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About the Story“The box is cardboard, a file box; it looks like it should contain years of tax returns. Except the holes on the sides have been shut with black masking tape. Except the lid is held in place with the same tape. Except it feels warmer and lighter to the touch than a box full of paper should. Nothing rattles inside it.”
Mere Anarchy is an interactive story about magic, struggle, and choice.
Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: April 4, 2015
Current Version: 1.0
Development System: Undum
Forgiveness Rating: Merciful
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2015
Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
This is formally and structurally a very very different piece from Terminator Chaser, but thematically they’re both taking on a question of class struggle, and of how much a protagonist in a disadvantaged position can do against the murderous brutality of the overlords. With Terminator Chaser I also found myself asking for more backstory, though in that case I may have failed to find some of what was there by not using memory/thought verbs on the right topics. To be clear, there’s a lot more in Mere Anarchy; I just would have liked deeper development of certain portions.
In any case, this is an assured piece of work that handles a number of potentially tricky things — flashbacks and memory, protagonist interiority, highly changeable text — so deftly that one might not even be aware they were challenging. Well worth a play, even if I wish it had delved deeper in one area.
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These Heterogenous Tasks
Its brevity forces an economy of focus; and the thing with which it is most concerned, oddly enough for a choice-based piece, is not plot or character so much as the methods and paraphernalia of magic, magic as Mission Impossible gadgets. But it does play to choice-based strengths in other ways: the story’s told zoomed-in, moment-to-moment experiential, as if from the perspective of a shaky hand-held camera; this has the effect of obscuring a great deal about the world and its characters, and even about the protagonist themself. The principal NPC, Ilana, provides much of the motive force behind the plot – but whether she does so as a friend, lover or just a co-conspirator is up to the player, and doesn’t have a major impact. The PC’s relationship with her is not central to what the story is about. Of the many things a choice can contribute to a story, a very common one is to stress how inconsequential that choice is to the Matter of the Work, as a signal that the important questions lie elsewhere. I was reminded, to some extent, of Sartre’s The Reprieve, where the focus on the moment-to-moment experience of individuals doesn’t reveal the great dramas of nations, as you’d expect in Shakespearean-history mode, but obscures them, portrays them as ungraspable, suggests how little anybody comprehends of these vast, looming changes.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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The story is about a small group of anarchists rebelling against an oppressive hierarchy. While the game uses magic, it feels more like a stand-in for power that allows the author to discuss class struggle in an attention-grabbing way.
I feel like this game has something to say, and does so in a way that deserves attention.
Strong work of fiction with some limitations in game design, December 27, 2015
Dias leads the reader through a hidden world of magic, where class divisions and privilege allow murder with impunity, and the upper class, elite, wizards practice a might makes right ethos.
The basic plot points seem fairly fixed; most choices seem to resolve more around how you see your actions. Are you seeking revenge or justice? Do you have an optimistic view or a nihilistic view? Much of the story is told through hints and style, creating a sense of curiosity and wonder.
Thematically, the story is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere or China Mieville's Kraken; the class conflicts and hidden world concepts in particular work well in this format and with this type of spare storytelling.
There are a few game elements; a meter tracks your inventory and status, which includes descriptions like "Cautious", "Healthy", and "Steady". I didn't find much utility in these stats, but I suppose they add something to the overall feel and flavor; this is ultimately the only area of criticism in this otherwise excellent work. I'm not sure why it's an interactive story and not a short story; the style and prose would provide for an engaging short story that would likely find a larger audience outside of the world of interactive fiction. This criticism could apply to many works of interactive fiction; it stuck out here because the game elements felt grafted on. I do think it's a strong work of interactive fiction, and the interactive elements work and feel solid; it's the UI elements that felt a little off.
This piece is still strongly recommended; well-written, compelling, and engaging, I suspect this story could appeal to anyone.
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