[Comp00] Paul's reviews -- Part 6 of 8 (LONG!)

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Paul O'Brian

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Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
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Within a week, these reviews will be posted on my IF page at
http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian/IF.htm

This post contains reviews for the following games:

PLANET OF THE INFINITE MINDS
JAROD'S JOURNEY
FUTZ MUTZ
PRODLY THE PUFFIN
AND THE WAVES CHOKE THE WIND
A CRIMSON SPRING
CRACKING THE CODE

=======================================================================

PLANET OF THE INFINITE MINDS by Alfredo Garcia

Oftentimes, certain words in a work's title can give a pretty clear hint
as to that work's genre. For example, if you see the words "dragon",
"sword", or "elven" in the title, chances are you're looking at a
fantasy work. Similarly, words like "passion", "hearts", and "desire"
can clue you in that the work in question is a romance. And of course,
words like "space", "star", and "planet" let you know that you've got
science fiction on your hands. Right? Wrong. At least, wrong in the case
of Planet Of The Infinite Minds. There are a lot of terms that could
describe this game, but "science fiction" isn't one of them. Instead,
it's sort of a bizarre, abstract, and surreal journey through concepts
and places you may never have expected to visit. In the course of the
game, the PC may find himself atop Mount Olympus, or watching the
beginning of time, or strolling through the brain of Erwin Schrodinger.
And these are actually some of the *less* abstract vistas the game
offers. One thing that POTIM does quite often is to take advantage of
text's capacity to encapsulate intangible ideas and give them a certain
sense of landscape. Certainly, scenes like this could never take place
in a graphical game:

The Realm of Things-in-Themselves
This is the realm where all things exist as they truly are, and not
as we perceive them. Since there is no sense-data around to stimulate
your mind, you find it to be a rather dull place.

I'd like to say that all of this way-out stuff is in service of a
brilliantly constructed plot, but I don't think it is. You play a rather
stuffy librarian who's trying to lighten up a bit by visiting a
carnival. As the carnival winds down, he can either return to the
library (and thereby end the game) or follow the gypsy who is urging him
to visit her caravan. If he takes the latter course (which pretty much
has to happen if you want to see the game), he suddenly finds himself
dragged into an increasingly bizarre situation that starts out with a
fairly stock setup of mega-psi-powered aliens who walk among us, then
spins wildly into scenes like the one excerpted above. The poor
librarian no doubt feels rather at sea in these cosmic circumstances,
and as a player I felt much the same way. The whole thing seemed to be
strung together without much sense of overall structure or meaning. Of
course, this may be an intentional comment on the nature of existence,
but it didn't come across very clearly if that's the case. On the other
hand, it may be that because I didn't finish the game before time ran
out, I've missed the masterstroke that pulls the whole thing together.
However, based on what I've seen so far, I don't expect that to be the
case.

Not that POTIM is a bad game -- far from it. Its concretization of
philosophical concepts makes for some pretty thought-provoking IF, and
there are also one or two puzzles that I thought were quite clever and
original. However, there is also a slew of strange, random things that
seem to serve no purpose to the story. Some of them have the feel of
in-jokes, like the references to "MacFlecknoe" that pepper the game
text. That sort of thing may have been fun for the author, but it does
nothing for me. Other things, well, I just don't have an explanation
for, unless they somehow all get explained in the endgame. In addition,
there are a few bugs here and there, as well as some grammar problems,
especially the dreaded its/it's error (see my review of Masque of the
Last Faeries). In the end, it may just be another case of a game
underserved by the need to play it in two hours. I looked at the hints
quite a bit, but still didn't manage to finish it in that amount of
time. It may be that I'm wrong about the game's arbitrariness, and that
it all comes together in the end. I'll probably never find out, though,
due to the circumstances under which I played it. (Gee, can anybody tell
that I'm a little grumpy about playing 50 games in 6 weeks when some of
those games take way more than two hours to solve?)

Rating: 7.3


JAROD'S JOURNEY by Tim Emmerich

This game has one of the most startling first lines I've ever
encountered. The line is this: "Welcome to Jarod's Journey, a
TADS-based game that will hopefully get you and Jarod closer to God."
This line brought up a couple of questions for me. The first was
"Whose God?", and the second was "What gives you the right?" I'm
agnostic, but I wouldn't scorn someone simply for their religious
beliefs. I respect the desire and necessity of all people to find
their own spiritual paths, and I expect to receive the same respect
in return. A game that wants to bring me closer to what it calls God
is violating what I see as a very personal boundary, the boundary
around my soul and my spiritual life. My agnosticism is of the stripe
that objects to the notion that any human has privileged access to
any sort of Higher Truth. I find it deluded and arrogant when a
person claims to have all the answers to the Big Questions, even when
they're basing that claim on some kind of intense personal
experience, but I respect that person's right to believe whatever
feels right to them. However, when they want to proselytize to *me*
(or to anybody else, really), that's when I get offended. I think
people have the right to believe whatever they want, but I don't
believe they have the right to evangelize others about it -- doing so
runs roughshod over those others' right to believe what they want.
Consequently, I found the basic goal of Jarod's Journey to be an
offensive one.

That being said, I'll try to set aside my fundamental personal
objections to the game's announced intent and review it simply as IF.
Sadly, it doesn't have much to recommend it, even from a pure gaming
standpoint. First of all, it crossed another big bias of mine by
having, you guessed it, a starvation puzzle. Actually, *two*
starvation puzzles. Strangely, there doesn't appear to be any actual
consequence attached to the starvation. Jarod, the PC, never dies, no
matter how long he starves, but the game continues to print annoying
messages. It could be argued that these are better than typical
starvation puzzles since they don't ever actually enforce a time
limit, but I say that they're just as bad, because without the time
limit they become *entirely* pointless instead of just mostly
pointless. In addition, there are a disheartening number of spelling
and grammar errors in the game's writing, which makes the whole thing
seem less than divinely inspired. On top of this, there's the fact
that although the game tries to maintain a third-person voice, there
are little slips of second-person throughout, as in this scene:

Dream
Jarod is in a dream, or at least he thinks it is a dream. The
angel is here and has delivered a map.
You see a map here.
There is an angel here who is slightly glowing!

If the player controls Jarod, who is the "you" that sees the map?
Perhaps it's the same "you" that the game announces in the first line
that it wants to convert -- that is, me? But *I* don't see a map, just a
computer game. Or rather, a digital sermon. (One nice thing about JJ is
that next time somebody tells me that LASH is preachy, I can point at
this game and say, Crocodile Dundee-style, "That isn't preachy. THIS is
preachy!")

Setting aside the game's deficiencies in the areas of design, prose
mechanics, and coding, we come at last to the quality of the writing
itself. Jarod's Journey is written in a kind of earnest, gee-whiz tone
that works best when you imagine it being read aloud by Ned Flanders
from the Simpsons. (And by "works best", I mean "is most entertaining.")
An example:

>ask angel about god
"God is wonderful. He loves you very much and created you just as you
are."

>ask angel about grace
Jarod asks the angel about grace. The angel responds saying "Grace is
truly wonderful! You will not find a better gift!"

Jarod thinks to himself, "The angel is truly magnificent, glowing
ever so brightly."

Okeley-dokeley-do! Don't get the impression that I scowled through this
game. On the contrary, I laughed a lot, but only because it was
difficult to take this wide-eyed tone seriously. On a more serious
level, though, perhaps it's worth thinking about the model of
Christianity that this game constructs for us. There's one section that
I found quite ironic -- Jarod meets a pharisee who is described as
"praying loudly. So loudly that everyone nearby can hear him. Even in
the short time that Jarod pauses to listen, it is obvious that the man
is repeating himself. Is this what pleases the Lord?" From this
description, we're supposed to realize that the pharisee's method of
prayer is Not OK. But only one location away is a Christian priest who
fits this same exact description. Not only that, the game *itself* fits
this description. The deep irony of the pharisee section made me suspect
that not only is the game evangelical, its evangelism isn't even well
thought out. Another example: at the end of each section of the game,
Jarod is asked to make a spiritual choice between various methods of
approaching God. If you pick the right one, you get a point. If not, you
get chided with a scripture. Is the sacred realm of faith really so
simple as that? Can the intricacies of individual worship really be
boiled down to a multiple choice test? According to the game, apparently
so. The best religious literature explores the *mysteries* of faith
rather than handing out reductionist platitudes. Dante knew this.
Chaucer knew it. Lewis knew it. Jarod... Well, Jarod still has quite a
ways to go.

Rating: 3.4


FUTZ MUTZ by Tim Simmons

For my first 45 minutes of playing Futz Mutz, I thought it was
delightful. It's got a whimsical premise (you're a 9-year-old who has
been inexplicably transformed into a puppy and trapped in a pet
store). It's got lots of fun multimedia stuff, like appropriate dog
sounds, a little biscuit up by the score on the status line, jazzy
background music, a cool title sequence, that kind of thing. The code
and the writing, while a bit error-riddled, mostly did their jobs
well. It was well on its way to a high rating.

Then something happened that was a bit like a splash of cold water in
the face. I looked at a TV in the game and got this description:

A commercial for some new movie is now showing on the TV.

"Don't miss 'Curses of the Skcus Mrofni' - starring G. Nelson.
Tonight at 9 on HDO!"

Oh, ha ha. "Inform Sucks" spelled backwards. Gee, how clever. I
though this game was supposed to be *about* a 9-year-old, not written
by one. I was a little disappointed by this, but I shrugged and went
on. After all, there had been a few IF references before this, a
friendly nod to Mike Roberts and a more-or-less genial poke at
Stephen Granade. Then, about five minutes later, something else
happened. This was less like a splash of cold water and more like a
kick in the teeth. I won't reprint it here -- it was a personal
insult to Suzanne Britton, basically calling her a whore in a couple
of different ways. Now look, Suzanne is a friend of mine, so I got
very, very angry when I saw this. But even if she wasn't a friend,
I'd think that this is way, way out of line. I do not understand the
point of lashing out at specific members of the IF community like
this. To work within the dog metaphor, it seems like biting the hand
that feeds you.

