Comp08 Discussion: Freedom by Anonymous (slight spoilers)

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Nathan

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Oct 2, 2008, 3:14:29 PM10/2/08
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I know it's very early in the competition, and I haven't seen a lot of
the other entries, but I wanted to give some feedback about this game.
Since the author is anonymous, I'm posting here.
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spoiler space
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I took the author's advice and didn't read ABOUT until after I was
done. Right from the beginning the game seemed so minimalistic, I
thought it must either be a beginner effort or done intentionally to
make a point. Going on the second assumption, I tried to guess the
meaning of the title. Presented with a short to-do list, I decided the
point must be to exercise my freedom not to do what the list said.
That didn't last very long. I ended up doing the first two items out
of order--so I really rebelled as much as possible.

In the college, I went west as prompted, saw the uncomfortable young
woman, and tried KISS GIRL. The game turned it into a hug, but oh,
well. 0 out of 0? Is that it?

Reading ABOUT proved confusing. Almost nothing happened in this game.
OK, so the crosswalk seemed dangerous, a guard glared at me in the
supermarket, and the girl was anxious about the crowd. I didn't get
it.

I tried a replay, and discovered if you get in the express lane people
yell nasty things and you can't buy your groceries. The normal lane
gives the same messages as the automated lane, even saying you scan
your groceries. Maybe there's a bug here preventing me from having a
worse experience at the supermarket? The bookstore was uneventful no
matter what I did.

I think I see the point of the author's intentions, but either I'm
missing something, or Anonymous did not succeed in achieving the
desired result.

dott.Piergiorgio

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Oct 2, 2008, 7:59:52 PM10/2/08
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Nathan ha scritto:

> I think I see the point of the author's intentions, but either I'm
> missing something, or Anonymous did not succeed in achieving the
> desired result.

I guess that also I have glimpsed the author's intentions & points, and
aside that I have NOT entered the Comp, I think that the issue of lack
of replies to posts on our NGs should not be addressed writing polemical
IF; So I agree that isn't the answer to the issue.

this after a ~20 moves in said IF; tomorrow (now is 01 AM here in Italy)
I'll play more throughly,

Best regards from Italy,
Dott. piergiorgio.

George Shannon

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Oct 2, 2008, 8:56:17 PM10/2/08
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On Oct 2, 3:14 pm, Nathan <ntsp...@netscape.net> wrote:

> I think I see the point of the author's intentions, but either I'm
> missing something, or Anonymous did not succeed in achieving the
> desired result.

Same here. I think I got the point, but as IF, it's not very fun. I
was hoping for something like overcoming phobias like in the old game
Fear, but it didn't happen. I realize social anxiety disorder isn't
something you solve with a cheap puzzle, but for a game, it would be
worth allowing someone to achieve some kind of progress.

Basically, the game told me when I should be anxious, and I wasn't.

Loquat

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Oct 3, 2008, 12:17:27 AM10/3/08
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I just played this, and here's a (long) excerpt from the notes I made
as I went along:

Finally, something interesting, even if it's not in the content of the
game itself. I read the ABOUT file, and find out the game is meant to
simulate the experience of social anxiety disorder. Myself, I've been
diagnosed with the disorder myself, and I've lived with it since I was
12 or so (about 17 years now). Now, of course, people who have this
disorder to various degrees and in various forms will experience it
differently. But thinking of my own experiences dealing with social
anxiety in my own life, it seems on a first impression that there
could be better ways to depict this right off the bat.

First, the player seems far too eager to leave the apartment. He
should feel an obligation to, of course, because he has a list of
things to do today. However, that doesn't mean it will be easy to go
out there and risk being judged. On a related note, where are all the
people out there in the world, on the street, in the grocery store?
Where are the people for the player to pass on the sidewalk, at whom
he must glance at (or not glance at) to just the right degree so as
not to attract too much attention? Why doesn't the player worry about
the clothes he's wearing, or whether or not his hair is messy, before
stepping out? Where is the BOOM BOOM BOOM of the player's heartbeat
quickening and pounding?

I decide to play a little more, because I'm curious what the author
does intend to depict.

"The teenaged boy scowls at you. “YOU’RE HOLDING UP THE LINE,” he
barks."

