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About the StoryBus Station: Unbound is a fable about about finding yourself in-between places and times: a 'choose your own adventure' for grown-ups, in which the narrative lies in your own hands. Is it about an iconic building under threat from a short-sighted council or a horror story about infernal retribution? Or is it a tale of guilt, grief, home and forgetfulness? You decide.
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The authors describe this substantial, large work as primarily an interactive novel, but it works as a vaguely open-world exploration as well. There are lots of optional 'side quests' and characters with whom you can interact; exploration opens up different endings and storylines.
But this is built on an emotional heart, reflected in the parallels between the PC and the building. The location's brokenness reflects the PC's own. The shoddiness of the building itself, the glitchy machinery, the inertia of the buses, even the irritable, argumentative NPCs: aspects of these are reflected, in some way or other, in the PC's own relationships with their family and in their own life decisions. Perhaps even the liminal nature of the bus station - a space characterised by transition and impermanence - reflects how the PC stands on the cusp of something new.
The theme of symbolically rich buildings, buildings as containers for ideas, is not a new one. This idea, for instance, is taken more literally in Bruno Dias's Four Sittings in a Sinking House. In both, the titular building reflects brokenness elsewhere: it is the PC themselves in Bus Station, Unbound, while it is the owners' material worship in Four Sittings.
Something else I enjoyed in reading this were the contrasts and almost-contradictions in the bus station's 'characterisation'. It is described in ways that sit uneasily with each other. It is at once a "monstrous waste of money", but also a structure of "pale concrete petals", "heartlike" in its action. The storylines invite comparison between Preston Bus Station's mundanity and terror, human warmth and mechanical coldness.
There's a lot to explore here in Bus Station, Unbound.
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Better hope you can hack it. A Grand Guignol entry for ECTOCOMP 2016.
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