I tried to continue playing, but my heart wasn't in it anymore. So I
turned to the walkthrough and finished the game. Then it was rating
time. I sat there for a minute, trying to figure out what to do.
Should I ignore the insults and try to rate FM as a game
notwithstanding its snide jabs? I ruled that one out pretty quickly.
Should I abstain from rating it at all on the grounds that because I
had such a strong emotional response to it, I'm not fit to judge it?
Hell no, I decided. I'm going to rate it exactly the same way as I
have all the other comp games: based on how much I enjoyed the
overall experience. Then I'll write a review telling just what I
thought of it, exactly as I have for the other comp games. And that's
what I did.

Rating: 2.0


PRODLY THE PUFFIN by Craig Timpany and Jim Crawford

Prodly The Puffin is, according to the authors, "a second-generation
parody of a cartoon that has long faded into obscurity." That is to say,
it's a parody of a parody of something that no longer exists. Actually,
to be precise, it's an IF adaptation of a parody of a parody of
something that no longer exists. What this means, as I learned in the
course of playing the game, is that unless you have quite a bit of
context, the whole thing is going to seem totally incomprehensible. To
their credit, the authors seem aware of this, having some fun with
players' confusion in the hint system and even quoting the sentiments of
a certain Sage of IF about wandering around in somebody's
"ill-conceived, cobbled-together, inside-joke universe." They also
provide a brief explanation of the game's cast of characters and include
a comprehensive menu-based hint system. In addition, the game offers a
second, less direct hint system: you can "ASK ME ABOUT" most any subject
and receive a response that might be helpful. Of course, Prodly being
what it is, the response probably *won't* be helpful, since chances are
it won't make any more sense than anything else does.

After the game is over, the authors reveal not only their actual names,
but also the URLs for their web comic Prodly the Puffin, and for Pokey
The Penguin, the web comic that theirs spoofs. Curious, I visited the
Pokey site (http://www.yellow5.com/pokey), and actually thought it was
hilarious, in a very bizarre kind of way. The Pokey comic is one of
those strange web artifacts that is unbelievably bad that it's actually
really funny. It looks like it was done by a third grader using
Microsoft Paint, and is littered with scribbles, crossed out words, and
weird unidentifiable things. Its plots (such as they are) tend to veer
in bizarre, arbitrary directions and end quite abruptly. Its dialogue is
written in all caps, and sometimes uses point sizes (or strikethrough)
for emphasis. Nonetheless, I found its unexpectedness was excellent
humor fodder, and some of the dialogue was so random that it actually
made me laugh out loud. (Little Girl: "POKEY THESE ARE PLUMS! I WANTED
ORANGES!" Pokey: "THAT IS THE PRICE OF LOVE".) Prodly the Puffin, the
web comic (http://lightning.prohosting.com/~prodly), is the authors'
parody of Pokey, and I found it less interesting, mainly because Pokey
itself is so off-the-wall that it's difficult to parody. Prodly ends up
being less funny because it's more polished and self-aware. However, I
feel quite sure that I would have enjoyed the game quite a bit more if I
had seen both Pokey and Prodly before I started playing. When I
encountered Prodly and the other cast members of the IF game, they just
seemed totally baffling and in-jokey to me. Now that I have the context
of the web comics... well, ok, they still seem totally baffling and
in-jokey, but at least now I have visuals to go along with them.

Consequently, I'd urge anyone who wants to play this game but hasn't
done so yet to check out the web sites I mention above before playing.
It's not that they'll give you a fighting chance of understanding what's
going on, because understanding what's going on is not what Prodly (the
game) is about. It's more of an attempt to capture the completely
bizarre style of Pokey, its careening plots and desperate lack of
quality. How successful it is I'm not sure, because I played the game
before I knew anything about the web comic, and therefore experienced it
all without being able to understand its point. Because of this
circumstance, I didn't have much fun. The whole thing just kind of went
past me, capital letters, outrageous violence, and all. Since I rate the
games based on how much fun I had experiencing them, Prodly
unfortunately can't rate very highly. However, I am grateful to it. It
pointed me to Pokey, and Pokey has been cracking me up all day.

Rating: 2.8


AND THE WAVES CHOKE THE WIND by Gunther Schmidl

ATWCTW is, as far as I can remember, the first competition game that
shares its fictional "universe" with a previous competition game. Last
year's Only After Dark featured the same protagonist, namely one Ranil
Kuami, dreadlocked seventeenth-century sailor and ex-slave, a man who
has the misfortune to run into one horrific situation after another.
When I reviewed OAD I said, in the course of lamenting what I saw as the
game's excessive linearity, "I would really like to play a game set in
the Only After Dark universe, written and coded as well as the
competition entry but offering the player an actual *choice* once in a
while." This year, I got my wish. Well, sort of. Apparently, the version
of ATWCTW that was entered in the comp this year, despite the fact that
it's 173K and in .z8 format (a combination I confess I don't quite
understand), is actually only a *preview* of the real ATWCTW, which I
assume is forthcoming sometime. Still, even though it ends rather
abruptly, as many adventure game demos do, this version is a substantial
chunk of adventuring all on its own. For one thing, it has clearly been
coded with a great deal of care. ATWCTW feels almost like a commercial
graphic adventure game in terms of the number of features it offers for
players. In fact, I rather got the feeling that in some spots it wished
it was a commercial graphic adventure game. For instance, the game
features cutscenes in several spots, all of which are nicely formatted
and can be replayed at any point. It calls these cutscenes "movies",
which of course they aren't -- they're all text. The choice of words
made me wonder if ATWCTW wished it had the resources to become a
graphical adventure game.

I'm glad it isn't. Although the game might gain something from a
transition into graphical mode, I think it would lose some things as
well, such as the excellent options it offers at the text prompt. ATWCTW
gathers nifty features from lots of previous IF games and offers them
all. NOTE displays the game's occasional footnotes. HINT offers context-
sensitive hints. (Well actually, it doesn't, apparently because this is
just a preview. The game promises that this command will be available in
the full version.) MOVIES brings up a list of cutscenes shown already,
any of which can be replayed on command. WHAT IS and WHO IS are
available, though they generally don't offer much (with some important
exceptions.) EXITS prints a list of exits from the current location.
Sure, all of these could be worked into a graphical game, but even
beyond this, there's that great sense of openness that a text parser
offers. Granted, there are plenty of verbs the game doesn't recognize,
but there are lots that it *does* recognize, and I found, especially in
the first puzzle, that most of the things I thought of doing, the game
was equipped to handle. That first scene is right out of a pulp
adventure, and I had a great time solving the puzzle just the same way
as any swashbuckling hero would have. Moreover, because of the
particular genre of the game (the ever-popular Lovecraftian horror),
text has some important advantages over graphics. A good description of
horrific sights that defy the laws of nature will always be more
powerful than a good movie of the same thing, both because good
descriptions can involve all the senses, and because the imagination can
encapsulate the idea of a sanity-shattering thing without having to
constrain it to any specific visual image.

With all this going for it, I'm sorry to say that ATWCTW doesn't quite
reach its full potential. My experience may have been worse than many
others', because I played the game on my creaky old 386 laptop using DOS
Frotz in monochrome mode (the machine doesn't have a color screen.)
About two-thirds of the way through the game, the entire thing
apparently broke -- I could see the bold header for the room
description, but all other text was invisible. Experimentation
demonstrated that the prompt was still there, so I restored and tried a
different route into the scene, with the same result. Finally, I quit
the game and looked at the transcript I had made, learning that text had
in fact printed, but I couldn't see it. Playing a hunch, I started up
the game in color mode, and discovered that not only was I now able to
see the broken scene (albeit faintly), there were lots of other things I
had missed in monochrome mode as well, because the game presents them in
color. However, unlike other color games (such as Varicella), ATWCTW
failed to test for color usage or even to warn me that it planned to use
color. This failure was disappointing, especially given the level of
quality attained by the rest of the game. There were a few other flaws,
such as the occasional awkwardness of the game's prose: "And suddenly,
as if a fog lifted from your eyes, you are totally clear." The word
"clear" here might be trying to convey alertness, wakefulness,
visibility, invisibility, sobriety, comprehension, or a number of other
things. As it is, however, the meaning is (pardon the pun) unclear. In
addition, the plot up to this point still doesn't offer that many
options, its geography quite linear and many of its events quite
unavoidable. Still, the preview of ATWCTW is an enticing peek at a game
that shows every indication of being a major work. If its main objective
was to get me interested in the full version, mission accomplished.

Rating: 8.5


A CRIMSON SPRING by Robb Sherwin

One thing that can fairly be said about A Crimson Spring is that it is
one dark piece of work. It starts out with a funeral, and in the course
of its plot will describe twisted psychotics, brutal beatings, murder,
and rape, along with a generous helping of menacing, intimidation, and
vile ideas. It's about superheroes, but not your Saturday morning
SuperFriends kind of superheroes, nor even your angsty Stan Lee/Chris
Claremont kind of superheroes. No, these are superheroes in more of a
Frank Miller vein, tortured vigilantes who stalk through horrific
corridors of urban decay, beating the living crap out of evildoers and
anybody who looks at them funny. Though Miller is clearly their main
predecessor, they're also a bit reminiscent of the out-of-control
metahumans in Mark Waid's Kingdom Come, with elements of the anger and
psychoses that bubble under Alan Moore's Watchmen. They even bear a
passing resemblance to the characters from Sherwin's own Chicks Dig
Jerks, at least in the way that they tend to investigate crimes by
cruising bars looking for trouble. In addition, they're also likely to
have somewhat more disturbing powers, especially the villains, such as
AIDS Archer, who shoots disease-tipped arrows at the good guys, and
Mucous Man, who suffocates his victims under lots and lots of snot.

As I've said in the past, I love superheroes, but this particular
subgenre of them is not my favorite. The whole grim-and-gritty trend in
superhero comics, which probably reached its peak towards the end of the
Reagan years, was always rather unappealing to me. I found its
insistence on the world's rottenness to be just as monotonous and
unrealistic as the post-Code, whitewashed Batman and Robin's world of
silly villains and cardboard heroes. Miller's Daredevil and Punisher,
and Claremont/Goodwin's Wolverine were fine when they were the darker
exceptions to the nobler rule of costumed crusaders, but when nearly
every superhero suddenly became a clench-jawed desperado struggling
against a poisoned culture by any means necessary, the whole thing
started to seem more and more silly. [Pssst! Paul! Stop lecturing about
comics and get back to the game! (The what? Oh yes, that.)] Ahem. As I
was saying, A Crimson Spring is one dark piece of work. It even displays
its text as faded letters on a pitch black background. In addition, even
besides the fact that its particular flavor of superherodom is not to my
taste, it misses some pretty important opportunities. For instance,
although the PC wears a mask and has a code name (Holy Avenger), he
doesn't have any superpowers. What does he have? A lead pipe. He's
surrounded by people who can fly, or are super-strong, or have
unbreakable skin, or can morph themselves into other stuff, but his main
skills are talking smack and whacking people with a big metal club. Oh,
he's got a perfect immune system, too, which doesn't seem to me like a
great superpower ("I'm Never-Get-Sick Man!"), though I have to admit it
does come in handy against guys like AIDS Archer. I found myself wishing
that I could play one of the *real* superheroes instead of this
smart-aleck "detective" with the pipe in his hand. Hell, even Batman had
a utility belt.

