IFcomp 2016: Yes, my mother is…

Next on my playlist is “Yes, my mother is…”.

It appears we’re a sort of social worker or government official working with a marginalised segment of the population. There’s quite a bit of backstory involved, but it’s not really explicitly laid out step-by-step. Instead, we learn bits and pieces of it through our interactions and via the articles we unlock along the way.

Over the course of the story, we meet: one young person who needs our help, one who seeks to harm both us and those we seek to help, one who finds us an object of fascination, and one whom we have helped but who is now able to function without us. It seems like a good selection of the different sorts of people one might encounter while working with the marginalised. And through all these interactions, looms the figure of our mother, a legendary (and polarising) activist, whose shadow touches and colours all four interactions.

This is an exploration game, I think. There’s no real goal to achieve, except for the discovery and exploration of the history behind our protagonist and the movement championed by her mother. I do appreciate the complexity of the characters: with the possible exception of the hostile second interview, all are carefully nuanced … actually, I’m not sure it’s fair to say the hater isn’t nuanced either. After all, part of the deal is to understand some part of his hatred.

One of the characters rising out of our protagonist’s past is Bull, the only one whom we might actually meet in the course of the story. He seems rough but ultimately protective … until we connect him with “James Alexander”, the corrupt policeman described in the article of the same name. If we accept that article as accurate, how do we reconcile “Bull” with “James Alexander”? For that matter, how much can we believe of the articles we’re reading, and how much of it can we treat as spin?

For the record, I believe that people can be complex enough that the “James Alexander” article could be perfectly accurate and in no way a contradiction of the man we actually meet. Part of the theme of the story here seems to be the flattening of legendary characters: that people about whom much is written gradually become caricatures of themselves in the eyes of the public. The woman noted once for her confidence must therefore be always confident, and the man noted once for his corruption must therefore be capable of nothing higher. But people are always more than that.

As a game, it’s interesting to explore the different options in an effort to discover everything we can about the situation, and it’s short enough that we can do so without too much tedium. As a story, it’s a fable worth considering when looking out into the real world.

As a breakfast, I think it’s a fruit-yoghurt smoothie. Subtle flavours underneath a sharp, sour tang–which, you must remember, comes from a bacteria culture. Do we need something to drink, to wash it down? The game ends with our protagonist talking to herself in an effort to evaluate her day and how she is her mother’s daughter. So I guess if we’re having yoghurt for breakfast, maybe we’d wash it down with something very much like it already, like full-cream milk.

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