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by Gita Ryaboy

Magical Realism

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Explore ideas from positive psychology, March 8, 2019
Eunice is a short, parser-based game with a rather unusual purpose: As it states in the intro text, Eunice is ďan introduction to research-based Positive Psychology tools.Ē The research-based jumps out at me there; I assume itís because ďpositive psychologyĒ sounds like ďself-help,Ē and the latter doesnít have all that great a reputation. However, positive psychology is a legitimate branch of psychology, and itís clear that the author has some knowledge of the latest research in this field. The ABOUT section says, ďData shows that some simple actions can improve mood, perspective, and resilience.Ē Eunice is intended to introduce us to some of these actions, such as gratitude, connection, mindfulness, flexibility, and hope. Aiming to give others a deeper understanding of a particular branch of human knowledge may be an unusual motivation for writing a parser-based game, but itís one Iím certainly sympathetic to, as Iíve done it myself with A Beauty Cold and Austere. Eunice is aiming for something more than just understanding and appreciation, though; itís also hoping that players will incorporate into their lives (even if just a little) the insights about positive psychology learned from playing the game. I canít help but admire the authorís goal here.

In terms of the story, youíre in the land of Eunice, where everything is in a state of neglect. In order to win the game, you have to perform, as the PC, acts of gratitude, connection, mindfulness, and flexibility in order to release hope and heal the land. The game world and characters arenít deeply fleshed out, but thatís the intent: Everything is supposed to be understood metaphorically. For example, in one location you (Spoiler - click to show)encounter a group of people frozen as statues. To free them, you must LOOSEN YOUR LIMBS, thereby demonstrating flexibility.

I think the metaphors could be a little tighter, but overall I think they do work.

The solutions to some of the puzzles require unusual verbs, as in the example I just gave. However, the text (with one exception, given below) always tells you exactly what the right phrasing is; you just have to pay careful attention. For example, in the scenario described above, if you first (Spoiler - click to show)EXAMINE STATUES, the response includes the sentence "Looking at them life-like and lifeless, frozen in various pretzel positions, makes you want to loosen your limbs."

This is a good way to incorporate atypical verbs in your game without introducing awful guess-the-verb problems.

There was only one puzzle I really had trouble with, (Spoiler - click to show)unfreezing the troll. If there was a clue in the text for the right approach to solving this puzzle, I missed it.

Overall, how well does Eunice succeed? As a pure parser game, it would be more fun with more attention to some details: stronger puzzles with better cluing, setting and characters that are more richly described, directions the player can travel to in each location mentioned in the location descriptions, and corrections to several punctuation mistakes.

But, again, Euniceís goal isnít to be the latest and greatest parser game. Rather, itís to get these psychology concepts in peopleís heads. How well does it succeed at that? The answer probably depends on the player. In general, though, interacting with a concept is going to make you remember it far more easily than if you just read about it or hear someone explain it. For myself, I think the concepts would stick with me better if (as I mentioned earlier) the metaphor choices were somewhat stronger. But I do think the value of gratitude, of connection, of mindfulness, of flexibility, and of hope will remain with me more now that Iíve played Eunice.