On the other hand, perhaps playing a character I liked more would have
made it even more frustrating when I encountered one of the game's many
bugs. The bugs in ACS come in two varieties. One of these is the "huh?"
bug, which happens when the game makes a reference to somebody or
something you've never heard of before, and acts as if you of course
know what it's talking about. For instance, at one point the PC is asked
(in reference to a villain), "Have you seen him since the incident on
the bridge?" I read this and thought, "incident on the bridge?" The game
had described no such incident. Perhaps things like this were its way of
building character by mentioning past "offstage" events (though some of
the "huh?" references seemed clearly oriented towards things that were
supposed to have happened in the plot, but didn't, at least not to me),
but even if this is the case, the game should throw in a sentence or two
explaining the reference. I suspect that this kind of bug emerges when a
game is written around a walkthrough and fails to account for the many
paths that can be taken through the plot. Granted, this is one of the
more difficult challenges in writing IF, but it is a challenge that must
be met, or else the story deflates very rapidly. The other type of bug
is of the more traditional variety, the inability to refer to an
important object or the nonsensical response to a reasonable command.
Both types of bugs appear with depressing regularity in ACS, and they
utterly defeat any sense of immersion that the game's other nifty
features strive to create. Among these features were a cool soundtrack
of gritty indie rock and hand-drawn illustrations of various scenes and
characters. The latter, while not exactly George Perez, were obviously
the product of quite a bit of labor, and managed to give a nice visual
sense to the colorful characters. I wish, though, that the time had
instead gone into debugging -- I would have enjoyed the game lots more
had it been bug-free, even without its illustrations. A Crimson Spring
puts you behind the mask of a dark superhero on a mission of justice,
but in the end, it only defeats itself.

Rating: 6.1


CRACKING THE CODE by Anonymous

Thank god for Stephen Granade. Without him, not only would I think that
Cracking the Code is completely pointless, I'd also be totally confused
as to what it's even about. However, thanks to a handy post
(http://forums.about.com/ab-interactfict/messages/?msg=927.1) he wrote
on his About.com IF site, I've been educated on the controversy
surrounding the DeCSS code for decrypting DVD output. For those of you
not in the know, apparently eight big movie studios won a lawsuit
against a hacker newsletter for posting code known as DeCSS, code that
allows you to decrypt the data on a DVD. This code allows you to write
your own DVD player without paying royalties, and to copy the
information on a DVD. The law that supported the suit is the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which forbids dissemination of
information about how to bypass copyright security. According to the
judge, you can't post the code or even *link* to the code. Lots of
people are up in arms about this perceived restriction of free speech.
Somebody even wrote a very funny song about it, with the code in the
lyrics -- the argument goes like this: if the US First Amendment
protects freedom of expression, doesn't that take precedence over the
courts' suggestion that the code is illegal under the DMCA? And if so,
isn't it legal to spread the decryption code via a legally protected
form, such as songwriting?

I suppose the argument goes the same way for this "game". Really, though,
this piece of work does virtually nothing to wrap any kind of creative
content around the DeCSS code. It's more or less an unadorned room with
a stub description, containing two pieces of paper that have the code
written on them. That's it. Other than what I just mentioned, it's an
Inform shell game. Minimalist, yes. Entertaining, no.

It's hard to even call CTC subversive, as it is so clearly uninterested
in IF and therefore fails to subvert IF in any interesting way. In my
opinion, it also doesn't do much for making the First Amendment case. I
mean, at least the song had a tune, and some lyrics outside the code, and
whatnot. CTC, on the other hand, offers nothing at all in the way of IF.
It'll come in handy, though, when I decide to write my own DVD player.
That's on my list right behind sewing my own clothes and authoring an IF
game with a homebrew parser.

Rating: 1.2

--
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian
SPAG #23 will be devoted to the 2000 IF competition, and is actively
seeking reviews! Submit your comp reviews to me by December 5. Thanks!


Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
to
Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:

> ATWCTW is, as far as I can remember, the first competition game that
> shares its fictional "universe" with a previous competition game.

"Aayela" and "Uncle Zebulon's Will".

In a very convoluted way, "RTZ:AS" and "The Meteor, The Stone, And A
Long Glass Of Sherbet".

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Gunther Schmidl

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Nov 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/17/00
to
> The choice of words
> made me wonder if ATWCTW wished it had the resources to become a
> graphical adventure game.

I thought about this long and hard when I first started designing the game,
back in 97. That was when the development of Inform looked as if it was
heading towards fairly good support for graphics and sound. Turns out this
didn't happen.

Then, in 1999, I thought about porting it to Hugo. I thought about porting
it to Glulx. Then I realized I have no artists or musicians (I can't draw or
make music). THEN I realized jush how much work it would be. And so I left
it textual.

It wouldn't work as a graphical adventure game, I am sure. I would have
added some illustrations and maybe music.

> However, unlike other color games (such as Varicella), ATWCTW
> failed to test for color usage or even to warn me that it planned to use
> color.

Actually, I do check the Interpreter header for color availability. Seems
like this isn't enough (grr!) -- I may go about adding a monochrome version.

-- Gunther

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/17/00
to
On Fri, 17 Nov 2000, Gunther Schmidl wrote:

> Actually, I do check the Interpreter header for color availability. Seems
> like this isn't enough (grr!) -- I may go about adding a monochrome version.

Also, keep in mind that just because color may be *available* in the
interpreter doesn't mean all users can see it, or will even opt for it. I
ran your game with the following command line:

frotz -d0 atwctw.z8

The -d0 makes games easier to read on my monochrome monitor, even though
of course color is available in DOS Frotz.

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/17/00
to
On Thu, 16 Nov 2000, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:
>

> > ATWCTW is, as far as I can remember, the first competition game that
> > shares its fictional "universe" with a previous competition game.
>

> "Aayela" and "Uncle Zebulon's Will".

Ah, yes. I had forgotten, I think because the connection is much less
explicit than in ATWCTW.

> In a very convoluted way, "RTZ:AS" and "The Meteor, The Stone, And A
> Long Glass Of Sherbet".

Well... a *very* convoluted way, maybe. Meteor was more a tribute than a
full-fledged participant in the Zork universe. It's kind of like saying...
well, I can't think of a good example, but I never thought of them as
being set in the same universe.

Duncan Stevens

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Nov 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/17/00
to
> JAROD'S JOURNEY by Tim Emmerich
>
> This game has one of the most startling first lines I've ever
> encountered. The line is this: "Welcome to Jarod's Journey, a
> TADS-based game that will hopefully get you and Jarod closer to God."
> This line brought up a couple of questions for me. The first was
> "Whose God?", and the second was "What gives you the right?"

What gives him the *right*? Why shouldn't he have the right?

I could write a fairly lengthy book about the various ways I disliked and
disagreed with Jarod's Journey, but I'm not sure this objection is entirely
fair. If the author believes that certain propositions about God are true,
and wants to try to convince the IF community, I don't see why that effort
is per se illegitimate. I also seem to recall that someone around these
parts announced an intention to put together a sort of anti-religious game a
few months back and wanted to know what people thought. The response,
largely, was "Go for it (and stop talking about it)." If the author of
Jarod's Journey had posted his intentions, would you have told him "NO!"?

I'm not sure that IF is a good medium for what he's trying to do (though you
never know), but I really don't like the idea of telling someone he has "no
right" to communicate his ideas because those views are religious. Or
anti-religious. If he does it poorly/in a way that annoys you, mark him down
accordingly, but don't mark it down *because it tries to communicate a
worldview*.

That aside, Jarod's Journey annoyed me because it does such a remarkably
poor job of representing Christianity--if the author revealed that he was
actually trying to do a caricature, I wouldn't be surprised. For one thing,
the conclusions that the game wants you to draw seem to have nothing to do
with what you've seen--what's so bad about meditation? What about person X
makes him so representative of faith while person Y is so representative of
hypocrisy? What, exactly, did person Y do that was so hypocritical? (In the
case of the pharisee, say, your character heaps scorn on him because he
prays in public, and then goes and does the same thing. At least, you're
encouraged to pray, and usually there's nowhere to do it except in public.
Worse yet, you're occasionally told when you try to PRAY FOR someone that
"so-and-so can't see you praying for him/her, but you do it anyway," or
something along those lines. Prayer is only significant when it's visible to
others around me? Now who's being hypocritical?) Likewise, the idea that
prayer is good because it makes you feel good is pretty ridiculous and, IMO,
hardly Christian. (And certainly not mainstream evangelical, which is where
the author appears to be coming from.) And what's wrong with "working a day
job and preaching Jesus at night," which you're also supposed to reject? How
do we suppose those bills get paid? Are people who don't, like, worship God
full time lost sheep?

Perhaps even more annoying was the game's strange approach to ethics--as in,
putting your faith into practice is bad, and keeping it abstract is good.
You see people helping others--the women tending to the prisoners--and it's
characterized as a "life of humble service," and then you reject it as not
where God's leading you. 'Scuse me? What Bible is the author reading?
Likewise, you see an old sailmaker, which makes me want to type HELP
SAILMAKER, but you can't do that. You just wander in, look around, tell him
about God, and move on. Enngh. Ditto for the street cleaner.

There are the beginnings of what look like some interesting ideas, but the
game botches the delivery. At one point, you get this random offhand
reference to a guy who pays his laborers the same amount no matter what time
in the day they start working for him. That's a reference to a parable--an
interesting parable, I think--but you get nothing more about it, and
certainly nothing to think about unless you understand the reference (in
which case you're unlikely to be part of the game's target audience anyway).
Elsewhere there's a tentmaker, which I took to be a reference to Paul. But
the guy's name isn't Paul (well, he doesn't have a name), he doesn't speak
or act like Paul, and basically it's either a coincidence or something that
didn't get followed up.

