IFcomp 2016: How to Win at Rock Paper Scissors

“How to Win at Rock Paper Scissors”. In case you were wondering.

The situation as presented: we were the champion, once, but we were defeated; and now we must win back the championship. The first twist: the sport in question is the singularly unprepossessing game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. There’s a mention about “praying to the gods for help”, whch seems as though it could be a figure of speech, but we the player will find later (the third twist) that this is real. We apparently are so deeply enmeshed in the bloodsport of rock-paper-scissors (seriously?) that we’ve set up a shrine in our school locker with an altar and everything.

The second twist shows up rather deliciously on our first encounter with an NPC. Given a sign that resembles one of the hand gestures of the game, we respond with the one that defeats it … and then the NPC is sucked away into a tear in reality. Whoa. It appears that part of “praying to the gods for help” involves the gathering of souls as offering.

It’s the juxtaposition of vast, reality-bending power and triviality that made “Three Card Trick” so special, but this time the sacrificial act feels cleaner and somehow less distressing. We don’t see what really happens to the people we reap, aside from their disappearance into the vortex: for all we know, these people could be having tea and scones in Oz. One of the “victims” even rolls her eyes at us and walks into the vortex of her own volition, further reducing the sense of the horrible.

We’ve essentially extracted the horrible from the ridiculous, eliminated it, and are now focussed only on the joy of the quest.

Implementation-wise, the gameworld is pretty stripped-down. Only a few objects beyond the necessary are implemented. It feels a bit austere, perhaps in part because the story is set at a generic high school and therefore carries with it the idea of the functional institution. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, any more than a bare white wall is a bad thing for the display of a surrealist painting. I feel that it focusses attention on the task at hand. This isn’t, after all, a game in which we’re really seeking to understand the protagonist’s motivations and their place within the world. They have one idea and one idea only–the game of Rock-Paper-Scissors–and that all-consuming obsession is sufficient characterisation to carry the piece.

I did feel, though, that the ending was just a touch anti-climactic.

French toast, cut into neat little finger-strips. Eggs were broken, but this is really more about the toast than about the egg. Light but not too light; no frills; accompanied by a chocolate malt drink like Milo.

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