him to do. I’m’a check the walkthrough… whaddaya mean there’s no walkthrough?

In any case, it’s not, no, okay, look. Any of us, at any moment – also there are dangerous chemicals in that closet that I can’t remove because “it’s not my job to clean the place,” the union must be very strict – any of us, at any moment, you know, potentially, bang, we’re dead. We do not exist in safe little cocoons with designated dangerous moments during which bad things are allowed to happen unless we manage to, even though we have no idea they’re coming, take ridiculous, illogical steps to prevent them. Everyone who is precious to you is going to die someday, which is why you need to appreciate and enjoy the fuck out of ‘em before they’re gone. That is the point, which this game misses completely.

Gets a three, for at least being one point more implemented than The Lighthouse.

Update: Unless, y’know, I missed the point. Which I did. Along with the fact that there is an in-game walkthrough. Apparently the whole thing is just your attempt at denialling your son back to life. This would make the game not quite so shit, except that (one) the big reveal on this one is, like the rest of the game, presented in dull flat uninteresting factual language reminiscent of a – no, worse than a Danielle Steel novel, and (two) the steps required to reach this ending are so bizarrely arbitrary that you’re not likely to discover it unless you put serious effort into trying to keep Thomas alive and “win the game,” which, y’know, I might’ve, had this game been better written and I cared more about it.

If this had been a better game, though, it would’ve been a better game, y’know?

Actually, to be fairer to Simon Christiansen, the concept really is pretty good. I’m imagining that the game was better written and I were more invested in it (and it didn’t show its hand so clearly by being called fucking Grief, and going on about what a beautiful fucking day it is). I, the player, genuinely find myself caring about little Thomas. I have not been tipped off that he’s going to die. Therefore, when it happens, I am devastated – well, maybe that’s a little strong, let’s say shocked and dismayed – and cling to the subtle hint the game gives me (this hypothetical game is much more subtle about many things) that his death could’ve been prevented. I try again, and manage to prevent the first death, but he dies anyway. I try again. He dies again. I am starting to get pissed off, but am absolutely determined to meet the win conditions, beat the game, and save little Thomas. Not long afterwards, I do.

I am extremely pleased with myself.

Then WHAM.

Wouldn’t that have been a really good game? That would’ve been a really good game. I think that’s what Simon Christiansen was going for, except the execution was terrible. Actually Simon Christiansen would do well just to tell his ideas to David Batterham. I would play the fuck out of a David Batterham-written Simon Christiansen concept.

Would still hate the fuck out of it for being depressing, but, y’know, it’s a start.

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