I'm sure (well, pretty sure--I'm still wondering about that caricature idea)
that the author's intentions were good, but there's a basic shortsightedness
to it that characterizes a lot of evangelism--a sort of assumption that if
you barge in and say the magic words, the nonbelievers will be, I dunno,
struck dumb and convert en masse. The *way* it's said is as important as
(actually, in a way, more important than) the message itself, and while the
means of conveying the message in Jarod's Journey isn't as bad as it might
be (no fire and brimstone, for one thing), it's far from good.

--Duncan

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/18/00
to
On Fri, 17 Nov 2000, Duncan Stevens wrote:

> > JAROD'S JOURNEY by Tim Emmerich
> >
> > This game has one of the most startling first lines I've ever
> > encountered. The line is this: "Welcome to Jarod's Journey, a
> > TADS-based game that will hopefully get you and Jarod closer to God."
> > This line brought up a couple of questions for me. The first was
> > "Whose God?", and the second was "What gives you the right?"
>
> What gives him the *right*? Why shouldn't he have the right?

OK, I'll try again to explain my objection to being proselytized. First,
I will concede your point that perhaps I shouldn't couch my objection in
terms of "rights" -- while it's certainly true that I *feel* that
strongly about it, you wouldn't find me out stumping for a law against
it or something. Using the terminology of rights introduces a sort of
legal connotation into the discourse that I don't really want in there.
However, "what gives you the right?" *was* my first reaction, so I'll
endeavor here to try to explain a bit of where I'm coming from.

When I was younger, high-school age I mean, I had a lot of anger about
organized religion, about the evils that I perceived it doing in the
world and in the lives of people I knew. A lot of this anger came out in
discussions with friends who affiliated themselves with one religion or
another. I really tested these people, and these friendships. Every day,
I had some new challenge to their doctrine or faith, and I had a wealth
of angles of attack, each one intended to get them to say at some point,
"Oh yeah, I guess your logic has proved to me that I'm deluding and
hurting myself and others through my subscription to this set of myths."
Of course, I'd never have admitted that agenda, even to myself. But that
was it -- I felt I knew what was true and right, and did my damndest to
make everybody I knew *see* that my beliefs were true and right. To
their credit, none of the people I harassed severed their acquaintance
with me -- instead, they patiently answered my challenges, or sometimes
not so patiently depending on how successfully I had pushed their
emotional buttons. It wasn't until I made somebody that I cared about so
upset that she was crying hard and ready to hit me (something that went
entirely against the core of who she was) that I started to feel uneasy
about what I was doing.

I backed off after that, and although I still had my anger about
religion, I discontinued my personal crusades. Looking back on those
times, I'm ashamed of the way I behaved. I think it was disrespectful,
and hurtful too. It's not just that I'm not proud of the tactics I used
-- I'm not proud of the fact that in my arrogance about the "truth" of
spirituality and religion, I allowed myself to believe that what's right
for me is right for everybody. In the years that have passed since, I've
come to a kind of peace with the concept of religious belief -- as I
wrote in my review, I respect the desire and necessity of all people to
follow their own spiritual path.

As I also wrote, I expect that same respect in return. People (and
creative works) that try to proselytize me deny me that respect. They
try to tell me that their way is right, and that my way is wrong. I
don't mind being engaged, or provoked, or even challenged, but those
things must be accompanied by a fundamental respect for my right to make
up my own mind. When I saw "a game that will hopefully get you closer to
God", I felt violated by the game's agenda. I felt that its sole purpose
was to make a convert out of me, to score another point for
Christianity. In my perception, it wasn't interested in engaging me or
challenging me, just in telling me where I was wrong and how to be
right. That's disrespectful, and rude. It's no better than my high-
school self trying to badger people out of their beliefs.

Does it have the *right* to do so? Yeah, maybe, I suppose. But that
doesn't make it the right thing to do.

> I also seem to recall that someone around these
> parts announced an intention to put together a sort of anti-religious
> game a
> few months back and wanted to know what people thought. The response,
> largely, was "Go for it (and stop talking about it)."

You'll note that I wasn't part of that particular cheering section. If a
comp game was entered whose subtitle was something like "A game that
will hopefully help you shed your religious delusions", I think that
would be wrong as well, because it denies respect to good people who
align themselves with a particular doctrine and faith. It's true that I
probably wouldn't get as angry about it, because it wouldn't make me
personally feel as violated as something coming at me from the opposite
camp, but I'd like to think that I would note in my review that I found
its disrespect offensive.

> If the author of
> Jarod's Journey had posted his intentions, would you have told him
> "NO!"?

Do I ever post anything that short, Duncan? :)

In seriousness, I think I would have tried to raise the points that I
raise here and in my review, that is if I engaged with it at all. Lots
of times when people announce their intentions, misguided or not, on the
newsgroups, it's not worth (IMHO) engaging them about it, because their
intentions probably won't come to fruition anyway.

> I'm not sure that IF is a good medium for what he's trying to do
> (though you
> never know), but I really don't like the idea of telling someone he
> has "no
> right" to communicate his ideas because those views are religious. Or
> anti-religious. If he does it poorly/in a way that annoys you, mark
> him down
> accordingly, but don't mark it down *because it tries to communicate a
> worldview*.

Proselytization is more than just "communicating a worldview." It's not
just "here's what I think." It's "here's what *you* should think." I
think it's a little disingenuous to aver that something like Jarod's
Journey, when its stated goal is to "get you closer to God", is just
"communicating a worldview."

With regard to your other comments, about how JJ caricatures and
distorts Christianity in its attempts, I heartily agree. I made similar
points in my review and lots of other people did too. And if the game
had been more of an interactive parable or something, I think I would
have found it more interesting. I mentioned Chaucer, Dante, and Lewis in
my review -- these are all authors I love, despite the fact that much of
their work is devoted to plumbing ideas about religious faith. I'm even
a big fan of Orson Scott Card, even though much of his fiction has an
overtly Mormon agenda. These people really *are* communicating a
worldview, and exploring the mysteries and beauties of their faith. If
Jarod had succeeded at that, I would have given it high marks even
though I'm not Christian. Then again, I doubt it could have succeeded at
that as long as it told me that its goal was to get me closer to its God.

Steven Howard

unread,
Nov 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/18/00
to
In <3a171429...@goliath2.usenet-access.com>, on 11/19/00
at 12:03 AM, ca...@wurb.com (Carl Muckenhoupt) said:

>What I'm afraid will happen now is that the author of Jarod will see
>the reviews and come to the conclusion that his game was disliked
>solely because of its message.

Oh, I didn't dislike it *solely* because of the message. I spent a lot
more time complaining about the implementation and the quality of the
writing. Oh, and weird stuff like the invisible donkey and not being
able to wear the backpack and how Jarod happens to be both a Jew and the
son of a high ranking Roman officer. But mostly the writing.

========
Steven Howard
mrb...@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~mrblore

Duncan Stevens

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Nov 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/18/00
to

"Paul O'Brian" <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote in message
news:Pine.GSO.3.96.100111...@ucsu.colorado.edu...

> As I also wrote, I expect that same respect in return. People (and
> creative works) that try to proselytize me deny me that respect. They
> try to tell me that their way is right, and that my way is wrong. I
> don't mind being engaged, or provoked, or even challenged, but those
> things must be accompanied by a fundamental respect for my right to make
> up my own mind. When I saw "a game that will hopefully get you closer to
> God", I felt violated by the game's agenda. I felt that its sole purpose
> was to make a convert out of me, to score another point for
> Christianity. In my perception, it wasn't interested in engaging me or
> challenging me, just in telling me where I was wrong and how to be
> right. That's disrespectful, and rude. It's no better than my high-
> school self trying to badger people out of their beliefs.

Mmmm...but I think this is the difference between
stupid/ignorant/ineffective evangelism and a more thoughtful, effective kind
(and JJ is, admittedly, much more the former than the latter, and putting
that line right up front is part of why it's stupid and ineffective). A game
could perfectly well have the same agenda as Jarod's Journey but seek to
sway you toward Christianity in a way that does respect your right to make
up your mind--by not shouting slogans at you, say. (I've been kicking around
an idea along these lines, in fact.) Making an argument isn't inherently
disrespectful, I hope.

One respect in which Christian evangelism often goes awry (JJ isn't really
coherent or intelligent enough to be guilty of this) is to kind of throw the
whole thing at the target--as an entirely alien set of beliefs--and say,
okay, throw out the beliefs you have now lock, stock and barrel, as if there
were no way of believing other than total intellectual surrender. In other
words, evangelists often don't bother to make an intellectual case for
Christianity because they assume it's no good--if a potential Christian is
insisting on using logic and reasoning out his/her approach to the faith,
he/she's doing it wrong. Yes, there's a Kierkegaardian leap somewhere, but
it's not like the *whole thing* is a leap. I think that what you're
objecting to is evangelism that does this--refuses to respect your desire to
understand, not just buy wholesale.

> Does it have the *right* to do so? Yeah, maybe, I suppose. But that
> doesn't make it the right thing to do.

I'm not sure what "right thing" means in this context. If JJ's author
honestly believes that you, the player, will be better off if you accept
this worldview, in a sense it would be wrong/uncharitable for him to keep
his trap shut. (Of course, effectiveness is a question.)

> > I also seem to recall that someone around these
> > parts announced an intention to put together a sort of anti-religious
> > game a
> > few months back and wanted to know what people thought. The response,
> > largely, was "Go for it (and stop talking about it)."
>
> You'll note that I wasn't part of that particular cheering section. If a
> comp game was entered whose subtitle was something like "A game that
> will hopefully help you shed your religious delusions", I think that
> would be wrong as well, because it denies respect to good people who
> align themselves with a particular doctrine and faith. It's true that I
> probably wouldn't get as angry about it, because it wouldn't make me
> personally feel as violated as something coming at me from the opposite
> camp, but I'd like to think that I would note in my review that I found
> its disrespect offensive.

Tables turned, I'd find it annoying. My main reaction to that particular
fellow is/was "'Scuse me, but you clearly understand so little about what
you're trashing that I don't think you're going to make much of a case
against it." But if I'm wrong, and he does understand more than he appears
to, and makes a good argument, I think it'd be something worth doing. (If he
does lead with that line, of course, I'm unlikely to think much of the game,
because my hackles will be up from the start--just as the JJ author should
have rethought that approach.)

