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About the Story""Jarod!" comes the weakened call from the father's room. With a torn heart, Jarod remembers his father of old, a once great centurion. Jarod quickly runs to his father's bedside. When he kneels beside the bed, his father starts to speak.
"My son. I am proud of the responsible young man you have become. But, thinking back over my life, I can't get Golgotha out of my mind. As you know, my life was changed from witnessing that event. I'd seen so many crucified, yet he was different. He didn't resist when they drove in the spikes. His plea to Heaven was for our forgiveness, not his rescue! It is hard to believe, we were the ones killing him and he asked God to forgive us! Surely, he was the son of God!"
The father shifts in bed, weazing slightly. "I've prayed to God that you will learn about the man that I only had a glimpse of. I believe God has answered my prayer. You are to leave tomorrow on a journey of discovery to learn more about God's son, Jesus Christ."
After a fit of desperate gasping ends, the father continues. "Son, I beg you to go. Don't worry about your mother and I. But do come back as soon as your are finished. I want to hear about the journey and what you've found ... before I die."
Jarod immediately responds with "Yes, father" even though his mind is racing. It is filled with excitement, a sense of adventure, and a slight fear of the unknown." [--blurb from Competition Aught-Zero]
47th Place - 6th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2000)
-- Valentine Kopteltsev
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
There's one section that I found quite ironic -- Jarod meets a pharisee who is described as "praying loudly. So loudly that everyone nearby can hear him. Even in the short time that Jarod pauses to listen, it is obvious that the man is repeating himself. Is this what pleases the Lord?" From this description, we're supposed to realize that the pharisee's method of prayer is Not OK. But only one location away is a Christian priest who fits this same exact description. Not only that, the game itself fits this description. The deep irony of the pharisee section made me suspect that not only is the game evangelical, its evangelism isn't even well thought out.
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Jarod is a Christian pilgrim (or possibly evangelist; it's not very clear) in the late first-century Holy Land. The game's themes have little to do with the concerns of first-century Christians, though, and thinking of it as a historical piece would be a mistake; rather, it's consciously modeled on parables. In each section, Jarod visits a city and observes the ways different people express their faith; he then has to decide which of them is doing it right, or rather which message God wants him to derive from his observations. In each case there is only one right answer.
There are several problems with this. One is that the scenes Jarod observes don't always translate readily into parables; another is that the parables don't translate straightforwardly into morals. Yet another is that choosing between the morals is often arbitrary and unsupported; a lot of the morals don't seem to be in conflict with each other, and in places the texts quoted to explain why a choice was wrong could quite reasonably be taken to mean that it was right. In other words, unless you are already familiar with the author's very specific theological concerns and idiom of interpretation, Jarod's Journey is not just unfair as a game but incoherent as an argument.
The game violates a few of its own expressed maxims; one of the obviously-wrong choices is a Pharisee who prays in a conspicuous, repetitive, hollow, bombastic style that closely resembles the game's own approach to biblical quotes. Its text argues for the primacy of simple faith and prayer, but its mechanics seem to say that it's more important to give the correct answers to questions of doctrine.
It doesn't help that the tone is one of clean-cut, sanctimonious enthusiasm. Although the story makes it clear that he has been raised as a Christian, Jarod seems ingenuously surprised at basic tenets of the faith. The Holy Land seems to have been rather cleaned-up since the life of Christ; there are lots of hard-working tradespeople and a distinct absence of lepers, prostitutes, tax-collectors and lunatics. (The most disreputable people are a bunch of nasty-looking street toughs who turn out to be exactly what they look like.)
Games about ethics and religion are very difficult to do well, particularly if they advocate a very specific position. But the most basic design principle for them is that it's never a good idea to give the player a set of choices, then tell them that A is good and B and C are bad; it's boring gameplay and it's unpersuasive rhetoric. Jarod's Journey is worth playing because it demonstrates very clearly why this is.
It's not really that bad and long--there are only three puzzles, and they feel like multiple choice (which direction do you go, and the game cues why.) Before that, an angel meets your character, and I was worried some sort of hideous death would befall me if I didn't ask enough questions, or if I asked too many. Even that introductory part is cringy--the game seems extremely well meaning, but the lack of details combined with spoon feeding the player to push on felt kind of bad. That, and there seem to be two good choices based on if your personality is introverted or extroverted. Sorry, (Spoiler - click to show)introverts! You lose! Thankfully, the ending text gives some explanation, even if it's not too rigorous.
Imagining how huge the game might be, though, gave me ideas how to construct something moral. And the few times I saw this game mentioned, I built it up as a Pilgrim's Progress, and it was anything but. Of course, I could've saved time by playing the game and maybe having all those ideas a bit quicker. And it won't be the last time I'm faked out by a big-sounding name.
So, the moral? (Yes! I have some over-general advice of my own!) If something seems intimidating, and you sort of do or don't want to look into it? Give it a shot and plan to try a few things out, then move on! And that goes for reviewing or playing something old. Don't worry if it might be too good or too bad, or you're saying something too obvious or too obscure.
I think religious and non-religious people agree this is good, if overgeneral advice. Of course, as in the game, there are pharisees who get this principle wrong, but still, it's good advice, and following through will be more gratifying than getting 3 out of 3 on a multiple choice test. I hope I can say this without snark that I appreciated the sort of failure that resulted from this game, and it was easy to see how I might fall into the trap. And it was a less painful reminder than something more robust. Not that it's a good idea to do this all the time.
Jarod's Journey on IFDB
PollsThe following polls include votes for Jarod's Journey:
The worst IF ever? by theqbasicwizard
I'm wanting to do an episode for the podcast that deals with only the worst possible IF games ever programmed? You know the kind that if you would have played it for another minute longer, that you would have never played another IF ever...
Christianity in IF by Bainespal
Sam Kabo Ashwell's statement in his recent review of Cana According to Micah that "the best works dealing prominently with Christian themes are written by non-Christians" made me curious. Perhaps a list of games with serious Christian...
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