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Mother Tongue

by Nell Raban

Slice of life

(based on 7 ratings)
3 member reviews

About the Story

You're sitting at home, minding your business, when your mom texts you. It's a familiar situation. But when the chat turns nostalgic, how do you reconcile her regrets about how she raised you with your own needs? Do you just indulge her, or do you take this opportunity to forge a deeper relationship with your family and your heritage?

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2020
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Twine
IFID: 33049BC7-2811-4A6E-9FD8-4D941C597574
TUID: er2xdsb698f76hu3


Entrant - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)


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Number of Reviews: 3
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A cute text conversation narrative, October 20, 2020
by Enrique Henestroza Anguiano (Oakland, California)
Mother Tongue tells the story of a character whose mother wants to impart lessons in Tagalog, in the process exploring the ambivalence of what it means for second-generation folks to discover parts of their identity.

I found the framing device of a text conversation very effective; the chat screen and the little moments waiting for a response from the mother help to create a realistic and compelling flow. There’s also good use of subtext to develop the relationship underlying the language lessons.

Though it’s interesting to learn words and grammar in Tagalog, the game’s use of lots of “test” questions makes this sometimes feel more like a language learning app than a game/story. There are great moments where the language lessons serve the narrative, and I wish those had outweighed the more rote testing moments that focus on rule recall.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Short game about a mother teaching her child the language of their ancestors, October 7, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes
My childhood best friend was Filipino; born in the Philippines, but moved to the US at a very young age. I would hang out at his house a lot and heard his mom speaking Tagalog quite a bit. I picked up a handful of words, including the curse words, along the way. All that to say that I think this story reached me in a way in might not reach others.

The game is very short and takes places completely over text messages. A mother tries to teach her child her native language, something she regrets not having done sooner. A choice-based game about the decisions immigrants have to make in the name of helping their children fit in to a new country, and children deciding if it is too late or not to connect to their heritage. A simple and heartwarming conversation.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short and sentimental; old message, new medium, October 5, 2020
by WidowDido (Northern California)
Related reviews: if comp 2020
A quick game concerning the relationship between immigrants and their first-generation children (in this case, a Filipino mother and her child). The conversation plays out over a series of text messages, with the mother teaching/explaining a few phrases and words of Tagalog.

The game is not effective at learning language--which is perhaps part of the point. Even if you get the majority of the questions correct, the player comes away without any real grasp of Tagalog. Likely what a real person in the position of either the mother or child would feel.

I think the medium is perhaps the most innovative element of this piece. There are countless pieces of fiction and social science addressing how a new country, a new language, and modernization change the relations between parent and child, as well as how the child will relate to their own ethnic group. I don't think that too many new things have been said on these tropes in this work. But, the author does succeed in placing old wine in a new bottle by forcing the player to communicate through texts--rather than writing a Twine piece that takes the form of a phone call or a parser game where the same information is discovered through recovered memories. Not only is texting probably more representative of contemporary communication, but it is quite effective at heightening the distance between mother and child.

Not an amazing game, but good. People interested in exploring issues of immigration, language and identity should certainly play through this piece.

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The following polls include votes for Mother Tongue:

Mother-Daugher Relations by matt w (Matt Weiner)
What are some IF works that involve a relationship between a mother and a daughter? Not necessarily as the center of the work, but as something that impinges on it at all.


This is version 4 of this page, edited by JTN on 8 November 2020 at 7:05am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item