> > I'm not sure that IF is a good medium for what he's trying to do
> > (though you
> > never know), but I really don't like the idea of telling someone he
> > has "no
> > right" to communicate his ideas because those views are religious. Or
> > anti-religious. If he does it poorly/in a way that annoys you, mark
> > him down
> > accordingly, but don't mark it down *because it tries to communicate a
> > worldview*.
>
> Proselytization is more than just "communicating a worldview." It's not
> just "here's what I think." It's "here's what *you* should think." I
> think it's a little disingenuous to aver that something like Jarod's
> Journey, when its stated goal is to "get you closer to God", is just
> "communicating a worldview."

Well, it's advocating a worldview. People rarely communicate their
worldviews just for the sake of communicating them; I suppose I was assuming
that "communicate" meant "communicate for the purposes of showing how nifty
it is." The point holds, though: I think it's unfair to mark something down
for advocating a view of the world, especially if you wouldn't do the same
for, oh, say, a political worldview. That is, I don't make the same
distinction as you do between religious (whether or not associated with a
particular religion) beliefs and all other beliefs, since other beliefs can
be just as personal and having them attacked insensitively can be just as
upsetting. Again, it's all in *how* it's done.

> With regard to your other comments, about how JJ caricatures and
> distorts Christianity in its attempts, I heartily agree. I made similar
> points in my review and lots of other people did too. And if the game
> had been more of an interactive parable or something, I think I would
> have found it more interesting. I mentioned Chaucer, Dante, and Lewis in
> my review -- these are all authors I love, despite the fact that much of
> their work is devoted to plumbing ideas about religious faith.

It's interesting that you mention C.S. Lewis, though (assuming you are),
since most of his books are apologetic--directed at nonbelievers, aimed at
persuading. Yes, he's "plumbing," but the purpose of the plumbing is for
argument--directed at specific objections to Christianity. The arguments
aren't high-end intellectual, but they do respect the reader sufficiently to
aim at his/her mind in the way I mentioned above--and they're savvy enough
not to put off the nonbelieving reader by announcing their apologetic
intentions up front. If you enjoyed and didn't feel yelled at by Lewis (some
do), perhaps we don't really disagree.

--Duncan

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Nov 18, 2000, 7:03:50 PM11/18/00
to
On Fri, 17 Nov 2000 23:54:58 -0500, "Duncan Stevens"
<dn...@starpower.net> wrote:

>If the author believes that certain propositions about God are true,
>and wants to try to convince the IF community, I don't see why that effort
>is per se illegitimate. I also seem to recall that someone around these
>parts announced an intention to put together a sort of anti-religious game a
>few months back and wanted to know what people thought. The response,
>largely, was "Go for it (and stop talking about it)."

And I'd say the same today. I'd like to see a well-crafted Christian
game. I've never seen one, but it surely isn't impossible. Pretty
much every other art form has handled religious themes well.

What I'm afraid will happen now is that the author of Jarod will see
the reviews and come to the conclusion that his game was disliked
solely because of its message.

-----= Posted via Newsfeeds.Com, Uncensored Usenet News =-----
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Jason Melancon

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Nov 18, 2000, 10:08:52 PM11/18/00
to
On Sat, 18 Nov 2000 14:00:32 -0700, Paul O'Brian
<obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:

> On Fri, 17 Nov 2000, Duncan Stevens wrote:
>
>>> JAROD'S JOURNEY by Tim Emmerich
>>>
>>>This game has one of the most startling first lines I've ever
>>>encountered. The line is this: "Welcome to Jarod's Journey, a

>>>TADS-based game that will hopefully get you [...] closer to God."


>>>This line brought up a couple of questions for me. The first was
>>>"Whose God?", and the second was "What gives you the right?"
>>
>> What gives him the *right*? Why shouldn't he have the right?
>

> [Big old honking SNIP of touching backstory]


> I felt violated by the game's agenda. I felt that its sole purpose
> was to make a convert out of me, to score another point for
> Christianity.

Let me ask you this. Suppose the evangelism had been not about
religion, but politics? Again, not just presenting a worldview, but
actively trying to convince people that it's the correct one?

Please don't read me as defending the game, because A) I haven't
played it and don't plan to (my gut was busted plenty from Adam's
review), and B) it sounds like the author is a piss-poor evangelist.

From one agnostic to another,

--
Jason Melancon

Sean T Barrett

unread,
Nov 19, 2000, 1:23:49 AM11/19/00
to
Jason Melancon <afn5...@afn.org> wrote:
>>>> JAROD'S JOURNEY by Tim Emmerich
>
>Let me ask you this. Suppose the evangelism had been not about
>religion, but politics? Again, not just presenting a worldview, but
>actively trying to convince people that it's the correct one?

Indeed, I was thinking earlier in this thread that I'm a
bit surprised some authors didn't decide to take advantage
of the captive audience and write "BUSH'S BUSINESS BOOM"
or "GORE'S GREAT GOVERNMENT".

Or perhaps more in the spirit of campaigning would be
"BUSH'S BLOCKHEADED BLUNDERINGS" and "GORE'S GRATUITOUS GREEN GIVEAWAY".

SeanB

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 19, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/19/00
to
On Sat, 18 Nov 2000, Duncan Stevens wrote:

> A game
> could perfectly well have the same agenda as Jarod's Journey but seek to
> sway you toward Christianity in a way that does respect your right to make
> up your mind--by not shouting slogans at you, say. (I've been kicking around
> an idea along these lines, in fact.) Making an argument isn't inherently
> disrespectful, I hope.

Not inherently so, no. There are respectful and disrespectful ways to
advance a point of view. I felt JJ fell into the latter camp.

> I think that what you're
> objecting to is evangelism that does this--refuses to respect your desire to
> understand, not just buy wholesale.

Yes, that's true, I am objecting to that. I'm also not entirely
comfortable with the concept of evangelism itself inasmuch as that concept
condescends to me with a proposition to show me the way to Real Truth and
lead me out of my mistaken follies. This is probably because I don't
really believe in a Real Truth that's applicable to all people, at least
not when it comes to religious belief.

> I'm not sure what "right thing" means in this context. If JJ's author
> honestly believes that you, the player, will be better off if you accept
> this worldview, in a sense it would be wrong/uncharitable for him to keep
> his trap shut. (Of course, effectiveness is a question.)

Now this, on the other hand, is just specious logic. Just because
somebody believes in something, that in no way makes it right for that
person to do all they can to make sure everybody falls in line with it. If
I believe that we're all better off dead, that doesn't give me the right
to kill people. (Yes, of course this is an extreme example, but there are
plenty of milder ones. If I think you'd be better off as a film critic
than a lawyer, does that make it "uncharitable/wrong" for me *not* to
email you with "lawyers are evil" tirades?)

> Well, it's advocating a worldview. People rarely communicate their
> worldviews just for the sake of communicating them

Maybe not *their* worldviews, but most art (apart from the extremely
didactic) is quite a bit more complex than just a manifesto about the
author's worldview. So in the sense that art gets made that communicates a
worldview without advocating it, that happens all the time.

> The point holds, though: I think it's unfair to mark something down
> for advocating a view of the world, especially if you wouldn't do the same
> for, oh, say, a political worldview.

And indeed, I wrote in my review, "I'll try to set aside my fundamental


personal objections to the game's announced intent and review it simply as

IF." However, if a game is trying to sway me toward a viewpoint that I
find repugnant (or even just not compelling), I'm liable to enjoy that
game less, and then I *will* mark it down.

> other beliefs can
> be just as personal and having them attacked insensitively can be just as
> upsetting. Again, it's all in *how* it's done.

I agree with this 100%.

> It's interesting that you mention C.S. Lewis, though (assuming you are),
> since most of his books are apologetic--directed at nonbelievers, aimed at

> persuading. [...]


> If you enjoyed and didn't feel yelled at by Lewis (some
> do), perhaps we don't really disagree.

I don't think we do disagree, or at least not very much. I confess that my
experience reading Lewis was much longer ago than my Chaucer or Dante -- I
read all the Narnia books as a kid, and missed the Christian allegorical
stuff entirely. However, that this was even *possible* points to a quality
in Lewis that Jarod lacked. I don't think anybody, even my 8-year-old
self, could miss JJ's evangelical intent.

Religious stories and myths partake of some extremely powerful dramatic
tropes. In case I haven't been clear about this, I have *no* objection
whatsoever to the use of those tropes in art, even if the intent of the
author is to turn me into a Jehovah's Witness or something. In fact, I
don't even care about the intent of the author, since I don't really
see that as available information -- just my relationship with
the art. You'll note that all my objections to JJ in my review are
ascribed to what the game is doing, not what the author is doing.

I've also noticed that you're in a rather ironic position -- I keep
criticizing JJ, and you're not exactly inclined to defend it. It's kind of
like when First Amendment champions found themselves aligned with 2 Live
Crew. :)

Adam J. Thornton

unread,
Nov 19, 2000, 11:29:35 PM11/19/00
to
In article <3a171429...@goliath2.usenet-access.com>,

Carl Muckenhoupt <ca...@wurb.com> wrote:
>And I'd say the same today. I'd like to see a well-crafted Christian
>game. I've never seen one, but it surely isn't impossible. Pretty
>much every other art form has handled religious themes well.

Oh, there was one.

It was very subtle.

It was TADS.

It was several years ago.

It began with a student of the Ancient Mysteries of the Unkuulians
sitting in his dorm room^W^Wpod.

Anyone recognize it yet?

Perfect? Far from it. Most of it was an unabashed puzzlefest. But it
did handle Christian themes better than any other IF I have yet played.

Adam
--
ad...@princeton.edu
"My eyes say their prayers to her / Sailors ring her bell / Like a moth
mistakes a light bulb / For the moon and goes to hell." -- Tom Waits

Nym

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Nov 20, 2000, 12:46:22 AM11/20/00
to
I don't recognise it? Help?


Adam J. Thornton wrote in message <8va9bf$aq1$1...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>...

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Nov 20, 2000, 1:05:38 AM11/20/00
to
On Mon, 20 Nov 2000 15:46:22 +1000, "Nym" <n...@nym.com.au> wrote:

>I don't recognise it? Help?

He's talking about "The Legend Lives!". And he's perfectly correct,
although the Christian elements are rather subtle until the very end,
and they aren't the sole theme of the work.

