IFcomp 2016: All I Do is Dream

The next item on my list was supposed to be “Hill Ridge Lost & Found”, but … apparently the TADS interpreter on my netbook needs to be updated, and apparently I need to keep a record of my playlist on my netbook if I plan on taking it anywhere without a wifi connection. So I ended up just picking a game at random, and the lucky winner was “All I Do is Dream”….

Well, this was bleak, but at least it was short. I guess we’re someone suffering from depression, and we’re just pottering around one evening before our roommate gets home from work, and we’re prostrated by all the stuff we need to do in order to get our life in order and we can’t, we just can’t. We find a trumpet and play a few notes, but our crushing self-hatred gets in the way. The ending does suggest a spot of hope, but that is about it.

Okay, let’s talk about the structure first. The basic game appears to be: explore a few options, and once the triggers have been hit, follow a new path down single-choice options (“turn the page”) to what appears to be the ending, a single-choice option that leads back into itself. It’s not very involved. In a way, it almost feels like just the beginning, as if it’s setup for another story where we’re actively struggling with our issues with this trumpet we found as a touchstone, a crutch, or a tool. As an introduction, it works pretty well; as a full story/game, it feels too slight to actually say anything.

It’s convincingly written. Our reasons for finding everyday stuff too much to deal with do seem real. The self-hatred does come through.

Now, here’s the thing. There are three types of people who might be playing this: people who sympathise with depression-sufferers though they do not themselves suffer, people who neither suffer nor sympathise, and people who do suffer from depression. The first group already sympathises and you’re not telling them anything they don’t already know. The second group isn’t going to have the patience to sit through a demonstration of what it’s like to be depressed. And the third group, well, do we really want to reinforce the despair in their lives?

I could be wrong. It may be that people suffering from depression will read this as “I am with you” rather than “let me tell you what it’s like”. It may be that the brevity of the game was intentional, to speak to the second group and finish on a “maybe-hopeful” note before they have a chance to turn away … thus planting a seed from which future understanding might grow. That’s … a possibility. I feel like I might be spinning it a little too hard for that interpretation, though.

If the author is herself a sufferer of depression, all I can say is that I’m sorry.

As a game, I felt it was too short; as a story, too bleak. (Oddly enough, I think it could feel less bleak if there were an option to give up altogether at the point where we’re noodling around with the trumpet. It’s a matter of giving the player a sense of agency, which, of course, is totally non-depressive.) As a breakfast? I guess it’s a bit like a sandwich made the last two spoonsful of peanut butter in a jar: it feels sad and insubstantial, like the end of everything, but we keep scraping the spoon along the sides and there’s always just enough that we can keep licking peanut butter off the spoon. Spread it on the bread and fold the bread over. The flavour is there, but it feels incomplete, without something with which to wash it down.

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