IFcomp 2016: Fair

Next: “Fair”. In this case, an elementary school science fair. We’re a self-published sci-fi author, and we’ve been asked to judge. Maybe “fair” is a play on words, and being fair in our judgement is going to be a major plot point….

There are the five finalists to look at; we can talk to the students who made those exhibits, and, sometimes, to their parents; then, all too soon, we’ve got to get up on stage and rank the finalists. The End. Really? It can’t be as simple as that….

And it isn’t. There’s a score function tied to how much money we make out of this, so our object apparently is to maximise our profits from this little shindig. It isn’t hard to locate the source of all these profits: we have books to sell, and one student has parents who are anxious enough to resort to bribery to secure a first-place position. The trick is to find the time for all of this … and the answer to that is a simple time machine that rolls one back to the beginning of the hour.

It’s not a perfect rollback, though. It looks as if all it does is set the clock back an hour. Mischief done to the exhibits persist. It’s probably just as well, if we’re able to pick things out of them. It would be madness if repeated timeloops resulted in dozens of copies of various objects in the game world.

One thing I do appreciate is the fleshing out of the students–Stephanie and Amber, in particular. Speaking to them reveals a depth of character somewhat beyond the stereotype or expectation one might have at first glance.

Now, this is Hanon Ondricek, who gave use “Final Girl”, “Transparent”, and “The Baker of Shireton”. There’s got to be some sort of random procedural background shenanigans happening, whether we have to deal with it or not. In this case, we have a pair of mischievous little girls running amok, taking things from the exhibits and cutting the ribbons tying down the balloons. We have the book sale mechanic, which is a bit of a game in itself–though I think it could be more. (You have to answer questions to raise interest in your book; for the most part and with perhaps one exception, it seems as though each question has a standard right answer, but I wonder if different answers could be right or wrong depending on the person you’re speaking to, making this also an exercise in observation.)

I wonder if there’s a secret to dealing with those two troublemakers. Or if there’s something more about each exhibit than meets the eye. Hm.

In an accounting of achievements, the game lists a few different endings. But these “endings” are based on which student won, which is something we have complete and unquestioned control over, regardless of what happens. There’s no sense of achievement there; it really feels more like a means than an end. With the spotlight on earning money, it really seems as though that should have more significance, both in the summation of the game and in the game itself. But it seems to be just two cheques, a few book sales, and one Last Lousy Point I was unable to find. And at the end, aside from a listing of things one might be able to afford to do now, there’s not much fanfare attached to it. It’s a bit anticlimactic, really.

It’s like … gaily painted Easter eggs. Some nice artistry on the shells, and maybe some complicated patterns; but then you eat them and they’re just hard-boiled eggs. Accompany them with some fancy scones (easier than they look) and orange pekoe tea. Not a bad breakfast, I guess, but I can’t help feeling like I’m missing something here.

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