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Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2007 XYZZY Awards
1st Place - Spring Thing 2007
Play This Thing
Fate is a piece I come back to again and again in my thinking about the interactive potential of narrative, because it attempts something rarely done: It allows the player to craft a character who is not just "good" or "bad" or "aligned" to one or another ethical philosophy, but the representative of a more complex morality, one without labels. And there are a few strong moments where the player comes face-to-face with the cumulative implications of her choices, and they surprise a little.
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Despite the lack of a set time limit, a sense of urgency is created by the impending birth of Catherine's son. The player is periodically reminded that Catherine is very pregnant, often by painful descriptions. This sense of urgency blurs some of the moral and personal decisions Catherine must make in order to change her sons fate. Not wanting to spoil anything, I'll just say that some of these moral dilemmas are quite effective at disturbing a player who feels complicit to the wrongdoing.
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Number of Reviews: 6
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One might argue that the game is a bit manipulative. At several points when faced with what the game obviously wanted me to regard as a stark binary decision I thought of a more morally acceptable third way, but was refused the freedom to act on my idea. Nevertheless, Fate dares to ask the sort of big questions that conventional IF seldom gets near. A must-play for everyone.
I’m not sure how much “Fate”’s moral dilemmas worked for me, though. The central question always comes down to balancing suffering — are you willing to hurt X in order to save Y? — and while there are many permutations and many outcomes possible in the game, the choice often felt essentially arbitrary. Gijsbers does attempt to sketch in story, to provide weight and characterization to some of the characters, but I felt there was not enough meat here to make the major decision points really powerful.
So I enjoyed the game, and I thought it was an interesting essay in designing IF. I also thought it did not quite accomplish what it could have if it had framed its dilemmas a little differently (pitting different principles against one another) or else developed its characters more deeply (to make more interesting the choice of who has to suffer).
I did feel both that the game forced binary choices when there were other available options, however, and that the choices didn't feel like they had as much of an impact as I'd liked because the game plays so much like a game. By that, I mean that you don't worry about killing the aliens in Space Invaders because it's a game, it's set up, and that's what you do. This game is obviously more developed than Space Invaders, but I some of the NPCs were presented as transparent obstacles in the same way. Only a few choices really had an impact for me, and I think that more could be done to both give you a chance to develop your own character and to develop empathy toward the other characters.
As such, even though I'm aware of the existence of other endings and I can think of the points where I might have made things move differently, I'm not really compelled to play again and try to play it differently. I imagine that it has a certain degree of replay value for those who are, but that didn't really work for me. (I am wondering to what degree you can make the plot advance without making the choices I made, but not quite enough to replay.)
Still, it's a neat concept, and executed well enough to get the idea across.
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