David Thornley

unread,
Nov 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/20/00
to
In article <Pine.GSO.3.96.100111...@ucsu.colorado.edu>,
Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:

>On Sat, 18 Nov 2000, Duncan Stevens wrote:
>
>> I think that what you're
>> objecting to is evangelism that does this--refuses to respect your desire to
>> understand, not just buy wholesale.
>
>Yes, that's true, I am objecting to that. I'm also not entirely
>comfortable with the concept of evangelism itself inasmuch as that concept
>condescends to me with a proposition to show me the way to Real Truth and
>lead me out of my mistaken follies. This is probably because I don't
>really believe in a Real Truth that's applicable to all people, at least
>not when it comes to religious belief.
>
Empirically, there never has been such a universal religious belief in
recorded history. I tend to believe that there is some sort of objective
truth somewhere, but as an agnostic I also tend to believe that we're not
going to find it.

>> I'm not sure what "right thing" means in this context. If JJ's author
>> honestly believes that you, the player, will be better off if you accept
>> this worldview, in a sense it would be wrong/uncharitable for him to keep
>> his trap shut. (Of course, effectiveness is a question.)
>

>Now this, on the other hand, is just specious logic. Just because
>somebody believes in something, that in no way makes it right for that
>person to do all they can to make sure everybody falls in line with it.

If the author is an evangelistic Christian, then the author feels that
we should all be Christians for our own good. It's a consistent belief,
although not one I share.

If
>I believe that we're all better off dead, that doesn't give me the right
>to kill people. (Yes, of course this is an extreme example, but there are
>plenty of milder ones. If I think you'd be better off as a film critic
>than a lawyer, does that make it "uncharitable/wrong" for me *not* to
>email you with "lawyers are evil" tirades?)
>

Well, there is a difference between killing somebody and entering a bad
game in a contest they're judging, and differences between these two and
sending personal email that is likely to be offensive.

If you think we're all better off dead, or better off not being lawyers,
and enter a game advocating that view, then I'll judge it like any other
game (free time and comp??.z5 permitting). If I had gotten to Jarod's
Journey, for example, I would have judged it like any other game and
given it a 1 for being actively annoying.

>> Well, it's advocating a worldview. People rarely communicate their
>> worldviews just for the sake of communicating them
>

>Maybe not *their* worldviews, but most art (apart from the extremely
>didactic) is quite a bit more complex than just a manifesto about the
>author's worldview. So in the sense that art gets made that communicates a
>worldview without advocating it, that happens all the time.
>

Some art promotes a worldview, some describes it, some is a manifesto.
The latter tends to fall into the artistic category I think of as "bad".

>> The point holds, though: I think it's unfair to mark something down
>> for advocating a view of the world, especially if you wouldn't do the same
>> for, oh, say, a political worldview.
>

>And indeed, I wrote in my review, "I'll try to set aside my fundamental


>personal objections to the game's announced intent and review it simply as

>IF." However, if a game is trying to sway me toward a viewpoint that I
>find repugnant (or even just not compelling), I'm liable to enjoy that
>game less, and then I *will* mark it down.
>

I *don't* set aside fundamental personal objections. If I find a game
offensive, I mark it down accordingly. If few other people find it so,
then my vote doesn't make a whole lot of difference. If it offends a lot
of people, then it deserves to get a low rating.

(My philosophy of judging is that I judge 'em as I see 'em and let Mark
sort it out.)

>> It's interesting that you mention C.S. Lewis, though (assuming you are),
>> since most of his books are apologetic--directed at nonbelievers, aimed at

>> persuading. [...]


>> If you enjoyed and didn't feel yelled at by Lewis (some
>> do), perhaps we don't really disagree.
>

>I don't think we do disagree, or at least not very much. I confess that my
>experience reading Lewis was much longer ago than my Chaucer or Dante -- I
>read all the Narnia books as a kid, and missed the Christian allegorical
>stuff entirely.

That's what I did at first. On later readings, I noticed the allegory,
didn't really like it, and very much enjoyed the books anyway. I'd
also recomment "Screwtape Letters" as a series of letters by a devil in
a Christian hell that this agnostic finds well worth reading.

Dante, on the other hand, I disliked. The Divine Comedy seemed to be
very heavily dominated by hordes of Renaissance Italians that I never
heard of being tortured. If there was some reason why this was supposed
to be good fiction, the translation must have eliminated it.

However, that this was even *possible* points to a quality
>in Lewis that Jarod lacked. I don't think anybody, even my 8-year-old
>self, could miss JJ's evangelical intent.
>

Right. A *good* evangelical adventure would be enjoyable for an agnostic
and would move the story through on a more or less religious path,
something like "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe".

For anybody thinking of writing IF to try to convert people, I'd suggest
reading C.S. Lewis and Robert Heinlein, both of whom have had a great
deal of success in propagating their views while writing enjoyable
stories. (Heinlein is, I think, one of the big reasons science fiction
fans are so heavily Libertarian.) Doubtless other people will have
different recommendations.

One way to do it, to be more specific, would be to present a good
character motivated by religion. (There are others; this is an extremely
bad description of Screwtape, for example.) This would be more difficult
in IF, as it would either have to be a memorable NPC or some way would
have to be found to give the player religious motives, and that sounds
extremely difficult.

>I've also noticed that you're in a rather ironic position -- I keep
>criticizing JJ, and you're not exactly inclined to defend it. It's kind of
>like when First Amendment champions found themselves aligned with 2 Live
>Crew. :)
>

It's bad art, which I find somewhat offensive, and I really do have to
defend the author's right to enter it in the comp. The problem with
having strong beliefs on certain rights is that you always find yourself
defending the right of somebody to do something you strongly disapprove
of.


--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
da...@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/20/00
to
On Sun, 19 Nov 2000, Jason Melancon wrote:

> Let me ask you this. Suppose the evangelism had been not about
> religion, but politics? Again, not just presenting a worldview, but
> actively trying to convince people that it's the correct one?

As Duncan and I are concluding in the other part of this thread, it would
all depend on how it was done. If I saw a game subtitled, for example, "A
game that will hopefully show you why it's not a choice, it's a child", or
"A game that will prove why homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to marry", I
would be instantly repelled, and pissed.

If, on the other hand, a game dramatized the situation of a PC with an
unwanted pregnancy, or the situation of a child mocked because its parents
are lesbians or something, and did it well, with a fair presentation
and so on, then sure, that would be fine. I still might not like the
message, but as long as there's a good story, involving gameplay, quality
writing, etc. then it would engage me and draw me into discussion and
thought about the issues rather than just telling me what to think because
the game says so. That's what I meant by "handing out reductionist
platitudes" in my JJ review.

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Nov 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/20/00
to
>On Thu, 16 Nov 2000, Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>
>> Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:
>>
>> > ATWCTW is, as far as I can remember, the first competition game that
>> > shares its fictional "universe" with a previous competition game.
>>
>> "Aayela" and "Uncle Zebulon's Will".
>
>Ah, yes. I had forgotten, I think because the connection is much less
>explicit than in ATWCTW.

In fact, it's so much less explicit that even I, the author, forgot
all about it and publicly denied that there was a connection - until
somebody quoted the introduction of "Aayela". :-)

>> In a very convoluted way, "RTZ:AS" and "The Meteor, The Stone, And A
>> Long Glass Of Sherbet".
>
>Well... a *very* convoluted way, maybe. Meteor was more a tribute than a
>full-fledged participant in the Zork universe. It's kind of like saying...
>well, I can't think of a good example, but I never thought of them as
>being set in the same universe.

I think of "Sherbet" as being set in sort of an alternate version of
the Zork universe; an homage, certainly, but more than that. It's been
said that the "Sherbet" universe is jus almost, but not quite, the Zork
universe is as mundane as to avoid copyright infringement, an
explanation which I find just a bit disappointing.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, m...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~mol ------

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/20/00
to
Magnus Olsson <m...@pobox.com> wrote:
> In article <Pine.GSO.3.96.100111...@ucsu.colorado.edu>,
> Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:
>>On Thu, 16 Nov 2000, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

>>> In a very convoluted way, "RTZ:AS" and "The Meteor, The Stone, And A
>>> Long Glass Of Sherbet".
>>
>>Well... a *very* convoluted way, maybe. Meteor was more a tribute than a
>>full-fledged participant in the Zork universe. It's kind of like saying...
>>well, I can't think of a good example, but I never thought of them as
>>being set in the same universe.

> I think of "Sherbet" as being set in sort of an alternate version of
> the Zork universe; an homage, certainly, but more than that.

You are all very strange aliens. :)

From the moment I started playing it, I took "Sherbet" as being in the
Zork universe, no waffling, no quibbling. Just many many centuries
later, and (of course) after the end of the Age of Magick.

Wasn't that obvious?

kar...@fermi2.chem.yale.edu

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Nov 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/20/00
to
Steven Howard <mrb...@earthlink.net> wrote:
> In <3a171429...@goliath2.usenet-access.com>, on 11/19/00
> at 12:03 AM, ca...@wurb.com (Carl Muckenhoupt) said:

> I spent a lot
> more time complaining about the implementation and the quality of the
> writing. Oh, and weird stuff like the invisible donkey and not being
> able to wear the backpack and how Jarod happens to be both a Jew and the
> son of a high ranking Roman officer.

Didn't you see "The Life of Brian"?

-Amir


Duncan Stevens

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Nov 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/20/00
to

"Paul O'Brian" <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote in message
news:Pine.GSO.3.96.100111...@ucsu.colorado.edu...
> On Sat, 18 Nov 2000, Duncan Stevens wrote:
>
> > A game
> > could perfectly well have the same agenda as Jarod's Journey but seek to
> > sway you toward Christianity in a way that does respect your right to
make
> > up your mind--by not shouting slogans at you, say. (I've been kicking
around
> > an idea along these lines, in fact.) Making an argument isn't inherently
> > disrespectful, I hope.
>
> Not inherently so, no. There are respectful and disrespectful ways to
> advance a point of view. I felt JJ fell into the latter camp.

I agree.

> > I'm not sure what "right thing" means in this context. If JJ's author
> > honestly believes that you, the player, will be better off if you accept
> > this worldview, in a sense it would be wrong/uncharitable for him to
keep
> > his trap shut. (Of course, effectiveness is a question.)
>

> Now this, on the other hand, is just specious logic. Just because
> somebody believes in something, that in no way makes it right for that
> person to do all they can to make sure everybody falls in line with it. If

> I believe that we're all better off dead, that doesn't give me the right
> to kill people. (Yes, of course this is an extreme example, but there are
> plenty of milder ones. If I think you'd be better off as a film critic
> than a lawyer, does that make it "uncharitable/wrong" for me *not* to
> email you with "lawyers are evil" tirades?)