That's fine -- such a scenario would jolt my system in real life. For
many years I was afraid to go shopping because of the potential for
encounters like this. But how can the player know what the
consequences of such a situation will be for the character? How, from
just this, can the player understand precisely how hearing this feels?
There is no voice in the character's head to interject, no description
of sweaty palms or tunnel vision, just capital letters, and that just
doesn't seem like enough.

"You carefully scan and pay for the groceries, while the supermarket
employees glare at you. After bagging them, you carry them out the
door. The security guard glowers, but when he checks your receipt he
finds it all in order. Finally he appears to get fed up and hurries
you out the door."

I can see what the author is trying to do. I can imagine what he's
trying to depict -- one of my irrational fears, to this day, is that
my signs of nervousness while shopping will peg me as a shoplifter.
But this little paragraph is mercifully speedy, unfortunately. What
about soaking the check I'm trying to write out with my own sweaty
palms, while a line forms behind me?

"A young woman stands here by herself, looking nervous.

> l at the woman
A young woman, probably in college. She has brown hair up in a
ponytail and she wears glasses. She seems to be glancing around at the
other people with an expression of worry.

> hug her
You give the young woman a hug. She looks surprised and trembles, then
sighs and relaxes, closing her eyes."

This is the last thing I would ever do. Even someone without this
disorder probably would never try to hug a worried-looking stranger.
Now, if this ending were presented in some sort of dream-like way, to
indicate a desired escape from the confines of accepted social
interaction, then great! I love it! But here, there was no indication
of that. The ending feels like a public service announcement. I have
no particular hatred of putting a message into a work of art, if the
creator truly wants to convey it, but find an interesting and
pleasurable container for that message.

Again, I won't say that some of the things you depicted here are
inaccurate -- your disorder is your own (personally, I'm not too
troubled by faces staring at me from the covers of books), but it just
seems like there was so much you could have depicted here, and moreso,
found an interesting way to work those things into a truly interactive
experience. The one little interesting thing I found (and barely at
that) was the fact that I couldn't bring the groceries into the
bookstore -- I wouldn't do this in real life, either, for fear of any
number of things -- mainly that I would be looked at funny. But all I
get is:

"You probably shouldn’t be wandering in there with your groceries."

...which reads as disinterestedly as any standard message. For all I
know, this wasn't even implemented for the purposes I'm thinking of,
and I'm putting too much hope into even this little message.

All in all, this was an interesting concept (for which I'll award you
one more point than I would have otherwise, for what it's worth), but
it was far too severely underimplemented to have any real weight. This
work exploited neither of IF's two main aspects (interactivity or
literature) to really explore the FEELINGS of social anxiety disorder.
In particular, in my experience, there is a real physicality (not
simply a mental aspect) to the sensations involved in the disorder
which could be very well depicted using the medium of IF. That was
sorely unrecognized in this effort.

All that said, I ask the author: please, try this again and keep
working at it. I think the best thing one can do with art is to convey
the prison of one's own reality, from which they can't escape -- art
is a message in a bottle when you're trapped on a desert island. I
believe that the peculiar perspective of people in our boat is one
worth sending out into the world.

(As I post this, I realize another thing: maybe cognitive-behavioral
therapy, the main therapy used to treat this disorder, could be
integrated into the puzzle aspect of things? Solving the riddle of
yourself, as it were.)

George Shannon

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Oct 3, 2008, 8:24:42 AM10/3/08
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On Oct 3, 12:17 am, Loquat <matrebh...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> (As I post this, I realize another thing: maybe cognitive-behavioral
> therapy, the main therapy used to treat this disorder, could be
> integrated into the puzzle aspect of things? Solving the riddle of
> yourself, as it were.)

That would be neat. I was hoping for something like that.

Gemma

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Oct 3, 2008, 6:54:56 PM10/3/08
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Nathan wrote:

> I tried a replay, and discovered if you get in the express lane people
> yell nasty things and you can't buy your groceries. The normal lane
> gives the same messages as the automated lane, even saying you scan
> your groceries. Maybe there's a bug here preventing me from having a
> worse experience at the supermarket?

In the express lane, both members of staff yell at you separately. I
assumed that the female employee's line had been attached to the wrong
action, and ought to have been printed when you go to the normal lane.
What's supposed to happen, I think, is that in either the express lane
or the normal lane the staffer yells at you, and so you slink off to
the automated lane to pay. But there's no text explaining that you
slink off, so either the same bug affected it or it was simply an
awkward transition in the writing.

Gemma

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