Not to get all relativistic on you, but: in your moral universe, if you
truly believe that and if there's no competing moral principle that dictates
against doing such a thing, then no, it's not uncharitable/wrong. You don't
do so because (a) you recognize how extraordinarily ineffective such a
tactic would be and (b) you *do* have a competing moral principle, one I'll
call loosely Not Annoying Or Offending People Without A Really Good Reason.
The moral calculus for the JJ author, on the other hand, is a little
different: he firmly believes that you, the player, will burn in hell if you
don't take his message to heart, which (somewhat understandably) tends to
overwhelm the Not Annoying/Offending People principle. (Presumably, you
would annoy or offend me if I were about to go over a cliff.) Throw in the
author's apparent (presumably honest) failure to understand how ineffective
his approach is, and there you go--justification, as far as he's concerned,
that can't be undone without disproving the truth of the underlying belief.

> > Well, it's advocating a worldview. People rarely communicate their
> > worldviews just for the sake of communicating them
>

> Maybe not *their* worldviews, but most art (apart from the extremely
> didactic) is quite a bit more complex than just a manifesto about the
> author's worldview. So in the sense that art gets made that communicates a
> worldview without advocating it, that happens all the time.

This is straying, but: yes, if you take "worldview" as "the entirety of the
artist's belief system." People rarely communicate worldviews in that sense
without advocating them. Most art communicates some sort of belief or
perspective that's much more limited than "everything the artist believes,"
but when it does, it's usually in support of that belief. (It's rare that
you see someone communicating his belief in order to show that it's wrong.)
You might get an artist whose work comments on a certain worldview, say, and
thereby advocates a certain critical perspective on that worldview.

> > The point holds, though: I think it's unfair to mark something down
> > for advocating a view of the world, especially if you wouldn't do the
same
> > for, oh, say, a political worldview.
>

> And indeed, I wrote in my review, "I'll try to set aside my fundamental


> personal objections to the game's announced intent and review it simply as

> IF." However, if a game is trying to sway me toward a viewpoint that I
> find repugnant (or even just not compelling), I'm liable to enjoy that
> game less, and then I *will* mark it down.

Fair enough.

> > It's interesting that you mention C.S. Lewis, though (assuming you are),
> > since most of his books are apologetic--directed at nonbelievers, aimed
at

> > persuading. [...]


> > If you enjoyed and didn't feel yelled at by Lewis (some
> > do), perhaps we don't really disagree.
>

> I don't think we do disagree, or at least not very much. I confess that my
> experience reading Lewis was much longer ago than my Chaucer or Dante -- I
> read all the Narnia books as a kid, and missed the Christian allegorical

> stuff entirely. However, that this was even *possible* points to a quality


> in Lewis that Jarod lacked. I don't think anybody, even my 8-year-old
> self, could miss JJ's evangelical intent.

Ah. I was thinking of Lewis's nonfiction stuff, which obviously is much more
direct--but I think you'd probably think the same: there are intelligent and
nonreductionist arguments that appeal to reason rather than commanding blind
faith.

> Religious stories and myths partake of some extremely powerful dramatic
> tropes. In case I haven't been clear about this, I have *no* objection
> whatsoever to the use of those tropes in art, even if the intent of the
> author is to turn me into a Jehovah's Witness or something. In fact, I
> don't even care about the intent of the author, since I don't really
> see that as available information -- just my relationship with
> the art. You'll note that all my objections to JJ in my review are
> ascribed to what the game is doing, not what the author is doing.

Mmmm--well, you did object to the author's telling you up front what his
intent was, meaning that the information was available. (All too available.)
JJ wouldn't have been a significantly better game if it hadn't done that, of
course; it just would have taken a little longer to discern where it was
going. Wouldn't you have been just as annoyed?

That aside, I don't understand your distinction between the game and the
author.

> I've also noticed that you're in a rather ironic position -- I keep
> criticizing JJ, and you're not exactly inclined to defend it. It's kind of
> like when First Amendment champions found themselves aligned with 2 Live
> Crew. :)

Well, no, I'm not, because I share only a few more of its beliefs than you
do (and I criticized it just as harshly, though in different terms, and gave
it roughly the same rating). Nor do I have much sympathy for clueless
evangelism; why people think they can turn off their common-sense knowledge
about the world because they're talking about God is beyond me. As with
First Amendment absolutists, or anti-death-penalty activists saddled with
defending someone who's (definitely) committed a really reprehensible crime,
I wouldn't mind having a better example to defend. (All the more reason to
get off my butt and go write said example.)

--Duncan

Zimri

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Nov 20, 2000, 7:49:48 PM11/20/00
to
"Paul O'Brian" <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote in message
news:Pine.GSO.3.96.100112...@ucsu.colorado.edu...

> On Sun, 19 Nov 2000, Jason Melancon wrote:
>
> > Let me ask you this. Suppose the evangelism had been not about
> > religion, but politics? Again, not just presenting a worldview,
but
> > actively trying to convince people that it's the correct one?
>
> As Duncan and I are concluding in the other part of this thread, it
would
> all depend on how it was done. If I saw a game subtitled, for
example, "A
> game that will hopefully show you why it's not a choice, it's a
child", or
> "A game that will prove why homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to
marry", I
> would be instantly repelled, and pissed.
>
> If, on the other hand, a game dramatized the situation of a PC with
an
> unwanted pregnancy, or the situation of a child mocked because its
parents
> are lesbians or something, and did it well, with a fair presentation
> and so on, then sure, that would be fine.

I hate to point this out, but your descriptive examples represent the
polar opposite of your earlier-stated examples.

A pro-life game would star a character -after- the abortion. For the
woman, these include physical side effects from the procedure
(including future miscarriages), emotional anguish, possibly run-ins
with the martyrdom wing of NARAL (with friends like these...). The
baby of course is dead. There may be a ghost, or hallucinations of a
ghost.

An anti-homosexual-adoption game would star the child whose adoptive
parents fight each other. Gays and their allies don't like to admit
it, but there's a lot of that going around. (Who wears the pants in
the family?) For male couples, there is additionally an increased
danger of catching blood diseases, like AIDS, from "pushing parts of
the body beyond their design limits", as it were.

In neither case would society's negative reaction be a factor. The
author would know enough to set them in a liberal town whose public
would support the protagonist. He or she would also know enough not to
descend into stereotypes. For abortion: "my body, my baby, my
business" is a stereotype (few women are this crass, I hope). In the
gay adoption scenario: child molestation is a stereotype (that
happens, but straights are just as bad). The author would also know
enough not to bring in religion, or other topics which distract from
the central message. If the author was trying to convince you, that
is.

> I still might not like the
> message, but as long as there's a good story, involving gameplay,
quality
> writing, etc. then it would engage me and draw me into discussion
and
> thought about the issues rather than just telling me what to think
because
> the game says so. That's what I meant by "handing out reductionist
> platitudes" in my JJ review.

Right. But do you really think you could handle a pro-life game, or an
anti-gay-adoption game, however well it was done?

Personally? I only got through Rameses after the competition grades
were in. I still haven't dared Dinner With Andre. Also in the pro-life
case I've talked to a few who've gone through it. So I don't think I
could deal with this sort of game.

--
-- Zimri
***********
"No adult human really knows anyplace. You have to crawl everywhere
you can crawl, lick anything interesting, trace all the smells to
their sources, listen to ants trooping across walls, and eat a few
spiders before you really know a place."
-- Corey the Cat ("All Too Familiar", J Robert King, Dragon #259)


Jake Wildstrom

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Nov 20, 2000, 11:02:40 PM11/20/00
to
In article <l6pj1tska8e3ut0rc...@4ax.com>,
Norton Zenger <tw...@catholic.org> wrote:
>Mmmmmm. Wasn't there a game a while ago where you played a vicar that was
>pretty-well liked?

Well, in Muse you're a vicar. Your occupation, however, serves not as
a staging point for any sort of religious revelation. Rather, it seems
more to emphasize charicteristics of the clergy other than devotion --
in particular charity. It also helps to establish the main character
as educated and more than a little bookish. But that being said,
"Muse" isn't any more about religion than a story about a computer
programmer on holiday wold be about computer science.

+--First Church of Briantology--Order of the Holy Quaternion--+
| A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into |
| theorems. -Paul Erdos |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+
| Jake Wildstrom |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+

Jason Melancon

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Nov 21, 2000, 12:04:55 AM11/21/00
to
On Tue, 21 Nov 2000 00:49:48 GMT, "Zimri" <zim...@earthlink.net>
wrote:

> For male couples, there is additionally an increased
> danger of catching blood diseases, like AIDS, from "pushing parts
> of the body beyond their design limits", as it were.

Really? I heard you get AIDS from a particularly nasty virus. Also,
what's this got to do with adopting children? (It's clear what it has
to do with proselytizing.)

--
Jason Melancon

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 21, 2000, 1:11:58 AM11/21/00
to

The appropriate reference is of course _Ash: A Secret History_.

--Z, by the Green Christ

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Nov 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/21/00
to
On Mon, 20 Nov 2000 21:59:06 -0500, Norton Zenger <tw...@catholic.org>
wrote:

>>And I'd say the same today. I'd like to see a well-crafted Christian
>>game. I've never seen one, but it surely isn't impossible. Pretty
>>much every other art form has handled religious themes well.
>

>Mmmmmm. Wasn't there a game a while ago where you played a vicar that was
>pretty-well liked?

Are you talking about "Muse: an Autumn Romance"? Sure, the
protagonist is a clergyman, but I wouldn't exactly call the game
primarily religious in tone. I mean, "Wishbringer" has a postman for
the main character, but it isn't really a game about the postal
system, even if you do have to deliver a letter at one point.

Actually, though, looking it over, my statement seems overly broad.
My apologies.

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Nov 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/21/00
to
On Tue, 21 Nov 2000 05:04:55 GMT, afn5...@afn.org (Jason Melancon)
wrote:

Okay, that's enough. Go to your room. Both of you.

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/21/00
to
On Tue, 21 Nov 2000, Zimri wrote:

> A pro-life game would star a character -after- the abortion.

[...]


> An anti-homosexual-adoption game would star the child whose adoptive
> parents fight each other.

[...]


> The author would also know enough not to bring in religion

Oh dear. I appear to have brought up abortion, homosexuality, and religion
in the same message. How terribly, terribly foolish of me. I'm going to
stand in this corner, face the wall, and be very quiet now.

That is, unless anybody wants to discuss gun control.

:)

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/21/00
to
On Mon, 20 Nov 2000, Duncan Stevens wrote:

> The moral calculus for the JJ author, on the other hand, is a little
> different: he firmly believes that you, the player, will burn in hell if you
> don't take his message to heart, which (somewhat understandably) tends to
> overwhelm the Not Annoying/Offending People principle. (Presumably, you
> would annoy or offend me if I were about to go over a cliff.)

I'm having a hard time formulating an objection to this without expressing
how ridiculous I consider the "burn in hell" belief. So, to use your
analogy, if you had explained to me that you are going over the cliff
intentionally and have a good reason for doing so, then no, I wouldn't
annoy or offend you about it. On the particular subject we're discussing,
I believe the explanation should be unnecessary.

> This is straying, but: yes, if you take "worldview" as "the entirety of the
> artist's belief system." People rarely communicate worldviews in that sense
> without advocating them. Most art communicates some sort of belief or
> perspective that's much more limited than "everything the artist believes,"
> but when it does, it's usually in support of that belief. (It's rare that
> you see someone communicating his belief in order to show that it's wrong.)
> You might get an artist whose work comments on a certain worldview, say, and
> thereby advocates a certain critical perspective on that worldview.

Sure. Kaged springs to mind. Of course, I can't be sure exactly what
Ian's viewpoint is on that, because he hasn't told me. Therefore, I react
to the *game*, not to my extrapolation of what Ian's worldview must be.
This is what I mean when, a little further down, I say that I don't
consider the author's worldview to be available information. I'd be
interested to hear how Metamorphoses, for instance, communicates some
aspect of Emily's worldview. I don't know Emily. What justification do I
have for assuming that her work explains some aspect of her soul to me,
let alone deciding just what that aspect is and what Metamorphoses says
about it?

> Mmmm--well, you did object to the author's telling you up front what his
> intent was, meaning that the information was available. (All too available.)

I think I'm using the word "intent" in a different sense than you mean
here. I'm thinking of it encompassing all the reasons why people do the
things they do, and why they do them the way they do them. I don't
consider an author's intent fully available, even to the author herself.
Certainly, in the case of JJ, the author's *avowed* intent is to bring me
closer to his God. But even you wondered whether the real intent was to
caricature Christianity. Ultimately, we don't know. We can only react to
the work.

> That aside, I don't understand your distinction between the game and the
> author.

Does that make it a little clearer?

Zimri

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Nov 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/21/00
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"Paul O'Brian" <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote in message
news:Pine.GSO.3.96.100112...@ucsu.colorado.edu...
> On Tue, 21 Nov 2000, Zimri wrote:
>
> > A pro-life game would star a character -after- the abortion.
> [...]

> > An anti-homosexual-adoption game would star the child whose
adoptive
> > parents fight each other.
> [...]
> > The author would also know enough not to bring in religion
>
> Oh dear. I appear to have brought up abortion, homosexuality, and
religion
> in the same message. How terribly, terribly foolish of me. I'm going
to
> stand in this corner, face the wall, and be very quiet now.
>
> That is, unless anybody wants to discuss gun control.
>
> :)

Now, technically I was discussing arguments that one MIGHT use, not
actually accepting those arguments... ;^)

My point was (pace Jason) that valid arguments do exist for the
politically-incorrect stance. I chose some that (to me) seem at the
time to have the most merit. They've probably got counter-arguments.
Plus, other factors, in some/many/most instances, will outweigh them.
The task of the author is to air such issues in such a way that does
not offend the player (too much).

Duncan Stevens

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Nov 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/21/00
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"Paul O'Brian" <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote in message
news:Pine.GSO.3.96.100112...@ucsu.colorado.edu...

> On Mon, 20 Nov 2000, Duncan Stevens wrote:
>
> > The moral calculus for the JJ author, on the other hand, is a little
> > different: he firmly believes that you, the player, will burn in hell if
you
> > don't take his message to heart, which (somewhat understandably) tends
to
> > overwhelm the Not Annoying/Offending People principle. (Presumably, you
> > would annoy or offend me if I were about to go over a cliff.)
>
> I'm having a hard time formulating an objection to this without expressing
> how ridiculous I consider the "burn in hell" belief. So, to use your
> analogy, if you had explained to me that you are going over the cliff
> intentionally and have a good reason for doing so, then no, I wouldn't
> annoy or offend you about it. On the particular subject we're discussing,
> I believe the explanation should be unnecessary.

Not really, though, since the working assumption for JJ's author is that
you're not doing so "intentionally" at all. I mean, you're not saying to him
"Sorry, forget it, I've decided I'd rather go to hell," you're saying "I
don't believe I'll go to hell if I reject your belief." Remember, we have to
assume, for purposes of this exercise, that he's right. So your intent isn't
to go over the cliff; it's to keep driving in the belief that you won't go
over the cliff. If he has superior knowledge (as he does, from his
perspective), then he's morally bound to do something.

> > This is straying, but: yes, if you take "worldview" as "the entirety of
the
> > artist's belief system." People rarely communicate worldviews in that
sense
> > without advocating them. Most art communicates some sort of belief or
> > perspective that's much more limited than "everything the artist
believes,"
> > but when it does, it's usually in support of that belief. (It's rare
that
> > you see someone communicating his belief in order to show that it's
wrong.)
> > You might get an artist whose work comments on a certain worldview, say,
and
> > thereby advocates a certain critical perspective on that worldview.
>

> Sure. Kaged springs to mind. Of course, I can't be sure exactly what
> Ian's viewpoint is on that, because he hasn't told me. Therefore, I react
> to the *game*, not to my extrapolation of what Ian's worldview must be.
> This is what I mean when, a little further down, I say that I don't
> consider the author's worldview to be available information. I'd be
> interested to hear how Metamorphoses, for instance, communicates some
> aspect of Emily's worldview. I don't know Emily. What justification do I
> have for assuming that her work explains some aspect of her soul to me,
> let alone deciding just what that aspect is and what Metamorphoses says
> about it?

None, presumably, but I no longer see the connection to the original point,
which was about the fairness of marking down a game because it advocates a
worldview (and you've since pointed out, and I've acknowledged, that you
tried not to do that). From there we got into works of art that don't
advocate a full-blown philosophy of life but rather a certain perspective.
It's true that the information about the author's worldview isn't always
available, but sometimes it is--try 1984, or Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward, or,
well, Jarod's Journey. (Oh dear. "Area reviewer equates Tim Emmerich with
Orwell and Solzhenitsyn.") In reviewing any of those works, the reviewer,
IMO, is better off evaluating the effectiveness of the author's advocacy of
the point of view than evaluating the point of view itself. So even when
discerning the author's viewpoint on the subject at hand doesn't take a lot
of extrapolation, criticism should take care to maintain the distinction
between the artistic aspect of the work and the philosophical/political
underpinnings. That's all I'm driving at, and I'm pretty sure we agree.

--Duncan

Michael Straight

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Nov 22, 2000, 12:17:16 AM11/22/00
to
On 20 Nov 2000, Adam J. Thornton wrote:

> In article <3a171429...@goliath2.usenet-access.com>,
> Carl Muckenhoupt <ca...@wurb.com> wrote:
> >And I'd say the same today. I'd like to see a well-crafted Christian
> >game. I've never seen one, but it surely isn't impossible. Pretty
> >much every other art form has handled religious themes well.
>
> Oh, there was one.

[...]

> Perfect? Far from it. Most of it was an unabashed puzzlefest. But it
> did handle Christian themes better than any other IF I have yet played.

I thought Muse did a good job with a Christian theme, although it's a
theme that might be claimed by other religions/worldviews (and no, I'm not
talking about the protagonist being a clergyman).

SMTIRCAHIAGEHLT

Michael Straight

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Nov 22, 2000, 12:21:09 AM11/22/00
to
On 21 Nov 2000, Jake Wildstrom wrote:

> In article <l6pj1tska8e3ut0rc...@4ax.com>,
> Norton Zenger <tw...@catholic.org> wrote:
> >Mmmmmm. Wasn't there a game a while ago where you played a vicar that was
> >pretty-well liked?
>
> Well, in Muse you're a vicar. Your occupation, however, serves not as
> a staging point for any sort of religious revelation. Rather, it seems
> more to emphasize charicteristics of the clergy other than devotion --
> in particular charity. It also helps to establish the main character
> as educated and more than a little bookish. But that being said,
> "Muse" isn't any more about religion than a story about a computer
> programmer on holiday wold be about computer science.

Well, I think the "happiest" ending involves the protagonist taking a
Christian view of the game's events (as illustrated in the final box
quote), but it's not a sentiment that only a Christian could have.

SMTIRCAHIAGEHLT

Paul O'Brian

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Nov 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/24/00
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On Tue, 21 Nov 2000, Duncan Stevens wrote:

> Not really, though, since the working assumption for JJ's author is that
> you're not doing so "intentionally" at all. I mean, you're not saying to him
> "Sorry, forget it, I've decided I'd rather go to hell," you're saying "I
> don't believe I'll go to hell if I reject your belief." Remember, we have to
> assume, for purposes of this exercise, that he's right.

Oh. Well, in that case, I think I've reached the limit of my ability to
usefully participate in the exercise.

> So even when
> discerning the author's viewpoint on the subject at hand doesn't take a lot
> of extrapolation, criticism should take care to maintain the distinction
> between the artistic aspect of the work and the philosophical/political
> underpinnings. That's all I'm driving at, and I'm pretty sure we agree.

I think we do. Thanks for the non-flamewar.

Rainfire

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Dec 1, 2000, 9:21:54 PM12/1/00
to
On Mon, 20 Nov 2000 21:59:06 -0500, Norton Zenger <tw...@catholic.org>
wrote:

>Mmmmmm. Wasn't there a game a while ago where you played a vicar that was
>pretty-well liked?


Well, if you mean a /long/ time ago, there was an AGT game by the name
of "Pastoral Pitfalls" that seemed to be fairly well-liked.

Daniel
(a.k.a. Rainfire)

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